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.
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.
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.
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.