Just like their human companions, dogs also get skin tags. They look different, but are just as harmless.
Read on to find out how to identify dog skin tags, where to look, what causes them, and removal options. You will also learn how to differentiate between skin tags on dogs and warts, another common skin growth that dogs have in common with humans.
Identifying dog skin tags
Skin tags on dogs typically appear as a black lump, but they may also pinkish or white. They can be one of two types: fibroadnexal skin tags or follicular hamartomas.
Fibroadnexal skin tags are the type that occur more commonly, although they are more difficult to spot. They are usually the size of a pinhead and are hairless, but they have a tendency to grow in clusters. You might only discover them when you’re rubbing your dog and feel a group of small, raised bumps on his skin.
Follicular hamartomas are less common, but are easier to identify because they have hair growing out of them and are bigger.
What causes dog skin tags?
Like other types of abnormal skin growths, dog skin tags are the result of excessive cellular growth. In the case of skin tags, the skin cells multiply and grow on top of each other, forming the lump or tag. Fortunately, these growths are not cancerous.
Theories as to why skin tags occur include skin friction – when skin frequently rubs against skin or another surface; and genetics. A definitive cause, however, is yet to be determined.
Do skin tags pose any harm to your dog?
Again, skin tags on dogs are benign tumors. If skin tags grow all over the body, however, they can become unsightly. If the skin tags appear in an area that your dog frequently scratches, he might cause them to bleed, and the wound might become infected.
Some skin tags can also grow big enough to become bothersome and, in certain areas, painful. Big skin tags that develop in or around the eye, urinary tract, a joint, the spinal area, or the feet can make certain activities and movements difficult.
If you observe sudden changes to the appearance of your dog’s skin tags, such as a sudden increase in size or change in color, you should have them checked by your vet. Although rare, the growth may have become cancerous.
Should skin tags be removed?
Skin tags on dogs typically only become a cosmetic issue, if they become an issue at all. But depending on their location, your vet might recommend removal. You should take note, however, that the procedure will require putting your dog under anaesthesia, and this has its own health risks. Talk to your vet about these risks, especially if your dog is already old or his health is already compromised in some other way.
Even if the procedure is a simple one, it will still be a costly one. This is another factor you should put into consideration. Some skin tags disappear on their own; more often than not, though, they do not go away unless removed through surgery.
If skin tag removal is medically necessary, i.e. if the growth is big and is in the eye area, ask your veterinarian about flash freezing with liquid nitrogen as a removal option. This is a common method for removing skin tags, but not all vets offer it as an option. If this is the case, you can ask your vet to recommend another clinic that does it.
What about warts?
Warts are often misidentified as skin tags, and are also common among dogs. Unlike skin tags, warts are contagious as they are caused by a virus. If your dog has warts, it’s likely that he came in contact with a dog that has them. It’s also possible that he got them from a human.
Warts are not life-threatening, nor do they pose any serious health risk. But it is still best to have the warts looked at by a vet to limit the spread of the virus. If you’re unsure if your dog has skin tags or warts, you should also take your dog to a vet to rule out the possibility of skin cancer. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Skin tags and warts on your dog are not a serious cause for concern. But if a skin tag is bothersome or becomes infected, or if you suspect that your dog has warts, you should have your dog checked out. Otherwise, skin tags are harmless and can be left alone.
If you notice a skin growth and you’re not sure what it is, it is also best to take your dog to a vet so he can make a definitive diagnosis. If there is a problem, then catching it early will mean your dog will get the appropriate treatment he needs right away. If there’s no problem, then you can rest easy. It’s a win-win situation for both you and your best bud.