Skin Tags on Dogs: How to Identify & Treat Them
If you’ve noticed a growth on your canine companion’s body, it could be a skin tag. Skin tags on dogs aren’t uncommon and—like with humans—they’re typically benign.
That said, while you likely don’t need to worry about a skin tag, don’t neglect it. Depending on its location, it may cause your pet discomfort. Additionally, what appears to be a non-threatening growth could be a wart, tick or even a tumor.
Read on to learn what causes skin tags on dogs, how to identify them, and what you should do if your pet develops one.
What are Skin Tags & Can Dogs Get Them?
Skin tags are abnormal but benign growths that develop on your canine’s skin. They can appear anywhere, but you might expect to see them on the neck, chest, face (including eyelids) and legs.
Also known as fibrovascular papillomas, skin tags range in appearance and texture.
They can feel firm or soft as well as squishy or hard. The growths are sometimes flat, raised or may hang from the skin as a stalk. As for colors, skin tags usually resemble the color of your pet’s skin or can be a shade darker.
Often, skin tags on dogs are small and usually don’t exceed a couple millimeters. You may not even notice them until petting or bathing your dog.
Like all dog skin conditions, note the location and condition of your dog’s skin tag.
They may not be bothered by it, but if the tag is located in a sensitive area, it could become a painful nuisance. For example, a skin tag on your pet’s belly or elbow might irritate them whenever they lie down.
With enough pressure or friction, a skin tag can become damaged, which may lead to infection. If this happens, it might start to ooze pus. Avoid touching it and contact your veterinarian.
What Causes Skin Tags on Dogs?
There is no single cause of skin tags on dogs. They appear across all breeds and at all ages. They are more likely to occur depending on certain factors, however.
Life stage. Middle age and senior dogs tend to get skin tags more often than younger canines.
Irritation or trauma. Skin tags often develop in areas subject to persistent irritation, such as where skin folds rub against each other. They can also occur if a collar repeatedly rubs the skin or if your pet lays or sleeps on hard surfaces.
Papilloma virus. While usually associated with warts, papilloma virus can occasionally cause skin tags.
So if your dog develops a skin tag, you likely don’t need to worry. They’re not caused by underlying illness. It’s best to keep an eye on it and notify your veterinarian.
Types of Dog Skin Tags
If you’re wondering, “Can dogs get skin tags?”, the answer is yes. In fact, there are a few different types of skin tags, although you can’t tell them apart by appearance alone.
Skin tags are distinguished by the type of skin cells that form them, which you can only identify through testing.
The good news is, no matter how they look, they’re typically non-life-threatening. So, for example, a flat white skin tag looks different from—but is likely just as benign as—a hanging, black skin tag on your dog.
Here are some common types of dog skin tags:
Dog Skin Tag or Tick?
Sometimes skin tags on dogs can resemble ticks, parasites that suck blood from animals. It’s important to know the difference as ticks can quickly transmit illness and disease.
Ticks can range in size from a grain of sand to a small grape, and have shades of brown or red. Skin tags, on the other hand, are often the color of your dog’s skin.
Also look for legs. Adult ticks have eight legs and will move them if prodded. You may need a magnifying glass to see them, depending on the tick’s size.
Dog Wart vs. Skin Tag
Skin tags can also resemble dog warts, a growth caused by a condition known as canine viral papillomatosis.
Like skin tags, warts are usually benign. They are often firmer and rounder whereas skin tags may protrude away from your pet’s body.
What to Do About Dog Skin Tags
Generally, no urgent action is required if you detect skin tags on your dog. They’re primarily a cosmetic condition and don’t pose a health threat. Unlike warts, they’re not contagious to other dogs, and you will not contract them.
It’s a good idea to take a picture of them occasionally to track their shape, size and color. If your pet seems to favor areas of their body without the skin tag, this could be a sign that it bothers them.
Additionally, if skin tags become irritated, or if you’re concerned about them, talk to your veterinarian. They’ll examine your pet and if they determine testing is necessary, they’ll conduct a biopsy by removing cells from the tag.
A laboratory analysis of the cells can definitively confirm the cause of the growth.
Is Dog Skin Tag Removal Necessary?
Removing dog skin tags usually isn’t necessary. Exceptions might be if the growth becomes infected, irritates your pet because of its location, or your veterinarian thinks it might be a different type of skin condition and wants to rule out illness.
How to Prevent Skin Tags in Dogs
While skin tags themselves aren’t a problem, sometimes the conditions that cause them need attention. Here’s how to reduce the chances of skin tag development on your dog:
Clean between skin folds. Whether it’s part of your bathing routine or with cleansing wipes, it’s important to keep these areas clean.
Provide supportive bedding. Resting on hard surfaces can irritate the skin, especially if your pet is heavy.
Ensure collars and harnesses fit. If they’re too tight, they may cause chronic irritation over time.
Treat dog allergies. Allergies in dogs can lead to frequent scratching and biting. If a particular area is scratched repeatedly, it may produce a skin tag.
Like other skin conditions, even with preventative measures, your pet may still develop skin tags.
Fortunately, they’re non-life-threatening, and as long as they don’t bother your canine companion or become irritated, your dog can continue to live a happy, healthy life. Don’t forget, though, if you’re concerned, you can contact your veterinarian.