Skin tags on dogs are something that dog owners often see.
If you have a puppy and you are a first time dog owner you might miss seeing these spots, as they are more reserved for older dogs.
As dogs age, they tend to develop skin tags, which are known as skin tags on dogs.
In most cases, skin tags on dogs are nothing to be worried about, even when they are extended a bit.
Still, this is something that should be checked by your veterinarian. Yet, seeing skin tags on dogs isn’t something that dog owners love seeing on their dogs.
- Should you be worried?
- Are skin tags on dogs something that is OK?
- Are skin tags on dogs a sign of skin cancer?
In this article, we will take a detailed look at these little skin growths, including what causes them, what the treatment options are, and when you should be concerned about skin tags on dogs.
What Are Skin Tags On Dogs?
Skin tags are small, benign tumors that are often attached to the dog’s skin by a little stalk or peduncle. Benign means the tumor does not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body.
Skin tags are known by several different names including acrochordon, fibrovascular papilloma, or fibroepithelial polyps.
If you were to look at the cells of a normal skin tag under a microscope you would find that it consists of fibrous tissue, fat cells, and normal epidermal skin cells. Fibrous tissue is made up of bundles of collagen.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your dog’s body and is needed to form connective tissues throughout the body including skin, muscles, and ligaments.
What Are The Signs Of Skin Tags On Dogs?
Skin tags are more commonly found in older dogs but any breed can be affected.
Common signs of skin tags on dogs include:
- Usually they are the size of a grain of rice
- A dog can have one or lots of skin tags
- They may have a smooth or irregular surface
- Their color can vary, but they are often pink
- They may slowly grow bigger over time
They can form anywhere on the dog’s body but are more commonly found around the eyes, neck, elbows, tummy, and legs.
Sometimes owners can even get skin tags confused with ticks! Usually, these little skin growths are harmless, but sometimes they can bleed or get infected.
What Causes Skin Tags On Dogs?
Skin tags are made up of fibrous tissue composed of collagen.
Collagen is a normal component of the connective tissue throughout the dog’s body, including the skin, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
The cells that produce this connective tissue are called fibroblasts.
If the fibroblasts on the skin become overactive then they start to produce an excess of fibrous tissue, resulting in a slow-growing mass on the skin. This is how a skin tag is formed.
The actual cause of skin tags is not fully understood, but it is thought to be a combination of a few different factors:
- Skin rubbing: Skin tags tend to form where the skin forms a crease or rubs together
- Age: More common in older dogs
What To Do If Your Dog Has A Skin Tag Or Skin Lump?
1. Have It Checked Out
If you notice a lump, bump, or skin tag on your dog’s body then it is best to go to your veterinarian to have it checked out.
Your veterinarian will do a full physical examination and closely check the lump.
They will be able to tell you if it is a skin tag or something else more worrisome such as skin cancer.
Also, they may advise doing a test on the lump to check what type of cells are present, that way they can be 100% certain of what they are dealing with.
2. Monitor The Skin Tag
It’s a good idea to take note of the skin tags’ location, appearance, and size. Taking a photo of the skin tag, with an object such as a coin or ruler, allows you to easily recheck the size in the future.
If your dog has a thick coat, then you could remove a little bit of hair around the skin tag using electric clippers. That will make it much easier to check for any changes.
3. Treatment For Skin Tags On Dogs
Apart from looking a little unsightly, a simple skin tag will usually cause a dog no pain or harm. Therefore, most skin tags on dogs don’t need any treatment at all.
If the skin tag stays the same shape, size, and color, and does not bother the dog then sometimes it’s best to just leave it alone.
However, surgical removal may be recommended for some skin tags.
If the skin tag is in a prominent position near the eyelids or seems to be bothering the dog, then removal may be advised.
If a skin tag is growing bigger or is in a location where it can become irritated, bleeds, or infected, then removal is usually recommended. The skin tag is often removed surgically when the dog is under an anesthetic.
Some vets might offer cryosurgery, using nitrous oxide or liquid nitrogen to “freeze” and destroy the abnormal tissue.
This procedure might be done with the dog awake with just a local anesthetic, or with the dog under sedation or general anesthetic. Usually, the skin tag would then fall off slowly over a few weeks.
If there is a concern that the skin tag appears abnormal then it should be biopsied or removed entirely and submitted for analysis.
A histopathologist in a veterinary laboratory can check the cells in the skin tag, to decide if it is benign or cancerous.
What does a malignant skin tag look like? These tags should appear in black or brown color, although they might appear in pink or even white color. In most cases, they are followed with brown, blue, or black areas.
Recovery From Skin Tag Removal
Here are some helpful tips if your dog has a skin tag removed:
- Prevent your dog from licking, biting or scratching the area. Depending on where the skin tag was removed you could use an Elizabethan collar, inflatable Buster collar or a dog surgery shirt.
- Monitor the area for signs of infection: redness, swelling or discharge.
- Keep the area clean and dry.
- Bring your dog back to the vet clinic for his post-surgery check-up.
- Last but not least… If your dog is showing signs of sickness or the area looks infected, bring your dog back to the vet clinic sooner.
If your dog has developed a skin tag, he will probably be prone to developing more skin tags in the future. Regularly check your dog’s skin for any changes.
When Should You Be Concerned About Skin Tags On Dogs?
Most skin tags on dogs are nothing to worry about, and once checked out by your vet, you may just decide to monitor the growth. However, you should remember to closely monitor the skin tag for changes.
Get in the habit of checking your dog’s skin regularly, and take regular measurements or photos of any skin tags to track changes.
There are some instances when you should be concerned about a skin tag:
- Increasing in size
- Change in color
- Swelling under the skin
- Dog scratching, licking, biting the skin tag
- Skin tag bleeding
- Skin tag swollen and sore
- Dog developing lots of skin tags
If you notice any of these changes, then it might be a sign of skin cancer.
Your vet will fully examine your dog and evaluate the lump.
A fine needle aspirate or a biopsy may be performed to collect a sample to analyze the skin tag. These procedures can help to determine if the growth is benign or malignant (cancerous).
What dogs are prone to skin tags? Yes, just like some breeds are more prone to bloat, some breeds are more prone to skin tags.
Dog breeds that are genetically at high risk of experiencing these conditions are Cocker Spaniels, Poodles of all three sizes, and even Miniature Schnauzers. Also, some terrier breeds might be prone to this occurrence.
Want to compare these breeds more health-wise? If so, do in-depth research on comparing dog breeds and see where they stand when it comes to overall health and care needs.
Skin Tags On Dogs – Conclusion
Skin tags are a common benign skin growth mainly found in older dogs. They are composed of fibrous collagen and usually grow to the size of a grain of rice.
Skin tags shouldn’t cause a dog any harm, and most of the time no treatment is needed, and the skin tag can just be monitored for any changes.
A veterinarian can confirm if your dog has a skin tag, or if it is another more worrisome skin growth or even cancer.
Some skin tags may need to be surgically removed if they are increasing in size, bleeding, or in an area where they are causing a problem.
Get into the habit of regularly checking your dog’s skin for any lumps, bumps, or growths, and seek advice from your veterinarian if you find anything unusual.
Frequently Asked Questions On Skin Tags On Dogs
1. What Does A Cancerous Skin Tag Look Like On A Dog?
Cancerous skin tags on a dog usually look like wart-like patches. Some would even describe them as lumps that feel firm on the touch.
These skin tags are usually seen on common body areas, such as the dog’s head, rear, lower legs, and abdomen.
2. How Do I Get Rid Of My Dogs Skin Tags?
This is something that your veterinarian will inform you about the best. It is up to your vet to inform you when skin tags on your dog should be removed.
They might be removed by giving a local anesthetic, and freezing them through a process known as cryosurgery.
Can I remove my dog’s skin tag myself? No. This is not something that is recommended, as it may lead to painful outcomes, such as bleeding, infection, or even worse.
Whenever you are in doubt talk to your veterinarian first.
3. When Should You Worry About A Skin Tag On A Dog?
As soon as you notice skin tags on your dog you should contact your veterinarian. If it is advised to monitor tags carefully do so.
Once you notice any change in tags, you should inform the tour veterinarian.
This is usually the moment when your veterinarian will advise a full examination and diagnosis.
If the skin tag begins to bleed (no matter how mild or intense), or develops a discharge contact your veterinarian immediately.
4. Do Skin Tags On Dogs Mean Cancer?
First, know that skin tags on dogs are not considered cancerous, but you should not ignore them.
Secondly, if you notice a skin growth that might be a skin tag, it would be best to let your veterinarian check it.
Know that some skin tumors might mimic dog skin tags, but they can only be diagnosed by your veterinarian.
5. What Causes Skin Tags On Dogs?
The most common reason for skin tags on dogs is strong exposure to a chemical-affected environment.
Some of the other reasons for this practice might include a poorly fitting collar or even poor skin care.
Be careful if you have a breed that in general needs careful skin care, such as Pug.