Can dogs get skin tags? Yes, they can, just like humans. Although skin tags on dogs’ skin are disturbing and unpleasant to look at, they are not cancerous and it is not necessary to have them removed unless they cause irritation to your furry companion. This article will discuss the causes of canine skin tags, how you can remove them at home, and several tips to reduce your dog’s risk to them.
- What are Skin Tags on Dogs
- When to Be Concerned About Dog Skin Tags
- What Causes Skin Tags On Dogs
- Improper Skin Care
- Improper Nutrition
- Exposure to Chemicals and Pollutants
- Dog Skin Tag Removal
- How to Remove Skin Tags on Dogs At Home
- Cutting and Cauterizing the Skin Tag
- Equipment needed:
- How to Tie Off a Skin Tag on a Dog
- Equipment and Materials Required
- Pictures of Skin Tags On Dogs
What are Skin Tags on Dogs
Also referred to as skin polyps, fibro papilloma, acrochordons, or fibrin tags, skin tags are tiny growths that are similar to warts. They can also be mistaken for cancer lesions but they are normally benign (non-cancerous).
As the National Canine Cancer Foundation, skin tags on dogs are a rather common phenomenon and can affect any breed. They can appear anywhere on the skin including the eyelids, face, ears, neck, chest, belly, legs, mouth, and lips. They tend to show up in areas of the skin that have folded and are normally of the same color with the rest of the skin.
Your dog may have just one or multiple tags; the first tag is usually followed by others in the future. Canine skin tags differ from warts in some subtle ways.
To start with, skin tags are typically soft, fleshy, and thin with floppy bottoms that can be moved around freely (the lower part next to the skin), unlike warts which have thick, rigid bottoms that are firmly rooted to the skin. It is also possible for skin tags to appear flat or have a slightly rounded tip that gives them the shape of teardrops.
Canine skin tags are ordinarily just a few millimeters long but they can extend to attain the size of a grape as the National Canine Cancer Foundation says. Such larger tags carry a higher risk of breakage and thus discomfort to your pet.
Skin tags that occur around your dog’s mouth or lips warrant immediate medical attention according to the National Canine Cancer Foundation as they may be cancerous (or may later turn cancerous) and may make swallowing difficult for your dog.
When to Be Concerned About Dog Skin Tags
You should seek immediate veterinary attention if dog skin tags:
- Gets damaged, bleeds, or becomes infected.
- Cause discomfort in your dog e.g. the dog scratches the area.
- Are black, white, or pink; that is, not the same color as the rest of the skin. Black skin tags on dogs may be a sign of skin cancer.
- Appears around your dog’s mouth or lips.
- Changes appearance over time in terms of size, color, and shape. Fast growing or swollen skin tag may be indicative of cancer.
What Causes Skin Tags On Dogs
Why do dogs get skin tags, you ask? Well, it is not yet well understood what causes dog skin tags but the following factors are thought to play a role:
Skin tags are thought to have a hereditary aspect, meaning that some dogs may be born with a genetic propensity to these skin growths. There is nothing you can do to stop genetics-induced skin tags except seeking medical treatment from a vet and may have them removed if necessary.
Untreated parasite bites could also play a role in the development of skin tags. Both internal and external parasites e.g. fleas, lice, and ticks can cause skin tags on dog’s skin if left untreated.
Improper Skin Care
Dog grooming is important for optimum skin and fur health. Washing your dog regularly is also a key part of dog care but shouldn’t be overdone as it can strip off your dog’s natural skin oils leading to a myriad of skin problems including possibly skin tags. Choosing the wrong dog shampoos and, even worse, using human shampoos on your dog’s fur could also lead to irritation and possibly culminate in canine skin tags.
Poor diet is also thought to be an underlying cause of skin tags in dogs. Poor diet can cause weakening of the immune system and thus the body’s ability to fight off infections and numerous health conditions.
Exposure to Chemicals and Pollutants
Chemical irritants within the living environment e.g. harsh detergents and shampoos, pollutants, and pesticides could as well be the culprits for dog skin tags.
Dog Skin Tag Removal
Skin tags are not dangerous; they are normally painless and benign. Consequently, Dog skin tag removal is not necessary unless the growth(s) is causing your canine friend discomfort.
This can, for example, happen when the tag is so large that it causes frequent friction when it comes into contact with other objects. This may in turn cause irritation or even squash the tag open. It can also happen when your furry friend scratches the skin tag.
Irritated and damaged dog skin tags are good candidates for removal. This entails a simple, non-invasive procedure at a vet’s office whereby the dog is put under local anesthesia before slicing the skin tag away. Your presence may help to calm the pet down and should the dog become aggressive, you may be required to “pin it down”.
NB: Although skin tags on dogs are nothing to worry about, it is still a great idea to have them checked by your vet just to be sure that they are not any other cancerous growths.
How to Remove Skin Tags on Dogs At Home
First of all, let me answer the question, “can I cut a skin tag off my dog?” Yes and no. Having your vet evaluate the skin tag and handle the removal procedure is the best course of action. You would have to part with some hundreds of dollars for the procedure.
You may not be able to afford that amount and in the case of older dogs, the vet may think that the age of the dog doesn’t justify the cost. I would personally disagree with such opinion as I believe older pets also deserve the best; I don’t know about you.
Anyway, coming back to our discussion, there are a couple options available for getting rid of dog skin tags at home but cutting it off with a knife, toenail clippers, or scalpel is not one of them:
Note: These home remedies are not suitable for tags that appear around your dog’s mouth and lips, which should be checked and treated accordingly by a vet.
Cutting and Cauterizing the Skin Tag
The process involved here is similar to that performed by the vet. It takes just a few minutes but you will have to be bold enough to carry it through to the end; you will have to make do with seeing your furry companion bleed from a cut you sustain on her skin.
- a pair of curved scissors (mayo scissors)
- rubbing alcohol
- bottle of distilled water
- cotton wool
- electro-cauterizing pen (soldering iron will do as fine)
- 10% iodine solution
- A razor blade
- Clean plastic bowl
- Pour a teaspoon of the iodine solution into the basin, dilute it with about a bowl of water, and then place the pair of scissors in it to sterilize it for not less than a minute.
- Have a friend or family member calm the patient (your dog) and have it lie on the ground so that the area to be treated is exposed properly.
- Trim the hair around the tag before swabbing it with a cotton wool soaked with the alcohol.
- With your friend holding the dog firmly, cut the skin tag right ate base, then place a bandage over it to curb bleeding.
- Cauterize the treatment area with the cauterizing pen (or soldering iron) for 2 seconds only. This entails touching the wound with the hot end of the pen.
- Finally, cover the wound with a bandage. Monitor its healing over the coming week.
How to Tie Off a Skin Tag on a Dog
Long canine skin tags may benefit from tying them off with a rubber band, dental floss, fishing line, or thread. This works by cutting out blood supply to the skin tag and thus starving it, so to speak.
Equipment and Materials Required
- Dental floss (fishing line or rubber band will also do).
- A razor blade
- A pair of scissors
- Rubbing alcohol
- Cotton wool
- An Elizabethan cone collar (those used by vets for spaying)
- Have a friend assist you by hold the dog in a comfortable position.
- Trim the hair in the area surrounding the tag
- Swab the skin tag and the area around it with a cotton ball soaked in the rubbing alcohol
- Tie the fishing line tightly around the skin tag. Wrap it around the skin tag three to five times more and then tie again.
- Place the collar around your dog’s to stop the dog from biting at the tag.
The tag will initially swell up and probably take on a purple streak and then start to shrink three days or so down the line before finally falling off.
Pictures of Skin Tags On Dogs
We have already discussed what a skin tag on dog looks like and how it can be differentiated from warts, but to close off, here is a lineup of dog skin tag pictures to complete the equation. These are photos posted by pet enthusiasts from across the web.
Skin tags on dogs and are not dangerous are nothing to worry about but if they cause your canine companion discomfort, get damaged, start bleeding or get infected, then you should seek the attention of your vet. Surgical removal of dog skin tags is the most effective treatment option. Once the skin tag has been removed, you can reduce the risk of recurrence by choosing dog skin care products e.g. shampoos carefully, observing proper nutrition, and grooming your dog properly.