Warts on cattle

  • Cow with cutaneous facial warts.
    Cow with cutaneous facial warts.
  • Common warts on the skin
    Common warts on the skin
  • Common warts on the teats
    Common warts on the teats



A papilloma virus.


The four most common types of warts are squat, pendunculated, flat and tags (Figures 2 and 3). They appear as raised hairless lesions (varying in size from a pea to a tennis ball).

Where the disease occurs

Warts can occur on cattle anywhere in Australia.

The disease in animals

Cattle warts (infectious papillomatosis) are caused by a host specific papilloma virus that is rarely serious but causes warts to appear on the skin of the animal. Warts are usually confined to the neck and shoulder region but may be formed on other areas such as teats and penis. Cattle under two years of age are most susceptible and the condition usually clears up within six months without any treatment.

It is common for large warts to bleed especially if rubbed or knocked, and this can result in bacterial infection that may require treatment.

In chronic infections some animals may lose condition, be stunted and very rarely death may occur.

How the disease spreads

The virus gains entry through any skin abrasion. The time taken for warts to develop after infection can be from one to 12 months.


This virus is very infectious and infected animals should be kept separate, if possible, from healthy stock. Mustering, yarding, dipping and other husbandry practices should be kept to a minimum during any noticeable outbreak of warts.

On properties where warts are considered a problem, mustering and handling of young stock should take place before visible lesions appear.

A wart vaccine that was registered for use in Queensland was withdrawn by its manufacturer in June 1990. No vaccine is currently registered for use in Queensland.


If nothing is done, moderate wart infections will clear up without treatment. Large pendunculated lesions may be removed either surgically or by tying off using a suitable ligature around the base. Alternatively, a wart ointment is available through veterinary suppliers and may be a useful treatment.

Should any doubt arise as to the seriousness of the wart infection in your cattle, contact your local veterinary surgeon.

Last updated 16 December 2013