Last Updated on January 5, 2023 by Becky Roberts
Yes. You might find just a single one or you might find a few of them distributed around her body. Should you be concerned about skin tags? How do you know it’s a skin tag and not a cancerous lump? What causes them? Can they be removed? Keep reading because this is the only guide you’ll ever need.
Skin Tags on Dogs
You might have just been petting your dog when you feel a fleshy growth on his skin. It’s thin, flesh-colored, and have a stalk-like base. If it looks like this, there’s a good chance it’s just a skin tag. Skin tags or acrochordon or Fibroepithelial Polyps in medical terms are generally painless and nothing to worry about. They are labeled as benign tumors that do not attack other tissues nor spread to other parts of the body. They are often about the size of a grain of rice but can also be as big as a grape and appear to be dangling.
Skin tags can occur at any age. However, they are more common in dogs over the age of 7 or 8 years. Some breeds also appear to be more inclined to develop skin tags. Great Danes, Bulldogs, Boxers, and Cocker Spaniels are some of them.
For vets, diagnosing skin tags are as easy as pie. However, for untrained eyes like ours, skin tags can be difficult to differentiate from warts and ticks. They may also be easily downplayed as skin tags that aren’t dangerous but actually are. So what exactly is their difference?
You can recognize warts based on their appearance. Unlike skin tags, warts are flatter, thicker, and are attached to a larger area. Just to stop you there, warts are a benign, non-cancerous tumor. They are caused by a virus thus the medical term viral papillomas. They have a “cauliflower-like” growth and are commonly found on the lips, tongue, and mouth.
Warts can be acquired at any age although they are most common in younger dogs. Another important detail to include is that warts are contagious, unlike skin tags. The brighter side, however, is that warts eventually go away on their own.
Some owners may also confuse an attached tick with skin tags. If you’ve ever seen a tick that has sucked a lot of blood then you know exactly what I mean! These bloodsuckers are hard to remove and looks like skin. One way to determine if it’s a parasite is to look at it closely. In a well-lit room, part the dog’s hair until you see the base of the skin tag or tick. If you see legs wriggling and a head attached, it’s a tick.
Ticks should not be removed with your bare hands. Tweezers can be used instead. Part the dog’s hair and grab the tick as close to the skin as possible in an upward motion. Avoid tearing or squeezing the tick (and definitely not with bare hands) as it can spread infection.
If you’re unsure if it’s a tick or not, do not pull it. They can be painful and may bleed. A visit to your veterinarian can help you identify it and treat it appropriately.
- Other bumps
Warts and skin tags are not the only lumps that can form in your dog’s skin. Fatty tumors and mast cell tumors are one of them.
A fatty tumor is a benign, non-cancerous type of tumor. They can also grow in size and shape like skin tags. Any breed can have them but they are more common in large and older dogs. Overweight dogs are also susceptible to them. Some vets can easily identify fatty tumors while some may require a small tissue sample from the lump.
Mast cell tumor is another common bump found in dogs. It can take various forms and are very hard to identify alone. It’s a harmful tumor that should be checked by the vet.
Here is a question: What causes skin tags?
Believe it or not, experts have yet to identify why skin tags develop in dogs. In humans, people who are diabetic, insulin resistant, or have hormonal imbalance seems likely to develop skin tags. Veterinarians theorize that this may also be one of the factors in dogs. But what we do know for sure is that skin tags may be a result of previous trauma, skin infection, or genetic factors. Parts that are also high-friction areas are inclined to have skin tags.
Other factors also include:
- Environmental factors like molds and harmful pesticides
- Parasite bites
- Poor hygiene
- Genetic predisposition
- Ill-fitted collars
- Poor nutrition
When to get concerned
True skin tags are generally harmless. But when should you be concerned about skin tags? You should be concerned about skin tags when they are abnormally big, is painful when touched, when they bleed or has a discharge. Another thing you must know is that a skin tag’s color depends on the color of your dog’s skin. Black skin tags are normal for dogs with black skin and pale skin tags are common for pale skinned dogs. Other symptoms you can also look out for are:
- Foul odor
- Dark and domed
- Appear sore
- Any heat
- Change in color and size
I found a skin tag on my dog. What should I do?
The first thing you should do is closely monitor the lump. If none of the symptoms I mentioned above are present, it’s most likely a benign lump. However, I recommend that you should still take your pet to the vet to rule out any malignant tumors.
Some of the things your veterinarian might ask you are:
- How long has the skin tag been on your dog?
- Are there any changes in the appearance?
- Are there any changes in your dog’s behavior? Does he seem lethargic?
- Is there only one skin tag or are there more?
You should take note of these details as they are important for diagnosis. But ultimately, skin tags are nothing to worry about.
Dog skin tag removal
The most important thing you should know is that the removal of skin tags is optional. You may opt to remove them or just leave them be while keeping an eye on them for any changes. However, there are some cases where removing them is a better option. A great example would be skin tags that grow in your dog’s eyelids. This can be irritating as they grow much faster in this area and may cause your dog’s eye to partially close.
The rectum, mouth area, neck (where you put the collar on), their paw, and their tail are also some of the bothersome places where skin tags are best removed. If your dog continuously scratches or bites on the skin tag, they should go too.
There are a lot of home remedies you can try to remove small skin tags. Some procedures only require the use of dental floss, rubber bands, grooming clippers, apple cider vinegar, and scissors – things you can easily find at home. But here’s the problem with that:
Those procedures can be painful for your dog. There is a big risk of infection and a lot of heavy bleeding. Eek! If you’re like me who detests seeing my dog in any pain, then I don’t advise on removing them yourself. There is no guarantee that your DIY surgery will be successful too so it’s best to leave it within the capable hands of your veterinarian. Your vet has access to an anesthetic that can make the procedure pain-free for your dog.
Looking at the possible causes of skin tags, preventing skin tags from developing is pretty easy. Some of the things you can do are:
- A complete and balanced diet
Our dogs get their essential vitamins and minerals from their daily food intake. This goes without saying that their dog food should be balanced and complete for a strong immune system and healthy skin and coat. Dog foods that are labeled as “complete and balanced” by the AAFCO are a good choice. Here are some of the best dog foods we recommend.
- Mild shampoos
Using harsh shampoos that strip off your dog’s natural oils can cause dry skin. This can lead to tags developing. One way to prevent this from happening is to use organic shampoos that not only make your dog’s coat look shiny but prevent the infestation of parasites like ticks and fleas as well. We have made a list of the best flea shampoos. You can use this as a guide.
- Buying a new collar
Another reason why dogs develop skin tags is because of friction. Investing in a new collar might be a good idea. Measure the upper part of your pet’s neck using a soft measuring tape and then add an inch. This would prevent the collar from creating too much friction nor slip over the ears.
You might also like: Best dog collars
Dogs can develop skin tags. Some dogs may get more than once in their lifetime while some may only develop only one. Monitor the skin tag and look for any unusual changes. Inform your veterinarian as soon as possible so he can rule out any cancerous lumps. After all, an early diagnosis never really hurt anyone. In fact, it has saved lives more than harm them.
Generally, skin tags are not a cause for concern. Unless your dog expresses any signs of discomfort, skin tags can be left as it is.