As a pet owner, finding a growth on your dog that you can’t immediately identify can be cause for concern. Fortunately, many common growths that occur on a dog’s skin are harmless. One of the most common, and the safest, are skin tags.
Skin tags can be found almost anywhere on your dog’s body. Most of the time, your dog won’t even realize they have one. You may not even know it if it’s located in an area of the body that you don’t often touch.
Not immediately finding out that your dog has a skin tag is nothing to worry about. They are considered to be benign growths. Your dog could go for years without any changes in the skin tag, and never experience any pain, discomfort, or irritation.
Still, it’s important to know what these little growths look like. As stated above, there are many types of skin growths on a canine. Just because a skin tag is usually harmless doesn’t mean other similar growths are. Knowing the characteristics of a skin tag can offer peace of mind and give you more knowledge of what’s considered normal and abnormal.
How to Find a Skin Tag on a Dog
There is no real tactic to ‘finding’ a skin tag. It’s likely that you’ll discover it by accident when you’re petting your dog. If your four-legged friend is prone to other types of growth, such as warts and ticks, perhaps you examine their skin regularly. Doing this will make it easier to discover a skin tag, whether it’s brand new or has been attached to your dog for quite awhile.
We will focus on what skin tags look like, where they might be located, and what causes them. We’ll also discuss what a skin tag shouldn’t look like. That way, you’ll be well aware of any abnormal warning signs that may trigger you to get the growth removed.
Characteristics of a Skin Tag
Skin tags are small, fleshy growths on a dog’s body. They can also be known as fibrin tags or acrochordons. They can either be flat or round in nature, but all skin tags will contain a base or ‘stalk’ that connects them to the rest of the skin.
A normal skin tag will likely be the same color as the rest of your dog’s skin. They can be small, like a grain of rice. However, some can grow to the size of a grape. Just because a skin tag seems to be bigger doesn’t mean anything is wrong with it.
Skin tags can be found almost anywhere on a dog’s body. However, some of the most common areas include:
There is no concrete conclusion as to what causes these types of growths on canines. They seem to grow more easily on areas of skin that are softer and more pliable.
Can Any Breed of Dog Get a Skin Tag?
Skin tags can show up on virtually any dog breed. Again, researchers aren’t completely sure what causes these growths to begin with. However, they tend to be more prominent in Cocker Spaniels. This is believed to be a genetic factor and not a behavioral or environmental issue.
Skin tags are also more common in older dogs. However, even puppies can get them. No specific breed is completely immune to these growths. The breed doesn’t influence where the skin tag(s) will grow, either. Even the common areas listed above aren’t always where the growths are found.
No matter what your dog’s breed or age, feeling around for any growth is the key to discovering a skin tag early on. Your dog may not even be aware that they have this type of growth, which is a good thing! It will keep them from bothering it, which could lead to potential issues like infection or bleeding.
What Does an Infected Skin Tag Look Like?
Now that you know the basic characteristics of what a skin tag looks like and where it might be located, it’s equally important to know what it shouldn’t look like. It’s easy to confuse skin tags with other types of growths or bumps on the skin.
Some of the common misconceptions include:
Each of these skin conditions has their own specific characteristics. None of them will look exactly like the smooth, fleshy flap of a skin tag. But, it’s still a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different possibilities of what a lump on your dog could be.
Additionally, certain things should never occur with a skin tag. It’s rare for this type of growth to turn into anything dangerous. However, in some cases, a skin tag can become infected. This most commonly occurs when your dog accidentally scratches or nips at it.
Signs of infection include:
- Bad smell
- Fluid oozing out of the growth
- Unusual color
If you notice that your dog’s skin tag(s) exhibit any of these characteristics, you should take them to a vet immediately. It’s likely that the veterinarian will want to run a biopsy.
On the other hand, if you don’t notice any of these problems and your dog doesn’t seem bothered by their skin tag, it’s a good idea to leave it alone. Skin tags do not need to be removed if nothing is wrong with them.
In fact, most veterinarians will likely discourage the idea of skin tag removal for dogs. It can be expensive, invasive for the dog, and simply unnecessary. If the growth seems normal, there is no reason to have any outpatient surgery for your pet.
Are Skin Tags on Dogs Cancerous?
Skin tags aren’t cancerous growths. However, one of the other warning signs you should look for is if a skin tag becomes dark and domed-shaped. This is often an indication of malignant skin tumors. If not removed immediately, it could cause big problems for your dog. In most cases, the two growths are not connected.
Cancerous growths usually have the following characteristics:
- It exhibits a different texture. Skin tags usually have the same texture from the actual growth itself to the stalk. They also have the same texture as the rest of the dog’s skin. Cancerous lesions are often rougher than the rest of the skin and can feel dried out.
- It is thicker at the base. Skin tags have a base, often referred to as the ‘stalk.’ The stalk shouldn’t be extremely thick or bigger than the actual skin tag itself. A cancerous growth often has a thick base or will cause thickening of the skin around the affected area.
- It causes your dog pain. This is an incredibly important sign to pay attention to. Skin tags should never cause your dog pain or irritation. If they do, it’s likely because of their location (such as on the eyelids, face, etc.). Malignant growths can easily be infected or filled with fluid. This can be painful to your dog when the growth is touched or moved at all.
In addition to these characteristics of the growth itself, your dog may also exhibit signs of respiratory issues, lethargy, or problems going to the bathroom. They may also start to lose large amounts of weight. Paying close attention to a combination of these signs can make it easier to know you should take them to a vet immediately. The sooner a growth like this can be tested, the better treatment your dog will get.
Monitoring Skin Tags Regularly
Once you know what you’re looking for, you should make a point to monitor any skin tags on your dog regularly. Some dogs may only get one or two growths in their lifetime. For others, if there is one skin tag, there are likely to be others elsewhere on the body. The easiest way to ‘find’ them is through regular examination.
Thankfully, this type of examining can be nothing more than petting or grooming your dog – a treatment they’ll love! Things, like bathing them or brushing them, can help you to find growths that might otherwise be ‘hidden’ by areas of fur. If you do find one skin tag on your dog, checking other areas of their body is important. It will help you to make sure they all look normal and there is no sign of infection.
If there happens to be a skin tag that concerns you on your pet, there is no need to worry right away. Monitor it for a short time, taking note of any color or size changes. If there are sudden changes, a trip to the vet is in order. Most veterinarians should be able to tell through a small sampling of cells if a biopsy will be needed.
It might seem easy to confuse a skin tag on a dog with other types of growth. But, now that you know the specific characteristics, you can have confidence when looking for them on your favorite pooch. Take comfort in knowing that most skin tags are completely harmless. Finding one (or several) on your dog can be completely normal.