Dog Skin Tags: What You Need to Know

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When it comes to our dog's health, we want to be sure that we are doing everything possible to keep them healthy and happy.

One issue that dog owners may face is skin tags. Skin tags are small, benign tumors that form on the skin.

They can occur anywhere on the body, but are most commonly found on the neck, armpits, and groin. In this blog post, we will discuss what dog skin tags are, what causes them, and how you can treat them!


What are dog skin tags and what do they look like


Dog skin tags are small, flesh-colored tumors that form on the dog's skin.

They can be anywhere on the body but are most commonly found on the neck, armpits, and groin.

Most of the time, they occur in areas where skin rubs against other skin or objects (like collars)

They also typically resemble moles, or just little bumps of skin on their bodies, that are skin-colored.

In general, they do not cause your dog to itch or be in any pain.

A skin tag on a dog is also generally harmless and does not require any treatment unless they become irritated or infected.


Tick or skin tag on dog?


In general, there are a two main ways to tell if it's a skin tag on your dog, or if it's a tick burrowing into it's skin:

Color


Generally, canine skin tags are the same color as your dog's skin, and ticks are generally far darker (almost like a mole).

If it's also raised and doesn't feel like skin, it's most likely a tick. Plus...

Movement

If you touch the object and you see it move (i.e. with legs, or just move around), it's most likely a tick and NOT a skin tag.

Generally, if you touch a tick on your dog, it'll move, or even run away. Skin tags don't run away when touched.


Dog wart vs skin tag


The dog skin tag can look a lot like warts on a dog.

The main difference being that dog warts can appear anywhere on your dog's body (including their face), while dog skin tags are usually found in more private areas of your dog (such as under it's armpit).

Thankfully, both are largely harmless to the dog.

You'll want to check for these two things if you ever notice any lumps or bumps on your dog. They can be hard to tell apart at first glance, but there are some differences!

Texture


Warts generally have thicker bases behind them and may seem crusty, while skin tags just dangle from the skin.

Color


The color of both should be similar, however dog warts tend to have hair growing out from them while canine skin tags do not.

Size


Canine warts are usually larger than their canine counterparts, and can be found anywhere on your dog's body (including near it's face).

Causes


In addition to this, the warts found on dogs are usually caused by viruses and will eventually go away on their own - skin tags will not.


What causes dog skin tags


The cause of dog skin tags is unknown, but it is believed that they may be caused by a genetics or by a lot of sun exposure. (source)

Also, it's a normal occurrence for older dogs, so if your dog is more senior, expect it to occur more.

There are some dog breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels and Labrador Retrievers, that are more prone to developing skin tags than other breeds.


However, dog skin tags can affect any dog - it's just that the above dogs may be more genetically prone to getting it.

There are times, however, where it may be artificially caused - for example, if the collar you're using is too tight and rubs on its skin.

Or, if the dog shampoo you're using has chemicals your dog is allergic to.



Dog skin tag removal


In general, there is no need to remove dog skin tags unless they become irritated or infected.

They are generally harmless and do not require any treatment.

However, an important point to note is that skin tags in dogs don't go away on their own - meaning, they'll be on your dog for the rest of it's life.


If your dog has a dog skin tag that becomes irritated or infected, consult with your veterinarian about having it removed surgically.

In most cases, this will involve cutting off a portion of your dog's skin in order to prevent further growth from occurring at home while waiting for an appointment at the vet’s office.


Can canine skin tags become cancerous?


No, they won't in general.

However, if you notice a skin tag growing bigger, it might be something else, such as a skin disorder, or skin cancer.

If you nothing the skin tags becoming bigger, please visit a vet as soon as you can!


How to remove a dog skin tag at home


DISCLAIMER: THIS SECTION IS ONLY IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING, OR HAVE EXPERIENCE.

THIS MEANS THAT IF YOU HAVE EXTENSIVE MEDICAL EXPERIENCE, AND HAVE THE PROPER TOOLS FOR THE JOB (i.e. the numbing cream, and have done this on other dogs before)

DO NOT ATTEMPT ON YOUR DOG IF YOU DON'T HAVE EXPERIENCE - YOU WILL HURT YOUR DOG BADLY.


If you are comfortable doing so, you can remove dog skin tags at home.

Simply use a pair of sharp scissors to cut off the dog tag and then clean the wound with hydrogen peroxide or alcohol.

Apply pressure to the wound until it stops bleeding and then bandage it up. If the dog tag grows back, simply repeat the process.

It is however, not recommended that you remove your dog's skin tag on your own - you're better off getting a vet to do it.

They have the anesthetic and tools to properly perform the removal.



When to see a vet about a dog skin tag


If dog skin tags become irritated or infected, they may need to be removed by your veterinarian.


A dog tag can also indicate other health problems that require immediate medical attention. For example, if you notice it getting darker, or bigger.


Usually veterinarians will be concerned if the skin tag grows bigger and/or gets darker - that is usually a sign of a type of skin cancer called a sarcoma.

In that case, more invasive testing and surgery will be needed to treat your dog.



How to prevent dog skin tags from forming


In general, there's no real way to prevent skin tags from growing on your dog, especially if your dog is older.

However, for the man-made ways, you could use a dog tag collar that is looser.

Tight-fitting collars can also cause skin tags, so it is recommended to switch to a harness, or looser collar instead.

Remember that some shampoos may contain irritants that can cause your dog to scratch and potentially form skin tags too.

Shampooing your dog with dog-safe shampoos will also help reduce the chances of getting dog skin tags



Conclusion


Dog skin tags are a common problem, especially in older dogs. They can be caused by a variety of things, including allergies and inflammation. 

  • Symptoms of dog skin tags include swelling, redness, and itchiness around the tag itself. 
  • Dog skin tags can be treated in a number of ways, including surgery, freezing them off with liquid nitrogen, or using topical treatments like corticosteroids or retinoids. 
  • If your dog has skin tags, it's important to take him to the vet so they can be evaluated and treated properly. If they're benign and safe, then there's no issue!

about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.


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