Skin tags on dogs are growths or tumors that appear on the surface of a dog’s skin. They share similar characteristics with skin tags found on humans. Just as human skin tags are commonly found in the older population, dog skin tags are also common among older dogs.
Skin tags are benign tumors and pose no threat whatsoever to your dog’s health. They are quite different from malignant skin growths which could affect the health of your dog. Malignant tumors can cause irreversible cell and tissue damage if not treated quickly.
Their presence (skin tags) causes no pain to your dog except, when they are irritated. Irritated skin tags often lead to inflammation which causes discomfort to your dog.
In most cases, skin tags needed not to be removed since they pose no threat to your health. However, if you’re concerned about the tumors on your dog getting irritated and inflamed which might cause your dog some pain, you might want to remove it.
Moreover, most skin tags are hideous and an eyesore to behold. Their presence won’t certainly help your dog win any beauty contest except maybe win a popularity contest. And we do know it’s for the negative reasons. Not at all a good one. For example, people thinking your dog is diseased and steering clear of it.
These are enough reasons to want to have the skin tags on your dog removed. Before attempting to find a treatment option, you need to ask yourself this:
How sure are you that the growths on your dog are skin tags and nothing else? For all we know, it could be a form of malignant skin tumor that mirrors the appearance of a skin tag. It could even be a benign growth but of a different type and not the skin tag you thought it was.
Characteristics of A Skin Tag
Below are some of the following characteristics of a skin tag which makes it easy to identify should your dog has one –
Your typical skin tags are small, fleshy smooth growths that look a bit like a wart. Warts have a rougher surface, and it’s caused by a virus. Warts are also infectious, a total opposite when it comes to skin tags.
The size of a skin tag usually ranges from 3mm to 7mm which is about the tip of a pencil or ball pen. They also could grow larger to the size of a grape.
The color of a skin tag takes after its surrounding skin.
They are commonly found in areas with skin folds or where friction occur the most, e.g., eyelids, armpits, neck, legs, belly, etc.
The tumor is attached to the body by a stalk-like tissue on the skin.
They are not infectious and touching them does not infect or make you catch a skin tag.
Common Places For Skin Tags To Occur
Skin tags, be it on humans or dogs can appear anywhere. They could appear on the face, the lips, on the limbs, tails, etc. However, you’re more likely to find them in some places than the other. This is because skin tags are mostly found in places on the body with a lot of extra skins.
You’ll likely found skin tags on your dog in these areas – on the eyelids, face, lips, neck, jaw, back, paw, the groin area (vulva, penis, anus), nose, etc.
Causes of Skin Tags on Dogs
Skin tags on your dogs could be caused as a result of various factors. Although research is still ongoing as to what could be the cause, the health communities have come up with plausible explanations due to the characteristics exhibited by these skin tags.
Some of the possible causes include
Friction – friction has been reputed to play a more significant role or be the main cause of skin tags on your dog’s body. Areas with skin folds have more friction occurring there due to the constant rubbing of skin against each other.
Ill-Fitting Collar – using the wrong collar for your dog might irritate the skin. It could also increase the friction between the collar and the skin which might trigger the formation of ski tag.
Genetics – hereditary has been observed to play a role in the formation of skin tags. If your dog comes from a family that has a history of members having skin tags, your dog might also be prone to having skin tags.
Skin Injury: skin lesions could make your dog susceptible to the formation of skin tags. Injured or wounded skin that has been healed are more prone to developing skin tags.
Aging: Older dogs are more prone to developing skin tags than younger ones.
Types of Skin Tags a Dog Can Have
There are two main types of skin tags found on dogs: Fibro adnexal Harmatomas and Follicular Harmatomas.
Small, pale growths that are usually hairless. They are the common type of skin tags you’d find on dogs. Unlike the follicular harmatomas that appears in groups or clusters, fibro-adnexal harmatomas appears individually and mostly separated from each other.
This type is rare, and you’d hardly find it in dogs. They appear in clusters. They are usually flatter and have thick hairs protruding from its surface.
What Skin Tags Are Not
Just as other skin growths are usually mistaken for a skin tag, sometimes the reverse is the case. Dog owners’ sometimes mistake skin tags for other skin growths which is why it is advisable to check with your vet to know what you’re dealing with. Assuming the tumor on your dog is a malignant growth can have you worrying over nothing when you find out that it is a benign tumor. In the same vein, it can be catastrophic to your dog’s health to assume a malignant growth is benign when it is not. Such an assumption could prove fatal to your dog’s health.
Warts and skin tags look very similar to an untrained eye, but on closer inspection, you’ll find some physical differences that tell them apart. The base of a wart is usually broad and thick unlike that of a skin tag that has a “stalk” or “thin neck” on which the tumor is attached to.
Warts typically have a rough surface while skin tag has a small, smooth surface. Dog warts are caused by papillomaviruses and are infectious whereas skin tags are not caused by a virus.
They tend to usually go away by themselves and require no medical treatment. Although, older dogs might need to be taken to a vet to have the tumors removed.
Fatty lumps or tumors usually form underneath the skin surface. Just as skin tags, they are harmless but can irritate your dog if located in delicate or sensitive areas, e.g., the genitals, eyelids, etc. Fatty tumors can develop at any age, but older dogs and overweight dogs are more prone to develop these tumors.
Taking your pet to a vet will help you identify the nature of the tumor since it might be impossible to examine it yourself without access to the right resources and knowledge.
Mast Cell Tumor
This is the most common type of tumor you’d find in dogs and reputed to be the common cause of skin cancer in dogs. They are mostly malignant. Any dog could develop this tumor at any point in time. Appearance varies widely depending on where they formed, the type of dog it appears, etc.
Some breeds such as Boxers, Beagles, Labradors, Boston terriers, and Schnauzers are more predisposed to develop these tumors.
If you notice a rapid growth or change in the size of the tumors on your dog, have it checked it immediately.
Lipomas are of the most common noncancerous soft tissue growth that appears on a dog’s body. Lipomas are usually soft to the touch, with limited mobility under the skin. Lipomas can grow larger over time to the extent of immobilizing your dog if located between the legs or chest.
Bigger lipomas can cause your dog some discomfort. In most cases, it is advisable to have them removed before they grow very big. Larger lipomas mean a larger incision would need to be done on your dog when they are to be removed.
Do Skin Tags Pose a Threat To Your Pooch Wellbeing?
Skin tags are typically benign. This means they are non-life threatening. However, depending on their location, they might cause your dog to suffer through some pain.
Skin tags on certain areas of your dog might make your dog feel uncomfortable. For example, skin tags on your dog’s eyelids might make it difficult for your dog to see clearly and it might irritate the eye if it brushes against it. This irritation could cause more pain.
Skin tags on the dog’s paw might also make walking difficult as constant rubbing against the floor might cause it to be inflamed.
Skin tags are not something you need to worry yourself about. Apart from being a “cosmetic disaster” and making your dog look less beautiful, it does nothing to them.
Your dog can have a skin tag for years with no risk to their health. However, if you notice any of the following changes, you might want to take your dog to a vet to have it removed quickly.
- Sudden changes in the color or size of the skin tags on your dog
- Your dog is continually scratching at a skin tag. This might indicate the skin tag is causing your pooch some pain. Taking your dog to a Vet might help alleviate the pain and treat the underlying cause.
- Bleeding Skin Tags. You want to make sure the skin tags don’t get infected. In a case you have a ruptured skin tag that is infected, your vet will try to keep the infection at bay and make sure it doesn’t cause a lot of damages to your dog.
- Foul Smelling Odor Coming From The Skin Tag(s) on Your Dog.
Are Skin Tags Cancerous?
A lot of skin growths that are malignant in nature share some physical features with skin tag which might make it confusing. Skin tags are not malignant. They are benign and can never cause cancer no matter how you slice it.
However, you should note that some benign skin growths can grow into a malignant one in the future. A reason why you have to be conscious and constantly check and monitor any form of growth on your dog’s skin.
Here Is A Way To Identify Or Detect A Cancerous Tumor:
Persistent Growth Of An Abnormal Lump Or Bump
If you noticed the growth on your dog keeps growing, there’s a possibility that the growth is malignant. Having a vet take a look at it and probably carry out a biopsy will help clear your doubt.
Sores That Don’t Heal
If you notice that a wound on your dog fails to heal after trying to treat it with the use of antibiotics and ointment. You might be dealing with a cancerous growth.
Weight Loss & Loss of Appetite
If you notice your dog’s sudden loss of weight after the appearance of unidentified tumors on your dog’s body, the tumors might be cancerous. You might want to check it out by taking your dog to meet a Veterinarian. The same applies to a sudden loss of appetite exhibited by your dog.
Offensive Odor Discharge From The Tumor
Offensive tumors could also be a sign of cancer. Although, not all tumors with an offensive odor causes cancer.
Are Skin Tags Infectious?
Most benign skin growths are not infectious in any way. You can’t catch skin tags by touching your dog. The same applies to your dog playing with another dog. However, a ruptured skin tag could harbor bacteria that might be infectious. If you observe otherwise, then the growth on your dog might not be a skin tag, and you need to have them checked out immediately.
Skin Tag Removal Methods
Once you are able to correctly identify the tumor on your dog as a skin tag, there are various methods your dog’s veterinarian can use to help you get rid of the growths.
The four methods commonly used include –
Cryotherapy / Cryosurgery
You’ll notice that the methods used for removing skin tags on dogs are quite similar to the one used for human. However, a slight difference exists in the way the methods are used and how the treatment is administered.
While we all agreed that skin tags irrespective of where they are located on your dog’s body are quite harmless, performing a skin tag removal is best left to your Vet as he or she knows the best method for removing the growths on your dog’s skin. Different areas on your dog have different sensitivity, more reason why you need a Vet to find the most suitable option to help your dog get rid of its skin tags.
Cryotherapy / Cryosurgery
When the skin tags on your dog’s body are removed using low temperatures, the method is known to be cryotherapy. Cryosurgery is the surgical process of using low temperatures, i.e., extreme cold to destroy unwanted tissue (in this case, skin tags). This method is highly popular and most preferred when the size of the skin tags on your dog falls within the range of small to medium.
The use of liquid nitrogen (medical freezing compound) to destroy the tumors on your dog eliminates the need for anesthetizing your dog before carrying out the treatment.
The procedures involved are simple and easy to carry out. It is one of the treatment options that causes the least discomfort to your dog.
Once the skin tags on your dog have been destroyed by freezing them, it takes about a week or two before the tags fall off. During that period, you might notice some changes in the size or color of the skin tags. Don’t let it bother you. It’s common for the skin tags on your dog to shrivel and turn a shade darker in color after treatment. This indicates the treatment is indeed working and effective.
Advantages of using Cryosurgery
Pain during treatment is very low when compared to other methods.
It’s affordable and relatively cheaper than other methods.
Requires no follow up visits.
Doesn’t require a stitch and less prone to infection.
Disadvantages of using Cryosurgery
Might not be effective for removing larger-sized tumors.
You have to wait for a week or two before the skin tag on your dog falls off. You have to constantly monitor your dog to ensure your dog doesn’t try to bite, scratch or chew at it.
Pro-Tip: Don’t try to pull the skin tag off your dog prematurely to avoid an injury that might lead to bleeding or infection.
Another popular method used in medicine that involves cutting off the blood flow to the tissues of the tumors by tying a thread or string on the stalk (neck of the base). The process is similar to cryosurgery in that both methods try to isolate the skin tags and cut off its blood supply.
In the case of using ligation, cutting off the blood supply to the skin tags happen gradually and not instantly like cryosurgery.
During this process, the tumors on your dog might turn a shade darker and shrink in size.
Advantages of using Ligation
It’s quite cheap and affordable
Causes no pain whatsoever except if the skin tag to be tied off is inflamed.
Subsequent visits to your veterinarian might not be needed after tying off the skin tags on your dog. You can easily retie a tumor if it the thread used to cut off the blood supply got loose.
Disadvantages of using Ligation
Tying off small-sized skin tags might be difficult and might easily get loose which might slow down or render the treatment ineffective.
Removal of skin tags using this method is slow.
Pro-Tip: Don’t try to pull the skin tag prematurely to avoid causing pain to your dog, bleeding, or an injury that might lead to infection.
For medium to large-sized skin tags, your Vet might find it much more effective to remove them by cutting them off. If the skin tags on your dog are quite much and not in the form of a cluster but distributed across the skin of your dog in 1s or 2s, then this method is effective and preferred. Compared to other methods, there’s no waiting time required for the skin tags to “fall off.”
This method involves the use of a clean, sharp cutting blade, e.g., scalpel, scissors or razor blade, etc., to remove the skin tags on your dog’s body.
Advantages of using Surgical Excision
It’s the fastest options available to get rid of skin tags on your body.
No waiting time for the skin tag to fall off on its own as it is removed immediately.
Disadvantages of using Surgical Excision
Subsequent visit to your Veterinarian is usually required to ensure the lesions are healing properly and to avoid infection.
Risk of scarring is high if the excision was not done properly.
More time is needed for the skin to heal properly.
During the healing process, your dog might suffer from pain.
Pro-Tip: As scabs begins to heal, they might become itchy. Using an Elizabeth collar helps to prevent your dog from trying to lick or bite at the wound.
The last method in our list. Cauterization is the process of burning off your dog skin tags which is possible with the use of a heated pen, a cauterizing cream or laser device.
In cryosurgery, the skin tags are destroyed using extremely low temperatures whereas, in cauterization, the use of high temperatures is employed to destroy skin tags.
An anesthetic drug or cream is usually given or applied to the dog before the treatment to numb the areas. This helps your dog feel less pain.
Advantages of using Cauterization
Very little time is required for the skin to heal properly after treatment
Effective for removing smaller to medium sized skin tags
Disadvantages of using Cauterization
Depending on how the process is carried out, cauterization of your dog’s skin tags might be painful
Not as cheap as some methods mentioned in this list
Pro-Tip: You might to use an Elizabeth collar after treatment to help promote healing and avoid irritation
How To Tell If a Skin Growth is infected
To know if your dog skin tags are infected, tell are telltale signs you could use such as
Painful. If you notice your dog wince or whimper at the touch of a tumor, it’s likely infected.
Inflammation. If you notice any swelling or redness around the tumor on your dog, the tumor is likely to be infected.
Bleeding: this is another sign that shows your tumor might be infected.
Pus-like substance oozing from the tumor.
How Much Does Skin Tag Removal Cost?
There is no fixed price as far as removing the skin tags on your dog is concerned. A lot of factors comes into play when calculating the fee for removing the tumors on your dog.
Factors such as the –
Method Used and The Type of Process Involved:
Cryosurgery and Ligation seem to be one of the most affordable treatment options your dog can go for that would cost you less. The process involved and the resources used are also factors that need to be considered, e.g., anesthesia, antibiotics, pain killers, etc.
The Number Of Skin Tags To Be Removed:
The higher the number of skin tags on your dog, the higher the price you have to pay to have them removed. Although your fee keeps rising for each new tumor you want to have removed, you pay less in the long run. This is so because the unit cost comes down as the number of skin tags on your dog to be removed increases.
For example, if your Vet charges you a fee of $75 per skin tag removal, removing let’s say 10 of it on your dog won’t cost you $750. You might pay around $400 – $500 to have the ten growths removed. As you can see, the unit cost has reduced from $75 to $40.
Location of the Veterinary Clinic:
If the clinic you plan to take your dog to is located in a high-end luxury area, then you can expect to pay more. The reverse is the case for low to middle-class areas.
Size of the Growth(s):
The larger the size of your dog’s skin tumor, the more you’re likely to pay.
Size Of Your Dog:
The size of your dog also plays a role in deciding the fee you are to be charged for removing the skin tags on your dog’s body.
Location of the Growth:
Areas that are hard or very sensitive to work on can cost you a few more bucks.
Overall Health Status:
A healthy dog with no recent injury or infection is quite easy to treat with minimal possible complications and should cost you less.
The idea of getting the best price is to ring up various veterinarians and compare their prices for each removal method. That would help you make an informed decision and ensure you don’t pay more than you should.
Your Dog’s Aftercare Recovery After Skin Tag Removal
Proper aftercare treatment is essential to ensure your dog heal properly and minimize the chances of scarring your dog. It also helps your dog minimize the risk of infecting a wound or lesion.
Keep your dog from irritating the areas treated. Irritation can come from your dog licking, chewing or scratching the area. The use of a bandage can help you prevent this. A better solution that is more effective is to use a cone collar.
If your dog has a scab after treatment, always clean the area with an antibacterial wash and apply a new bandage. This will promote healing and help reduce the possibility of infection.
Depending on where the tumors were removed, you might have to restrict your dog movement to avoid rupturing a healing wound or putting too much strain on the healing wound.
Antibiotics should be given to your dog to help minimize the risk of infections. Although, you might want to confirm with your vet before administering the drug.
If surgical excision or cauterization was the method used in getting rid of the skin tag on your dog, you might want to keep a close watch on the healing process. If you notice a pus-like substance oozing from the wound, the scab might have been infected. Taking the dog to the vet will help tackle the problem.
Possible Complications After Skin Tag Removal
Bleeding, Infections and Scarring are the three most common complication when removing the skin tags on your dog,
Bleeding: Unlike ligation and cryosurgery, the possibility of your dog bleeding after treatment is high if excision or cauterization was used.
Scarring: you can expect your dog to have the least complication if ligation or cryosurgery was the method used in getting rid of your dog’s skin tag.
How To Prevent Skin Tags in Dogs or Further Recurrence in Dogs
The only way to prevent skin tags on your dogs is if you know how they appear in the first instance. Unfortunately, no one knows for sure. What we know are possible markers or pointers that might lead to or contribute to the formation of skin tags.
That said, they are measures that you can take to help you reduce the possibility of your dogs from having skin tags.
Some of these measures include:
Make Use Of The Proper Pet Skin Care Products – Avoid using products that might cause excessive dryness, itching, irritation or inflammation to your dog. Performing a patch test for your dog with the skin care product you intend to use and monitoring how your dog reacts to it might help in deciding if the product is suitable for your pet.
Practice a good grooming and hygienic habits –wash and clean your pet regularly. Ensure you remove any objects sticking on their body that might irritate their skin or cause their skin to chafe.
Use the right collar that fits nicely. You don’t want to use a collar that is too tight on your dog as this might lead to more friction, which might cause their skin to be irritated, and inflamed.
Protect Them From Parasites: Monitor your dog on a regular basis to ensure they aren’t infested with fleas, ticks, mites, and other parasites. Parasites could cause damage to your dog’s skin and overall health.
Skin tags are soft, fleshy growths that look like a teardrop attached to the skin of your dog via a stalk-like tissue. They are benign and shouldn’t be a cause of worry for you. Except they are located in delicate areas, they usually require no treatment.
Skin tags might be mistaken for fatty tumor, mast cell tumor, lipomas or wart. Possible cause of skin tags includes friction, genetics, aging, etc.
Cryotherapy, surgical excision, ligation, and cauterization are the four common methods of removing skin tags on your dog. The cost of removing the skin tags on your dog depends on various factors such as the location of the clinic, size of the tumor, the number of the tumors to be removed, the method used, etc.
Bleeding, infection and scarring are the most complications from removing your dog skin tags.