Skin tags on dogs are common and can develop for a variety of reasons, such as obesity or if your dog is kept inside for long periods of time.
Dogs that develop skin tags can often get one on their lower back, neck, and armpit area. Other times, dogs can get them on their eyelids.
Skin tags on dogs are not dangerous, but they can be uncomfortable for your dog to wear and can be an annoyance.
What Are Dog Skin Tags?
Skin tags in dogs are a type of growth comprised of fibrous tissue that can appear as a lump or bump. This connective tissue is made up of collagen proteins and is essential in the formation of such specialized tissues like bone and cartilage, as well as providing connective support for the various organs and systems in the body.
While some skin tags are considered to be a type of benign cancer called a fibroma, most are deemed non-cancerous and can be referred to by several names.
These include acrochordons, fibrovascular papillomas, collagenous hamartoma, hyperplastic or hypertrophic scar, and fibroepithelial polyp.
Just like their human owners, dogs can develop small skin lumps on the surface or just under their skin. These skin tags often appear as the dog ages, and though they can be unsightly, they are quite harmless. Very often, these growths are connected to the body by a stalk-like tissue.
Dog Skin Tags Symptoms
Skin tags tend to grow slowly and can take a long time to be noticeable.
They are located on the skin, or just under the skin, and can vary in size and appearance. While harmless, they can cause distress if they grow too large or in a location that compromises your dog’s normal daily activity, or if they become damaged, in which case they can bleed and possibly become infected.
Signs your dog may have a skin tag include:
- Stalk-like growths
- Growths with a wart-like surface
- Single or multiple growths
- Growths that include hair follicles
- Flattened plaque-like growths
- Growths that can bleed if damaged
- Secondary infections of growths
Dog Skin Tags Types
Skin tags are often referred to as hamartomas, which are described as a nodule of redundant tissue. Two types of these are:
– Also called collagenous hamartomas, these are the common skin tags seen in many dogs. Often, these are hairless growths and form near the lower limb regions and pressure points.
– This is a type of fibroadnexal hamartoma, and rarer in dogs. These growths are often found in multiples and can be characterized by flattened masses with thick hairs.
Dogs Skin Tags - Causes
Skin tags are composed of fibrous tissues made up of collagen proteins. This fibrous tissue is a normal component of the body and creates the supportive connections and tissues that hold the organs and body systems into place.
The cells responsible for the production of the fibers that makes this connective tissue are called fibroblasts, and if these cells are overactive, this can cause an abundance of fibrous tissue, resulting in a slow-growing mass near or on the skin.
Though skin tags can appear on any breed of dog, there seems to be an increased risk in larger breeds. Skin tags more commonly appear in dogs that are middle-aged and older.
Diagnosing Skin Tags in Dogs
If you see a growth on your dog, it will be vitally important to determine if the growth is a harmless skin tag, or if it is a tumor or other growth that is signaling a more serious problem, such as cancer.
While it is common to see growths appear on aging dogs, monitoring certain factors can be helpful to you and your veterinarian when deciding about your dog’s condition. Once you see a bump or lump on or under the skin, take notes on the appearance, size, and location of the bump.
Taking pictures with an object of a fixed size next to it, such as a coin or ruler, can help to determine growth when compared to a later picture. Never use scissors or a razor to remove any hair near the growth, but instead, use electric clippers or a beard trimmer to prevent damage to the growth.
If you notice certain characteristics about the growth, you should not delay in seeking a medical opinion. These can include a rapidly growing lump, a dark-colored growth, or a bump near your dog’s ear, nose, mouth, or mammary glands.
Other signs concurrent with the growth can also cause alarm, such as changes in appetite, weight and energy levels, signs of discomfort and pain, or vomiting and diarrhea.
Be sure to tell your veterinarian details of all symptoms you’ve noticed, including any changes you’ve seen in the growth. Your veterinarian will examine your dog and evaluate the lump.
A fine needle aspirate may be performed to collect a sample to analyze. Sometimes a biopsy is recommended to determine if the growth is benign or malignant, and this might include removal of the growth.
Treatment of Skin Tags in Dogs
While some skin tags can shrink in size over time, most of them will remain unless they are surgically removed. Surgery to remove these growths is optional, as often skin tags cause no harm to your dog.
However, removal can be recommended in certain cases, such as to confirm a diagnosis with a biopsy, or if the size or location of the growth is causing physical problems, pain, or secondary infections.
Another method of removal is through cryosurgery. Nitrous oxide or liquid nitrogen is used to destroy the unwanted tissue by freezing it.
The tissue then falls off or dissolves within four weeks. This procedure can be attractive for those dogs who are at an increased risk of complications due to anesthesia, as only a mild local anesthetic may be needed.
The process is only temporarily painful during the freezing with no pain during recovery. Sometimes, the first treatment is not sufficient and may be repeated within two to three weeks
Are Dog Skin Tags Consider Warts?
Unlike warts or lesions, they are quite benign and aren’t signs of any further, more ominous developments.
They’re identifiably different.
Skin tags are soft, flexible, and normally flappy, or dangly – like the excessive skin they merely are. And they aren’t contagious.
Warts and other malignant growths are usually more firms, and painful. And they need medical attention for treatment. But what causes skin tags on dogs? And can you deal with them at home? Treating skin tags at home can be difficult, and we’ll get to that in a little bit.
First, learning what leads to the formation of skin tags could help you avoid them in the future, considering they tend to come back.
Here are some of the reasons why your pup may have skin tags:
- You’re not grooming/bathing them enough, or are using a product that’s too harsh – be it a shampoo, pesticide, or anything else at home
- Your dog’s not getting the right nutrition, leading to skin infections
- Bites from ticks, fleas, and other parasites sometimes lead to skin trouble
- They’re just in the genes, and your dog therefore just tends to get them from time to time
If the skin tags on your dog are caused due to external factors, i.e. the first three points above, they just might recur in the future.
So make sure your dog is otherwise fit and healthy, and living/playing in a safe environment to have the bases covered.
Now for your other main question: how to deal with skin tags on dogs at home?
While many people tend to believe treating and even removing skin tags at home is safe and doable, it’s always safest to consult your vet before any treatment.
Particularly, if your pup tends to get skin tags around the facial area, be it the mouth, lips, eyelids, etc., or if the skin tags get infected or of a color other than his or her normal skin tone – you should certainly get the vet’s opinion.
However, there are things you can do at home, including minor treatment to ensure your puppy is healthy:
Monitoring and Treating Skin Tags at home
You need to keep in mind that dog skin tags are harmless most of the time. However, the least you should do at home is to keep a close eye on them and monitor them. Skin tags are known to develop into malignant growths.
And if they’re in a place near the paw or face such that it constantly irritates your puppy, their scratching or worrying at it could lead to wounds and infections.
Here are some things you can do at home short of removing them yourself:
- Gently examine the skin tag daily to make note of any changes in size, texture, or other characteristics, or in case there are new tags.
- Check for any cuts, discharge, or infection
- If you note something odd in your examination, make sure to consult your vet to rule out anything serious
- You can also apply mild ointment or medicinal cream if recommended by your vet to take care of any infections or conditions
- It’s best not to attempt cutting off the tags without proper sterilization, anesthesia, or professional supervision, even if trying non-invasive methods like tying off tags to make them fall off.
Removing Dog Skin Tags Surgically
Removing skin tags at home can be a tricky process. Why?
Consider that the tag may be above a major blood vessel, or not even be benign, needing a more precise surgery to completely remove it?
You might end up causing too much bleeding, infection, or in case of malignant growths not affect at all.
For these reasons, make sure you explore any options for removing your puppy’s skin tag with your vet.
Being a fairly minor surgery that involves mild local anesthesia, your vet might even take care of it during a routine visit.
And in case your puppy’s supposed to undergo some other procedure, you can have the vet take care of any tags while your pup is still under anesthesia.
In any case, performing invasive surgery at home without professional supervision could well lead to complications and pain for your puppy.
So as far as possible, do keep your vet in the loop for your puppy’s best interests.