It's not unusual for dogs to develop lumps and bumps. While some can be fast-growing cancers, other growths, such as skin tags, may be benign. If you're wondering whether your dog has a skin tag or if it is something you should have examined by a vet, it's helpful to review information about these pesky growths.
What are Canine Skin Tags?
Skin tags are small, dangling pieces of skin with a narrow base that can appear anywhere on the body. They are typically the same color as the surrounding skin and are often hairless. The most common locations for skin tags on dogs are the eyelids, head, neck, elbows, armpits, and chest.
Many pet owners pose the question about whether these tags are cause for concern. True skin tags are not cancerous, although it is always beneficial to have any new growths examined by your veterinarian to confirm.
Why these skin tags occur remains unknown, but there's some speculation that irritation or friction could lead to overgrowth of tissues. This could explain why they tend to appear in areas of skin-to-skin contact, such as in the armpits, or under a dog's collar. There could also be a genetic component, similar to skin tags in humans.
Signs Your Dog May Have a Skin Tag
How can you differentiate a skin tag from another type of lump on your dog? These growths have some distinct characteristics that should help you identify them.
- A narrow base or "stalk"
- Moveable and soft
Breed and Age Predisposition
A dog of any breed at any age can develop skin tags, yet certain groups may be at higher risk. Skin tags are more prevalent in larger breed dogs, such as Boxers, and tend to pop up in middle-aged and senior canines. Other breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels, also seem to be suspectible to developing skin tags.
When Treatment May Be Necessary
Most skin tags don't require any treatment. However, if it begins affecting your dog's movement or daily life, it's a good idea to have it examined. Skin tags with the following signs might need to be removed.
- Bleeding or irritated skin tags.
- It is in a location where it is continuously rubbed (under the collar or harness, within the armpits or groin, the mouth, etc.).
- Your dog is licking, chewing, or scratching at the tag.
- Skin tags that inhibit movement.
Together, you and your veterinarian can decide if a skin tag can be left alone or if it should be treated. Removal is the best course of action to address problematic skin tags or ones that could become a problem in the future. There are a few routes your vet might take to do this.
- Cautery: A cauterizing tool, which can heat up to temperatures as high as 2,250 degrees Fahrenheit, is used to quickly burn the base of the skin tag to remove it. This method seals off blood vessels in the process, which means there's no bleeding or need for stitches.
- Cryotherapy: This treatment method uses liquid nitrogen to "freeze" the skin tag off. This causes the tissue to die and an open wound to form. Your dog will likely have to wear a cone during the healing process.
- Surgical resection: Removal of the skin tag with surgery might be the best choice in some cases. Your vet will use a sterile blade or scissors to lacerate the base of the growth. Tissue glue or stitches may be used to close the incision.
A local anesthetic is always administered to numb the area to prevent your dog from feeling pain. However, depending on the location and size of the skin tag as well as the treatment method, your dog may also need to be sedated or even anesthetized prior to the removal procedure. Skin tags in sensitive regions like the eyes, armpit, and chest can be very uncomfortable when cut. It's also possible to cause harm to the area if your dog moves during the removal.
At Home Dog Skin Tag Removal is Not Safe
It's not recommended to attempt to remove your dog's skin tag at home without guidance from your vet. Skin tags can bleed profusely, and open wounds can easily become infected. The removal process could also cause your dog pain and consequently lead to them unintentionally harming you. Instead, have any potential skin tags examined and removed by your vet to ensure your dog's comfort and safety.