Felis ISSN 2398-2950

Skin: cutaneous viral plaques

Synonym(s): Verruca plana, epidermodysplasia verruciformis

Contributor(s): David Godfrey, John Munday


  • CauseFelis catus papillomavirus type 2.
  • While this papillomavirus commonly infects cats, feline viral plaques are considered to be rare.
  • Viral plaques and Bowenoid in situ carcinomas probably represent a continuum depending on the presence or absence of dysplasia within the sample.
  • Signs: multiple, ovoid, slightly-raised, <1cm diameter skin lesions.
  • Plaques can be pigmented or non-pigmented.
  • Diagnosis: histopathology possibly with immunohistochemistry or molecular diagnostics.
  • Treatment: surgical excision is necessary.
  • Prognosis: some plaques will remain small, some will spontaneously resolve, some will progress to Bowenoid in situ carcinoma.



  • Felis catus papillomavirus type 2 is the most likely cause.
  • This virus is detectible on the skin of a high proportion of cats.
  • Therefore, host factors appear to be more important than the presence of the papillomavirus in determining which cats will develop disease.

Predisposing factors


  • Initial cases of viral plaques were reported in cats with immunosuppression or other systemic diseases suggesting immune function is important.
  • However, later reports of this disease did not report a strong association between immunosuppression and the development of viral plaques in cats.


  • The causative papillomavirus infects basal cells early in life and cats probably remain infected throughout life.
  • The infection remains asymptomatic in most cats.
  • In a small proportion of cats, the host is unable to maintain a low rate of viral replication.
  • The increased replication results in the development of a visible lesion.
  • Viral plaques can subsequently progress to Bowenoid in situ carcinomas Skin: Bowenoid in situ carcinoma.


  • Infection is probably early in life with a very long latency.
  • The duration of disease is extremely variable and unpredictable. Some lesions resolve shortly after development, some stabilize and are present for multiple years, and some progress to Bowenoidin situcarcinoma.


  • Cats are frequently asymptomatically infected with Felis catus papillomavirus type 2.
  • Whether or not a cat will develop disease is primarily dependent on host factors.
  • However, the factors in the host that cause disease are currently poorly understood.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Munday J S (2014) Papillomaviruses in felids. Vet J 199 (3), 340-347 PubMed.
  • Munday J S, French A F, Peters-Kennedy J et al (2011) Increased p16CDKN2A protein within feline cutaneous viral plaques, bowenoid in situ carcinomas, and a subset of invasive squamous cell carcinomas. Vet Pathol 48 (2), 460-465 PubMed.
  • Munday J S, Witham A I (2010) Frequent detection of papillomavirus DNA in clinically normal skin of cats infected and noninfected with feline immunodeficiency virus. Vet Dermatol 21 (3), 307-310 PubMed.
  • Munday J S, Peters-Kennedy J (2010) Consistent detection of Felis domesticus papillomavirus 2 DNA sequences within feline viral plaques. J Vet Diagn Invest 22 (6), 946-949 PubMed.
  • Munday J S, Willis K A, Kiupel M et al (2008) Amplification of three different papillomaviral DNA sequences from a cat with viral plaques. Vet Dermatol 19 (6), 400-404 PubMed.
  • Wilhelm S, Degorce-Rubiales F, Godson D et al (2006) Clinical, histological and immunohistochemical study of feline viral plaques and bowenoid in situ carcinomas. Vet Dermatol 17 (6), 424-431 PubMed.
  • Baer K E, Helton K (1993) Multicentric squamous cell carcinoma in situ resembling Bowen's disease in cats. Vet Pathol 30 (6), 535-543 PubMed.
  • Egberink H F, Berrocal A, Bax H A et al (1992) Papillomavirus associated skin lesions in a cat seropositive for feline immunodeficiency virus. Vet Microbiol 31 (2-3), 117-125 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Gross T L, Ihrke P J, Walder E J (2005) Skin diseases of the dog and cat: clinical and histopathologic diagnosis. 2nd edn. Blackwell Science, Oxford, United Kingdom.