There are several types of skin growths that can be potentially dangerous for a dog. Additionally, some growths are practically harmless. Being able to identify these skin conditions is important, so you know whether or not they should be removed. One of the least problematic growths for a dog is a skin tag because it’s benign and not cancerous.
A skin tag is nothing more than a fleshy ‘lump’ that attaches to your dog’s skin by a stalk. They can occur with any dog breed, and at any age. Some dogs may only experience one or two of these skin tags in their lifetime. Others may be more prone to them and have several all at once.
When it comes to old dogs, skin tags may need to be treated and monitored a little more closely. Their level of risk doesn’t change as a dog ages. But, like everything else with a senior pet, a regular examination can make a big difference.
There are occasions in which a skin tag should be removed and other instances in which they can stay on your dog’s body forever with no problems. No one wants their pet to experience any discomfort or have a reaction from a skin growth. So, should skin tags be removed as your dog gets older?
How Do Skin Tags Affect Older Dogs?
There is no concrete reason as to why skin tags develop on dogs. Some research suggests friction is the culprit. Other studies have linked these growths to genetics and even age. It is true that as a dog gets older, their chances of developing skin tags tend to increase.
But, whether your pooch has one skin tag or several, it doesn’t necessarily determine if the growth(s) should be removed or not.
We will cover a few different ways in which skin tags can affect dogs. We’ll focus on how a skin tag should look, and any warning signs that might be grounds for removal. Many pet owners are hesitant to put their older dogs through anything traumatic, like surgery. Let’s find out if skin tag removal is as invasive as some other surgical procedures, and whether or not it can be traumatic for your older pets.
Are Skin Tags on Dogs Normal?
It might seem like some dogs are more prone to skin tags than others. Some canines may never experience a skin tag in their life. If they do, it might be so small or in such an obscure spot that it’s never discovered.
Other dogs can have several of these growths throughout their lifetime. Sometimes they grow on their own, other times they may pop up in small groups.
The good news is that skin tags are completely harmless. They are benign, fleshy growths that should be the same color as the rest of your pooch’s skin. They are normal and should be no cause for concern whether your dog has one, or a few.
As a pet gets older, it’s easy to start to worry more and more about changes they might be going through. As stated above, older dogs do tend to get skin tags more than puppies. These growths can appear almost anywhere on the body.
However, skin tags appear in certain areas like the chest, legs, armpits, face, and eyelids. If your older dog does develop skin tags in their later years, it doesn’t mean they are getting sick in any way. Skin tags aren’t connected to any virus or other condition.
These harmless growths exhibit similar, consistent characteristics when they are considered ‘normal.’
A skin tag should have the following traits:
- Similar color to the skin
- Can be slightly flattened or rounded
- Soft and moveable
- Fleshy and attached by a stalk
If you see this type of growth anywhere on your dog and it exhibits these traits, there is nothing to worry about. A skin tag can’t harm a senior dog any more than it can harm a younger one. In most cases, your dog probably won’t even realize they have a skin tag on their body. If it’s not noticeable to you, it likely won’t be noticeable to them. This is especially true if it’s covered with a lot of fur.
When Do Skin Growths Become a Risk?
It’s rare that a veterinarian will suggest skin tag removal. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. One of the biggest problems associated with skin tags is a potential infection. If a growth is located in an area that causes your dog any irritation, they may scratch at it or bite it. This can cause the skin tag to become even more irritated, inflamed, or even cause the skin tag to bleed.
Unfortunately, not only can that be painful for your dog, but it can increase their chances of getting an infection.
Signs of a skin tag that has become infected include:
- Oozing a pus-like substance
- Obvious pain from your dog
If an infected skin tag isn’t treated quickly, the infection could spread to other areas of the body and cause even bigger problems. Sometimes, treatment such as antibiotics may be an option. However, if a skin tag is showing the characteristics listed above, your dog’s vet will likely want to remove it and run a biopsy.
Skin tags that appear dome-shaped or have a strange color to them should also be removed. Your vet should be able to tell through a cell sample if a skin tag is a cancerous lesion. If it is, it will need to be removed for testing. Skin tags themselves are not cancerous. However, they can easily be mistaken for a malignant tumor.
Is It Safe to Remove a Skin Tag on an Older Dog?
No matter what age your furry friend may be, it’s always best to avoid skin tag removal if you can. It’s usually unnecessary, it can be expensive, and sometimes it can be an invasive experience for your pet.
Senior dogs should be given extra consideration when it comes to skin tag removal. As a pet owner, putting an older dog through any surgical procedure can be risky. Most skin tag removal procedures are considered outpatient treatments. Some are easier and less-invasive than others. The most common removal procedures performed by vets are:
- Cryosurgery – Freezing the skin tags so they fall off in a matter of days/weeks.
- Ligation – Tying off the growths to rob them of circulation. This causes them to fall off on their own after several days.
- Cauterization – Burning off the skin tags. This gets rid of them instantly.
- Surgical removal – Cutting out the growth(s) using a scalpel.
Cryosurgery and ligation are the least-invasive removal options. They can typically be done using local anesthesia on whatever area of the skin your dog’s growth is on. If you do have a senior dog who needs to get a growth removed, these are the two best options.
Cauterization can be somewhat traumatic for your dog if not done correctly. It can also potentially cause bleeding and irritation. Surgical removal probably isn’t needed unless your vet wants to run tests on the growth itself. These two options may require general anesthesia, which can be harder on your dog.
The best thing you can do is talk with your vet about removal options. If your dog is very old, the vet may suggest certain types of medication instead of any surgical removal to clear an infection. However, because there are easier ways to remove a skin tag, even a senior dog isn’t at great risk.
Between the knowledge of your dog’s overall health status and personality, and your vet’s recommendation, you should be able to have a full understanding of whether or not it’s a good idea for them to have a skin tag removed.
How Will an Older Dog React to a Skin Tag?
In most cases, dogs will react to a skin tag in the same way. They probably won’t notice it at all. Between the small size of these growths, the fact that they don’t cause irritation, and the amount of fur that usually covers them, your dog isn’t likely to realize they have something growing on them.
If you discover a skin tag on your dog, it will probably be through grooming or petting them. If you do discover this type of growth, the safest thing to do is examine it to make sure it’s ‘normal.’ From there, monitoring the growth regularly should be sufficient. As long as it doesn’t show any signs of infection, there is nothing to worry about. There are home remedies for skin tags on dogs, but these are usually best avoided.
Of course, it’s normal to be a little more cautious with senior dogs. If you see a skin tag and are either unsure what it is or if it looks normal, a quick trip to the vet can offer peace of mind.
Skin tags on dogs of any age shouldn’t be removed unless they are causing some type of harm to the dog. While it can be unnerving to see a growth on an older dog, if it’s a skin tag, you have nothing to worry about. Take comfort in knowing your dog isn’t in any pain, and there is very little risk involved with this type of growth provided that it has been correctly identified.