Skin Tags on Dogs: Everything You Need to Know

Dogs can get skin tags on their body, similar to the ones that we get. Skin tags are small, relatively common growths of skin, which can appear anywhere on a dog’s body. They are usually harmless, and often there is no medical need to have them removed. In this blog we’ll go into detail about what skin tags are, what they look like on dogs, and when they might be cause for concern.

What Does a Skin Tag Look Like on a Dog?

Skin tags appear as small pieces of skin that are raised or dangling slightly from your dog’s body. Their texture can vary from smooth to wrinkled, but they are soft, moveable and usually not painful for your pet. Skin tags on dogs are usually only a few millimetres in size, and tend to be the same colour as your dog’s skin, though they can vary in size and colour.

You may not notice a skin tag on your dog until you feel it while petting or grooming them.

Dog Skin Tag or Wart?

Skin tags can look very similar to warts, but they are not the same. While warts are usually firmer, rounder, and completely attached to the skin, skin tags tend to be softer, and are often attached to the skin by a small stalk.

Both warts and skin tags are usually benign, meaning they grow slowly and don’t spread to other parts of the body. Warts usually disappear by themselves in time. While skin tags can sometimes fall off naturally, it’s not common.

Dog Skin Tag or Tick?

It’s important to recognise the difference between ticks and skin tags on dogs, as ticks should be removed quickly to prevent them from transmitting any nasty diseases. While skin tags on dogs are usually the same colour as their skin, ticks tend to be shades of brown, red or grey. Ticks also have 8 spider-like legs, which you may be able to see just behind the head depending on the size of the tick if you look closely.

Cysts and other skin growths can also look similar to skin tags. Since dogs can get many different lumps and bumps and it’s not always easy to tell them apart, it’s always best to get any new growth checked by a vet.

Why is My Dog Getting Skin Tags?

The cause of skin tags on dogs is not fully understood. However, they often appear in areas of the body that have higher levels of friction, such as skin folds and pressure points like the elbows, knees and chest. Having said this, skin tags can form anywhere on your dog’s skin.

Older dogs tend to be more prone to skin tags, as are certain breeds, such as poodles, cocker spaniels and large breeds, which suggests there is genetic element involved.

When Should You Worry About a Skin Tag on a Dog?

Usually skin tags are not cause for concern, but it’s still advisable to get them checked out by your vet. If there’s no change to it and it’s not causing your dog any discomfort, this can be done at your next annual check up.

Skin tags that seem to be causing your dog discomfort should be checked by a vet right away. For example, if your dog is licking, itching, biting or showing concern about the skin tag or area it’s located. Similarly, if your dog appears to be in pain, see a vet.

While skin tags are usually nothing to worry about, they can sometimes grow quite large, or form in a place that causes your dog irritation, such as near a joint or where their harness fits. In these cases, your vet might recommend having it removed.

You should also watch out for any changes in the appearance of your dog’s skin tag. Sometimes, certain changes can be signs of a more serious condition. Make an appointment with your vet if you notice any of the following changes to your dog’s skin tag:

  • Changes in colour
  • It gets bigger
  • The skin tag bleeds or you notice discharge coming from it
  • Additional skin tags start to appear in the same place

It can be helpful to take pictures or keep a journal of any changes you notice so that you can relay the information more easily to your vet.

What Do Cancerous Skin Tags on Dogs Look Like?

While the majority of skin tags are harmless, it is possible that what looks like a skin tag is actually something more serious.

Some cancers, such as melanoma, can present themselves as a black skin tag. If your dog’s skin tag is very dark in colour, it’s best to get it checked by a vet as soon as possible.

Any of the changes mentioned above, like changes in size and colour or bleeding, could also indicate that the growth is not benign.

Mast cell tumours are the most common type of skin cancer in dogs, and can look very similar to benign skin tags, especially in the early stages. It’s impossible to tell whether a skin growth is cancerous just by looking at it, so it’s always best to get it investigated by a vet.

How Do You Get Rid of Skin Tags on a Dog?

Most of the time there is no medical need to remove skin tags on dogs. Unless your vet is concerned that the skin tag may be something more sinister, or the skin tag is causing discomfort for your pet, your vet is likely to advise you to leave it alone.

If removal is recommended, or you prefer to have the skin tag removed for cosmetic reasons, this will need to be done surgically by your vet.

Your dog can either be put under general or local anaesthetic depending on the size and location of the skin tag as well as the temperament of the dog. Your vet may cut the attachment of the skin tag (excision), or use heat or electricity to burn the tissue attachment.

Often this will be done at the same time as another procedure, such as dental work, as a skin tag is very unlikely to warrant the use of anaesthetic alone.

Can I Tie Off My Dog’s Skin Tag?

No, you should never try to remove a skin tag from your dog yourself. There is a high chance that it will result in pain for your pet, and may also lead to bleeding and infection.

It’s also possible that the growth could be something other than a skin tag, and trying to remove it could cause problems.

Wrapping Up

Generally, skin tags on dogs are nothing to worry about. They are usually benign growths that cause no problems, and don’t need to be removed. Sometimes skin tags can grow quite large, however, or they might be located in an area of your dog’s body that causes them discomfort, in which case your vet may recommend removing them. Never try to remove them yourself. Since it can be difficult to tell skin tags apart from other lumps and bumps, it’s always best to get any new growths checked out by a vet. Similarly, you should also keep an eye on any skin tags and report any changes to your vet.

Animed Veterinary Nurse, Beth Walker
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