Wildlife Fawn Rescue, Kenwood, CA

Abscesses, Warts, and Papillomas in Fawns

Marjorie Davis and Carole Babala

Fawn with abscess
Fawn with abscess
Photo by Harry Butera/July 2006/Bear Valley Springs, CA

Fawn with abscess
Fawn with abscess
Photo by Harry Butera/July 2006/Bear Valley Springs, CA

 

ABSCESSES are commonly seen in fawns. They are not fatal. They are bacterial. Abscesses are often seen in adult deer as well. They are most often observed on the face, neck and chest, since this is the part of the body that is pushed through dead or thorny brush, fences, or other obstructions. Abscesses are formed from a puncture wound through the skin, bacteria enters the wound, and infection sets in. 

This wound then swells until the skin becomes thin and taunt, at which time it ruptures, runs down (looks terrible), then heals. Sometimes there are multiple wounds and abscesses. Some remain very small, others swell greatly. Occasionally, the infection subsides, gradually dries, and never breaks the surface of the skin. These ‘sterile’ abscesses are harmless and may remain slightly raised and hard. 

When we receive a small fawn with abscesses we lance the swelling once it has become ripe and soft. We squeeze, flush the cavity with solution and clean out all infection, then apply a special ointment, give it antibiotics, and allow it to heal. We apply a flys-off ointment around any wound such as this.

If a fawn is seen in the wild we make no attempt to capture it. The capture would do more harm than good. The abscess has no adverse effect on the health of the animal. They continue to eat well and function as a normal fawn. Surface abscesses usually enlarge and erupt unaided. These animals do not need our help. We advise the public to leave the fawn alone so that it will not be separated from the doe, the herd, its familiar territory. Out attempted interference is much more harmful and stressful than any help we might give it. To a deer we are a predator.

Neither of these growths are transmittable to humans, or to domestic animals.

WARTS are viral, hairless tumors. They appear as dark gray, various-sized clusters of growths on the head or body, and may sometimes hang free like a large fig, which can dry and fall off. They are unsightly, but harmless growths, and no attempt should be made to remove them. The deer is otherwise healthy and is in no pain. Warts on a deer.
Warts on a deer
Photo by Janet Willis/1996
Deer with Papillomas
Deer with Papillomas
Photo by Carole Balala/ 2009


PAPILLOMA
, also known as the common wart, is a painless, benign viral tumor of the skin or mucosal surfaces. The deer continues to eat well and is otherwise healthy. They are caused by a species-specific papillomavirus that may occur in all species of deer. Various-sized warts, single, or in clusters, commonly occur on head, neck, and shoulders and occasionally on the body. Multiple growths usually begin to appear two months after exposure and may persist for several months.

Immunity usually develops three to four weeks after initial infection and may occasionally reoccur. It is transmitted to other deer by direct contact and possibly by insects.

This is a self-limiting disease, although the duration of warts varies considerably. Isolation is not practical; with this long incubation period, exposure has most likely occurred before the problem is recognized. Open lesions may be treated with antibiotics to control infection. Use Probios to reintroduce live microorganisms.

Make no attempt to capture and treat a free-ranging deer.



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