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Skin tags tend to appear on humans as they age, they are very common in people over the age of 60 and show in armpits, folds of skin on the neck, under the breasts, in the genital area, and on the torso. They are relatively harmless and can be easily removed.
You were grooming your dog the other day and notice what look like skin tags similar to those seen in humans. Overall, it feels soft and looks like nothing more than just a small lump of skin. Can dogs get skin tags like people and, if so, are they dangerous?
Can Dogs Get Skin Tags?
Your dog can also get skin tags that appear virtually anywhere on their bodies, but are more likely to be found on belly, chest, ears, eyelids, face, legs, lips, mouth, and neck. While small tags are not something to worry about, you should keep an eye on them and have them removed if they get too large, as they can break off and cause discomfort. For the most part, skin tags are harmless, but those that appear around your dog's mouth should be checked out by your vet to make sure they are not cancerous.
Does My Dog Have Skin Tags?
Skin tags are very similar in appearance to warts and are often mistaken for being skin cancer (bear in mind that they are not cancerous). They can appear virtually anywhere on your dog's body. If you happen to find one, chances are good that they have more elsewhere on their body.
Unlike skin cancer tumors, skin tags are soft and very flexible. In most cases, they are not painful to the touch unless they have become infected.
Symptoms of Skin Tags
The most common symptoms of skin tags on your dog include:
Small soft nodules on your dog's skin
Small growths with hair in them
Small growths that may bleed if damaged
Infections around the growths
Stalk-like growths rather than flat ones (which are typically warts)
Causes of Skin Tags
Vets and scientists are still trying to determine why dogs get skin tags and why some breeds are more susceptible to them than others. However, they have identified several possible causes you should know about, including:
Collagen protein build up
Parasites: Bites from these creatures (both internal and external) may cause skin tags if left untreated
Genetics: There is some evidence that skin tags are a hereditary condition
Poor skincare: Overdoing the baths and shampoos can strip your dog's natural oils from the skin. Using the wrong products or excessive bathing can lead to the formation of skin tags
Chemicals and pollution: We live in a world of harsh chemicals and pollution. Exposure to a range of chemicals and other forms of pollution are also thought to be a cause of skin tags
Diagnosis of Skin Tags
The best way to detect skin tags on your dogs is to perform a regular visual examination while you are grooming them. If you spot any growths, you can always take your dog in to see the vet for further examination. The vet may biopsy the growth to eliminate the possibility of skin cancer or any other medical condition that requires further treatment.
For more information on skin tags, please visit our guide to Skin Tags in Dogs.
How Do I Treat My Dog’s Skin Tags?
First and foremost, it is important for you to understand that skin tags are not considered to be dangerous to your dog's health and that treatment involving their removal is not necessary in most cases. The only reason you might have to remove them is if the tags are causing your dog discomfort.
Treatments for Skin Tags
There are three treatments your vet might use to remove your dog's skin tags:
Cryosurgical removal: Used on small to medium tags, the vet will use liquid nitrogen to freeze the tag. Within a few days, the tag will simply drop off.
Physical surgery: If the skin tag is too big to be removed using cryosurgery, your vet may have no choice but to remove it surgically and then suture the wound closed.
Thread ligation: This one is a little different; the vet will tie a thread tightly around the base of the skin tag, effectively cutting off its supply of blood. The tag will die within a few days and simply drop off.
Recovery from Skin Tags
No matter which type of removal your vet used to get rid of the skin tags, there is always going to be a risk of secondary infection. Keep an eye on the area where the tags were removed for any signs of infection such as pus or foul odors and take your dog to the vet if you notice them. You should also be aware your dog may try to scratch or chew at the areas where the skin tags were removed-- you may need to take steps to discourage this behavior.
Beyond this, your dog should make a full recovery without any noticeable problems. But you should be aware that your dog may be prone to more skin tags.
How Are Skin Tags Similar in Dogs and Humans?
Humans and dogs are both vulnerable to skin tags and, for the most part, they are very similar. Here are some of the ways in which they bear a close resemblance to each other:
In both, skin tags are attached to the body by slender stalks
In both, skin tags are permanent unless you have them removed
Skin tags will not cause any further medical issues for either humans or dogs unless they become infected
Both humans and dogs can have multiple skin tags in various areas of the body
How Are Skin Tags Different in Dogs and Humans?
Just as there are several ways in which skin tags are the same in humans and dogs, there are a few basic differences you should also be aware of, including:
You should never cut the skin tags on your dog
Doctors may use scissors or a sharp blade to remove skin tags from people
In people, they tend to appear with age
In dogs, they can appear at any age
You are sitting on the couch watching your favorite television show with your four-legged friend, gently rubbing his belly, and suddenly your fingers hit something that doesn't belong there. It is soft and fleshy feeling and moves around as you touch. Soon you find yourself bent over your dog searching his body for the cause.
What you find looks a like a small growth sticking out of his belly. You have just found your dog's first skin tag. The good news is that unless the skin tags are bothering your pup, they are nothing to worry about. If they really bother you, your vet can easily remove them, leaving behind a tiny scar that won't bother your dog.