You may be surprised to know that skin tags on dogs are actually very common. Although there is nothing to worry about, as a pet owner you want to take the best care of your four-legged companion, as you do for yourself. For this, it is necessary to know the ins and outs of benign outgrowths like skin tags, their causes, symptoms, and diagnosis
What are skin tags on dogs?
Skin tags are benign growths on the body that are comprised of fibrous tissues appearing in solitary or in multiple lumps. Skin tags on dogs are similar to skin tags on humans, with just a few differences. They are little bunches of collagen proteins that form a little pouch attached to the skin. They are usually a few millimeters in length and hang from the skin’s surface like a grain. They can develop almost anywhere on the body including the face, eyelids, chest, legs, mouth, and neck. Skin tags on dogs can often go unnoticed. Your pet usually won’t even realize the presence of skin tags on their body as they are painless.
Identifying skin tags on dogs
Knowing what a skin tag looks like is just the first step to finding them on your dog. Unlike humans, where we can easily spot them, dogs fur often hides them. When they appear on their face or eyes, it is of course much easier, but finding a skin tag under all their fur is a little trickier.
You should be doing regular checks of your dog’s skin as it is, to check for ticks and fleas as well as a general skin health check. It is probably during one of these checks that you would spot a skin tag. As there are more common areas for them to develop, these should be your starting point. Areas that experience a lot of friction, like their chests, neck, armpits, and base of their tail are the most likely places to find skin tags. If you are checking them and find a small growth attached by a thin piece of skin, that moves around when you touch it, this is most likely a skin tag. Skin tags can look a little like a tick in terms of size and color. Skin tags, however, will usually be peduncled. Make sure before pulling off a tick that that’s what it is, and not a new skin tag you may not have noticed before.
Is it common for any dog breed to get a skin tag?
Any dog breed can develop a skin tag. There is no specific breed that is completely immune to them. Breeds such as Kerry Blue Terriers and Cocker Spaniels have also been seen to be more prone to skin tags. But the breed is not a determining factor of skin tags on dogs.
Causes of skin tags on dogs
There is no one specific reason that has been attributed to the development of skin tags on dogs. However, animal specialists and veterinarians have theorized several reasons for their occurrence.
- Presence of parasites on the dog’s body
- Exposure to pollutants and chemicals
- Improper diet
- Ill-fitting collar
There are a few things you can do however to prevent further tags appearing.
Preventing skin tags on your dog
While it is common to see skin tags on your dog’s body, monitoring certain factors can help a lot in ensuring a healthy skin for your dog. Although, these small growths are not a threat to your dog’s health they should be regularly checked. One of the biggest risks associated with a skin tag is the chance of an infection. So if you can avoid your dog developing skin tags in the first place, there is less chance of them scratching them off and opening up the possibility of infection. To maintain your dogs’ healthy skin: –
- Check the skin of your dog at least once a month for any lumps or growth.
- Keep a record of any unusual growths and monitor them frequently for any changes.
- Schedule frequent veterinary check-ups for your pet.
- Bath your dog on a monthly basis.
- Ensure their collars are loose enough that they aren’t tightly rubbing against their skin.
Whilst you have limited control over where your dog is scratching or rubbing, you can take these steps to help prevent skin tags growing or monitoring any existing skin tags to ensure they don’t become infected. You also want to know that if your dog is developing skin tags, that it is just from rubbing or scratching and not due to any underlying causes.
What are the possible treatment options?
The main reason humans remove skin tags is for cosmetic purposes and to avoid them being scratched or pulled. Considering dogs are not concerned with their aesthetics, there is little reason to remove them. Unless they are impeding their movement at all or risk getting scratched and infected. If you are concerned about it, speak to your vet about the best course of action. They may choose to remove it using one of the following methods:
- Surgery: This is usually done when the skin tag is particularly large or in a sensitive area. Here, the tag is removed by cutting it off from the base under local or general anesthesia and a few stitches made across the incision if needed.
- Thread ligation: A thread is tied at the base of the skin tag which prevents the supply of blood to the region. Gradually the tag darkens due to the lack of blood supply and drops off.
- Cryotherapy: This is a fairly uncommon approach for pets as it may sting for a bit and cause the dog discomfort. Using liquid nitrogen, the vet would freeze the skin tag. Within a week or two, the tag dies and falls off.
It may be tempting to just try pulling off the skin tag if you see it dangling from the skin. Please do not do this as it is connected by live tissue and will cause your dog pain and open him up to possible infection.