Dog owners worry about their pets as many do their children. After all, they are part of the family! So, when you notice a new lump or unusual skin growths, it can be nerve-racking. Is it cancer? A wart? A skin tag? Can dogs even get skin tags?
Before you start fearing the worst, read on. This guide will answer all of these questions and more.
Can a Dog Have Skin Tags?
Skin tags are a common occurrence, both on people and dogs. As in their human counterparts, there may be only one skin tag on a dog’s body or many all over.
While they can occur on younger animals, skin tags on dogs often appear more frequently on older pets. Every breed is susceptible, but larger ones seem to have more instances. There are caveats to this, however; some breeds are predisposed to them, like Cocker Spaniels.
What Are Skin Tags on Dogs?
Skin tags are skin-colored growths that can appear anywhere on the body. They are soft and usually relatively small, although some grow larger over time. Some skin tags are pedunculated, meaning they appear to dangle from a stalk. As dogs’ skin colors can vary, so can the color of their tags, so it is perfectly normal to have varying shades on the same dog. As long as the tag matches the skin color, there is nothing to worry about. However, if you notice it changing colors, this is cause to contact your veterinarian.
Skin tags on dogs are made up of blood vessels and collagen covered in the skin and are usually benign. Being non-cancerous, a benign skin tag on a dog should not be painful or concerning unless it is in an area that bothers the animal. There are numerous medical names for skin tags, but the two most common are acrochordons or fibromas.
Are Skin Tags Cancerous?
As mentioned above, skin tags are usually benign. However, other growths can occur on your dog that may mimic skin tags but are more serious.
For instance, many cancerous growths begin as small lesions that can be mistaken for a benign tag (1). Look out for the growth rate, as cancer would grow much faster than a skin tag. The safest way to be sure is to make an appointment with your vet and have any new growths checked out. A simple biopsy can go a long way in providing peace of mind.
What Causes Skin Tags on Dogs?
Neither doctors nor veterinarians are sure what causes skin tags in humans or animals, but there are some prevalent theories. For instance, friction may be a culprit, which explains why many skin tags are found in areas of the body where there are folds or creases. As they can be found anywhere, this certainly does not explain every case.
Pressure points are common areas as well, which points to past trauma as another cause. These areas vary in humans, but in dogs, this can be where the skin meets the ground when your pup is lying down on the floor or in their dog bed.
Is it a Skin Tag or Something Else?
Besides cancer, there are numerous other things on your dog that you may mistake for a skin tag. Make sure to take a closer look to rule out any of the following.
This may seem like common sense, but many people forget just how many nipples an animal has. All mammals have them, and dogs usually have 8-10 on either side of their abdomens. Don’t forget that this goes for male dogs as well. If you find an unusual bump in this area, see if there is a matching one on the other side. As long as the site does not look raw or irritated, everything should be fine.
Inspect closely before trying to pull anything suspicious off of your dog. While you may immediately think it is a tick, you may find you have a miserable pooch when you try to pull it off only to find out it is attached! Trying to pull off a skin tag will cause your pet pain and irritation, so pay attention. If it turns out that your dog does have a tick, consider applying flea and tick treatment for dogs on a routine basis to prevent further incidents.
Warts are often confused for skin tags and vice versa. Most warts on a dog are called papillomas, and like skin tags, are benign growths. While skin tags do not spread, warts are contagious and can spread between dogs. Luckily, you will not get them from your animal.
Papillomas can affect young and old dogs alike, and they are most commonly found around the eyes, mouth, and abdomen. The easiest way to tell if it is a wart or a skin tag is by checking out the base of the lesion. If it is broad, it is likely a wart, while a skin tag will have more of a ‘stem’ or ‘stalk.’ Some warts can turn into cancer, so as always, it is best to check with your veterinarian.
What Should I Do if I Find a Skin Tag on My Dog?
First things first, if you find a skin tag, do not panic. Remember that skin tags are quite common. Keep an eye on it, and look for any signs of irritation or changes in size or color. The next time you take him in for a checkup, be sure to mention the new growth to your vet.
That being said, anything around your dog’s eyelid or on his lips warrants a vet visit. If there is a lump on the lips, it could be a benign papilloma or a sign of cancer. Growth around the eyes can interfere with the pup’s sight, scratch the cornea, causing irritation, or even provoke a painful ulcer.
Should I Get My Dog’s Skin Tag Removed?
Much like crusty scabs on your dog’s back, skin tags on a dog can be a cause of irritation. They may scratch, lick, or even bite at them if they can reach them. These actions can lead to redness, rawness, and even infection at the site. If this is the case, your vet may recommend removal as the best course of action.
Other times, the location of the tag may pose a problem. Some areas of high friction may cause the tag to get uncomfortably large for the dog. The location may pose a problem for the owner, as some owners may consider them unsightly. This in itself is not a very good reason to have them removed, though, especially if your pet will have to go under anesthesia for the procedure. Since skin tags tend to reappear, aesthetics is not a very good reason to put either your pup or your wallet through the trauma unnecessarily.
Another reason that the tags may need to be removed is for safety purposes. Some breeds of dogs need frequent grooming and clipping, like Poodles or Cocker Spaniels. When the dog hair clippers nick the skin tags, they can cause them to bleed and, worse, cause pain for your poor pet. One way around this is to put a dab of bright nail polish on the tags so the groomer can easily see them, but removal is often the better course of option for safety’s sake.
What Are the Best Methods of Dog Skin Tag Removal?
Your veterinarian has multiple options when it comes to removing a dog’s skin tags. They can be frozen off with cryosurgery, removed with electrosurgery, or excised, which means they are cut off.
Cryosurgery is often the preferable way to remove a dog’s skin tags. Your pet will not have to be put under anesthesia, and it is an outpatient procedure, so you will not have to leave your dog longer than either of you want. Most of the time, she will not even have to be sedated, and there will be no stitches. Therefore, the recovery time is shorter and much less stressful and painful. The lesion is essentially frozen, which destroys its growth and causes it to fall off after a bit of time.
If the skin tags are severe or for some reason and your vet recommends that they be cut off, you should opt to have this done during another procedure if at all possible. This is a ‘kill two birds with one stone approach.’ If your beloved pet has something else needing to be done, like a complex dental procedure that requires sedation, it is best to have the tags or warts removed at the same time. This way, both you and your dog will only have to undergo the trauma once instead of multiple times.
What is the Cost of Dog Skin Tag Removal?
Unfortunately, there is no one easy answer to this question. The cost of any vet visit is highly dependant on your location, the exact type of procedure being performed, and the breed and size of your dog. When a dog’s skin tags are the issue, it will matter how many are present and what potential complications may occur due to your particular pet’s health.
The location of the tag can pose a problem. If it (or they) are close to the eyes or mouth, this complicates things. If the lesion has to be sent off for a biopsy, this will also add to the cost.
As you can imagine, cryosurgery for a small, low energy dog breed will be much less than needing anesthesia to knock out a hyper Great Dane for excision. The best way to get an idea of the cost is to speak with your usual veterinarian first. If you think the cost seems high, you are always free to check around with other vets or clinics in your area.
You may be tempted to search the internet to find ways to remove a dog’s skin tag at home. Before you do, let’s explore this option.
Can I Remove My Dog’s Skin Tag at Home?
A quick search on the internet will bring up many sites stating you can safely remove your dog’s skin tags at home. While this may seem like a fabulous cost-effective option, it is not recommended at all.
Say it is a YouTube video that shows someone removing their own pet’s skin tag with seemingly no harm to the animal. You have no way of knowing what happened after the video. Did the site become irritated and infected, harming the poor dog and requiring a more intensive vet visit later on?
Some options seem safe but are not adequately disinfecting the area or anesthetizing it, which can cause pain for the pup and open the site up to infection.
Keep in mind, too; you have absolutely no way of knowing with absolute certainty that what you are removing is a benign skin tag. No matter how much research you do, there will always be that question. No one wants to do something they think is good for their pet only to find out later that what they did, in effect, was stop their vet from catching cancer early on and potentially saving the life of their beloved Spot.
Other methods, like homeopathy or essential oils, will likely not do much harm, but they also will likely do no good, either. Play it safe, and do not take a chance with your dog’s health. Talk to a qualified professional.
Skin Tags on Dogs – Summary FAQ
How do you get rid of skin tags on dogs naturally?
The short answer is, you don’t. Anytime you find a lesion on your dog’s skin, you should observe it for any changes. If you notice any, get it checked out by a veterinarian when you can to be on the safe side. Trying to remove a skin tag at home can cause your pet more harm.
What does it mean when your dog has a skin tag?
Skin tags are often benign masses of collagen and blood vessels covered in the skin. Unless they are bothering your pet, they are usually nothing to worry about. However, there are some instances in which they may warrant attention, such as when they change color, bleed, are around your dog’s eyes or mouth, or are causing discomfort.
Are skin tags on dogs dangerous?
Skin tags are not usually any more dangerous to your dog than they are to you. It is possible, however, that they may not be as innocent as they may seem. It is always a good idea to have any unusual lesions on your dog checked out by a qualified professional to make sure that they are, in fact, simply a skin tag.
Can skin tags on dogs be cancerous?
Skin tags themselves are tissue covered in skin. As pet owners, it can be hard to differentiate between a skin tag, a papilloma, or a pre-cancerous or cancerous lesion. When in doubt, always check with your veterinarian. Your dog will thank you!