Horses with Papillomas

bumps on horse's nose

Papillomas can form on your horse's skin overnight. However, if you notice grey or skin-colored pimples on your young horse's nose, there's no reason to panic. Papillomas may be unattractive, but they are more of a nuisance than a reason for concern, especially if you want your horse to be well-dressed for the ring.

What Are Papillomas?

Small, gray, uneven spots on your horse's skin that resemble warts are known as papillomas. In the horse world, some smaller warts, known as baby warts, are sometimes referred to as "teenage acne." They're particularly frequent on a horse's nostrils and muzzle, as well as sparsely haired parts of the body (such as the eyelids, or front legs).

Symptoms of Papillomas in Horses

Viral papillomavirus can appear out of nowhere. Your horse appears to be OK one day, but upon closer investigation, you discover unusual pimples that appear to spread quickly and virtually overnight. The two most noticeable signs of papillomas in horses are shown here.


  • Cauliflower-like bumps
  • Cracked, bleeding skin

Cauliflower-Like Bumps

A large area of your horse's body may be covered with clusters of unappealing cauliflower-like lumps, which are little flattened or elevated ovals with a hardened and crusty surface. The cheeks, ears, thighs, and genitals may all develop bumps.

Cracked and Bleeding Skin

It's also common for the skin to crack and bleed, for papilloma warts to break off in mobile places like the lips and nose. Some horse owners believe the warts will go faster if they bleed and scab. Any open wound, however, must be continuously managed to avoid infection.

Causes of Papillomas 

Horse papillomas are caused by the equine papillomavirus, a herpes virus, and result in a viral infection, similar to human warts. Aural plaques are papillomas that have developed on the ears. Flies carrying the papillomavirus spread these flaky, crusty portions of the horse's skin.

Diagnosing Papillomas in Horses

Because warts are so frequent, most experienced horse owners can diagnose an outbreak without a veterinarian's aid. A veterinarian can do a biopsy on suspicious lesions to ensure the lumps aren't sarcoids (a kind of skin tumor) or another illness or tumor.


Treatment is not required in young horses since papillomas will disappear after a few months when the horse develops its own viral resistance. It's almost as though the warts vanish as quickly as they appeared. If the afflicted region becomes inflamed and painful, consider the following home remedies to help your horse feel better:

  • Keep the affected skin clean of dirt and grime.
  • Treat inflamed or sore spots with over-the-counter antiseptics or a topical moisturizing lotion for cracked skin.
  • If your horse becomes uncomfortable, try diaper rash ointment on the bumps. It is harmless to your horse.

Allowing the papillomavirus epidemic to run its course is also acceptable. If you think your horse is in pain or that an afflicted region could be infected, get assistance from your veterinarian. If the papilloma does not cure, it may need to be surgically removed in extreme circumstances.

Prognosis for Horses With Papillomas

Horses do not die from papillomas. Because warts are rarely unpleasant, it may be preferable to let the outbreak take its course. As your horse grows older and thrives, outbreaks are less likely to occur.

How to Prevent Papillomas

There's not much that can be done to keep horses from getting warts other from basic stable cleanliness. However, there are three critical measures to controlling an outbreak:

  • If one horse has an outbreak of papillomas, keep it quarantined.
  • Practice using separate water buckets, feed bins, and for each horse to prevent the virus from spreading. Sometimes the virus may be present before you see the signs, however, so this precaution may not be entirely effective.
  • After an outbreak, disinfect all the barns, feeding troughs, buckets, and tack to kill lingering organisms. A diluted bleach solution can be used on feeding equipment and stall walls. Use soap and water to scrub down tack.

Are Papillomas Contagious to Other Animals?

These warts are communicable to other young horses, but they will go away without treatment in one to nine months. However, keep an eye on your other horses, since other young horses in the same pasture or barn may also break out. Papillomas can spread in several ways:

  • A young mare can transfer these equine warts to her as it nurses.
  • Young horses can also catch the virus from affected buckets, fences, or any other place a curious young horse may stick its nose into or brush up against.
  • Papillomas mostly affect horses less than 18 months old, and it is very rare—yet, not impossible—for an older horse to get them. Though rarely get warts, finding lumps and bumps in mature horses can be .

Are Papillomas Contagious to Humans?

You don't have to worry about acquiring the virus from your horse because it's not zoonotic (a disease that exists in animals but may be transmitted to people). You can't make your horse ill, either.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.


"Skin Diseases Refresher Papillomatosis (viral warts). American Association of Equine Practitioners. ", "Skin Diseases Refresher Papillomatosis (viral warts). American Association of Equine Practitioners. ", "Skin Diseases Refresher Papillomatosis (viral warts). American Association of Equine Practitioners. " ;