Skin Tags On Dogs - Everything You Need To Know
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Skin Tags on Dogs – Everything You Need to Know

I can remember my surprise when I learned that skin tag was a thing in dogs. In fact, they are the single most common growths to appear on dogs. If you have noticed one or a few on your pooch, don’t worry as they are mostly harmless

A dog skin tag is a benign growth of skin tissue that forms an often pedunculated bump on the surface. The word benign means that though the grown is abnormal, it is not aggressive or invasive and is therefore considered harmless. Dog skin tags appear randomly anywhere on the body and are more often than not associated with old age and conditions like diabetes.

While they are not dangerous, it is safe to say that not many of us dog owners want to see the unsightly growths anywhere on your best buddies. So let us look at how to deal with them. Before that, let’s dive into what they are exactly and where they come from.

What Are Skin Tags On Dogs?

Skin tags on dogs are small growths containing skin and connective tissue including fat.

They are also known as fibropapillomas or fibrin tags due to the fibrous nature of the cells at a cellular level. Skin tags are not only painless but also harmless and are only ever removed for aesthetic purposes.

Skin tags are known to appear randomly all over the dog’s body. However, there is a notably higher incidence of the growths on the face and chest. They also appear a lot on high friction surfaces like the neck area on the dog where they tend to appear in multiples.

When it comes to the appearance, these dog skin tags vary in terms of color, firmness, and size. Some appear as small bumps of the same color as the rest of the skin while others are discolored bumps. More often than not, they have a pedunculated form which means that they have a narrow neck where they connect to the skin then they balloon out into thick growths.

This look is what makes them commonly mistaken for ticks. However, you can easily tell the difference between a dog skin tag and a tick by the color. The ticks tend to be darker than the skin ranging from grey to dark maroon while the skin is often a little paler. The texture is another way you can differentiate between the two with ticks having smooth and firm bodies while the tags feel just like the rest of the skin.

What Causes Skin Tags On Dogs?

For the most part, the appearance of skin tags on dogs is spontaneous, which means that no specific causes can be pinpointed.

However, research has established connections between the appearance of these skin growths and specific factors which could be concluded as increasing their risk. At a cellular level, these factors increase the rate of production of fibrin from fibroblasts which form the skin tags. Here are 5 of the most important of these factors:

Advancing age

Skin tags are common in middle-aged to old dogs. In these cases, they appear mainly around the face and occur in multiple numbers.

Tight-fitting accessories

This includes dog clothes as well as tight collars and harnesses. The friction between the skin and these accessories is believed to cause the overgrowth of cells leading to the tags.

Excessive grooming

In this case, it is too much washing that could be causing all the problems. This is because the process strips the skin and fur of natural moisture and oils leaving it vulnerable to several issues including skin tags.

Pest infestation

This includes mites, fleas, and ticks. Their activities on the dog’s skin causes irritation both locally and on the entire body. The resulting inflammation and healing down the line could be associated with overactive fibroblasts resulting in the tags.

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Large dog body size

Finally, large dog body size has been associated with dog skin tags. This includes both large breeds and overweight small and medium breeds. In this case, the tags mainly appear in high friction areas like the neck and skin rolls.

Is My Dog’s Skin Tag Cancerous?

Dog skin tags are not cancerous by nature but are instead benign growths that pose no danger whatsoever to the dog. 

However, they may resemble some cancerous lesions which is why it is important to keep an eye on them for any changes. Here are some of the key differences that would raise your alarm to something more ominous.

Color

More often than not, skin tags on dogs are exactly the same color as the rest of the skin. Only rarely may there be some form of discoloration which is typically subtle.

With skin cancers (learn more in our highly specialized article on “Dog Skin Cancer: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment“) on the other hand, the color change is hard to miss. For example, melanomas appear dark red to black in color while other tumors may appear as hot spots.

Size

Skin tags are usually very small and are known for their thin bases. Cancers on the other hand tend to be very large which is as a result of their aggressive infiltration into surrounding tissues.

Rate of growth

Skin tags appear and grow very slowly. They also tend to reach a limit after which there may be months or even years without any progress.

Skin cancers on the other hand grow pretty rapidly and what was a small lesion today could be a massive sore in a few months.

Pain

Another defining feature is the fact that cancerous skin lesions tend to be very painful, unlike skin tags. In some instances, they could also be itchy. So if you notice a growth that your dog isn’t comfortable having touched then it could be a cancerous tumor.

Bleeding and ulceration

Finally, cancerous skin tags often look like open wounds and may ulcerate and bleed. This is particularly common with Mast cell tumors.

How Do You Treat Skin Tags On Dogs?

Honestly speaking, there is no need to get rid of a skin tag on your dog. They are not painful and they are harmless. There is also the possibility that doing it wrong could lead to more problems including skin infections.

However, if for whatever reason you are set on getting rid of them then you need how to get rid of them properly. It is also important to make sure you are dealing with a skin tag and not something like a cancerous tumor, a tick, or even a dog wart in which case all the information we provided above should come in handy.

Here are some of the safest and more effective ways to get rid of skin tags on dogs naturally.

Tea tree oil

In concentrated amounts, tea tree oil has drying effects that could help you get rid of small skin tags on your dog. Just apply some on the tag and leave it covered overnight and it should dry out and fall off within a week.

The dental floss trick

Using dental floss is a good way to cut skin tags off dogs without exposing them to pain and while minimizing the risk of infection. Just locate the base of the tag, tie the floss string as tightly as you can and leave it there. This will cut off blood supply to the tag which will then fall off.

Apple cider vinegar

Concentrated apple cider vinegar has a degenerative effect on the proteins in the skin tag. As with the tea tree oil, apply a good amount using some cotton wool and leave it overnight for 2 to 3 weeks and the cells will die and break apart.

How To Prevent Skin Tags On Dogs?

While there is no one specific cause of skin tags on dogs, you are not completely helpless in protecting your pooch from them. You just have to avoid the risk factors in which case here are the main tips to help you prevent skin tags on dogs.

Stick to a healthy grooming routine

Maintaining healthy skin is crucial to preventing issues like skin tags on dogs. A wash routine with a 1 to 2-month interval using high quality, moisturizing products is ideal for healthy and supple skin.

Deal with pest infestations promptly

Long term infestation by pests like fleas and mites results in a world of issues from eczema and skin infections to skin tags. It is therefore important to get rid of them by whatever means necessary to prevent skin tags.

Get the right size for all accessories

This includes collars, harnesses, dog clothing and even crates. Whatever restraints you use on your dog should not only be appropriately sized but also from skin-friendly material to prevent the irritation that leads to tags.

Keep your dog active

Being overweight plays a role in the formation of skin tags and so, to prevent them, increased activity to maintain healthy weight is necessary. This is the case especially with small dog breeds that are prone to obesity and poor immunity which have been associated with skin tags on doggies.

Adopt a healthy diet

Speaking of healthy immunity, the dog’s diet could also do a lot to prevent skin tags. We recommend you to get Ollie for high quality and organic ingredients. The food also includes superfood ingredients with antioxidant effects that improve immunity to prevent skin issues like tags. 

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Related Questions

How Much Does Dog Skin Tag Removal Cost? Having skin tags on dogs removed by a professional is the safest, fastest, and more effective solution. However, it costs more than home remedies and could set you back between $100 and $500. This depends on factors like the size and number of the tags and the specific vet that you choose to go to. 

Can You Use Human Wart Remover On Dogs? You should not use human wart remover on dogs. First off, it is never a good idea to use most human drugs on pets because the concentrations could either be dangerously high or ineffectively low. When dealing with dog skin tags, warts removers may also not be effective as  warts and skin tags are completely different in structure and management. 

Can You Cut Skin Tags Off With Nail Clippers? Yes, you can cut skin tags off with nail clippers. Under the right circumstances which includes proper sanitization and a sharp set of clippers, it could be a fast and easy solution. However, it is not the best idea for many reasons including the fact that it could result in a lot of bleeding and the non-sterile environment puts the dog at risk of infections at the cut site. 

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