Cutaneous Papillomatosis or Warts in Birds

By Gregory Rich, DVM; Rick Axelson, DVM

What is cutaneous papillomatosis?

Cutaneous papillomatosis is the development of papillomas (non-cancerous growths, or warts) caused by the papillomavirus and affects many pet birds. Some cases, however, do not have an identifiable cause. Commonly affected species are finches, canaries, cockatiels, budgerigars, and African Grey Parrots.

Cutaneous papillomatosis is not the same disease as papilloma growths involving the cloaca or intestinal tract.

What are the clinical signs of cutaneous papillomatosis in birds?

Cutaneous papillomas, or warts, commonly occur on the legs and feet (especially in finches), toes, jaw, eyelids, beak, neck, wings, and the uropygial gland (at the base of the tail). There may only be one wart or there could be many in several locations on your bird’s body. They have a raised fleshy structure and are often described to have a having cauliflower-like appearance.

Cutaneous papillomas located on the toes may crack and bleed, necessitating more urgent care and/or bandaging.

How can this condition be treated?

Removal using cautery or radiosurgery is the recommended treatment, unless the location of a wart is risky due to blood vessels nearby or if the wart is too close to vital structures on the skull. Depending upon the location of warts, several treatments may be needed. Even with treatment, the papillomas may recur, especially if they are caused by the papillomavirus. Some cutaneous papillomas may spontaneously regress.

Can I get warts from my bird?

While people can get warts, there is no evidence that birds with cutaneous papillomatosis can spread the condition to people or any other pets except other birds.

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