Dog Discoveries

What are Skin Tags on a Dog?

 

dog-skin-tagsIn dog circles, there are often some terms that are not quite readily easy to understand and skin tags may be one of them. What are skin tags on a dog? What do dog skin tags look like? Where are dog skin tags found?

If you never heard about the term skin tag before, you may be wondering exactly what dog skin tags are, especially if you are a dog owner. Or maybe you may have stumbled on the term before, perhaps coming from other dog owners or from a vet, but were too embarrassed to ask what on earth dog skin tags are exactly.

On the other hand, it might be you know what dog skin tags are and just want to learn more about them. So today’s trivia question of the day revolves around skin tags in dogs, will you be able to identify the correct answer?

What are skin tags in dogs?

A  It’s a tag embedded in the dog’s skin for identification purposes

B It’s a tag attached to a dog’s skin with a registration number for breeding specimens.

C It’s a small growth on the dog’s skin

D It’s a small remnant of skin that may stick out after a dog had stitches that failed to close correctly.

The correct answer is, drum roll please ……

drum

 

 

The correct answer is C: A skin tag in a dog is a small growth found on the dog’s skin.

skin-tag-on-dog-legSo What on Earth Are Skin Tags in Dogs?

Veterinarians are quite used to dog owners wondering about skin tags. Dog owners may be petting their dogs when they suddenly stumble upon this fleshy little growth that is flexible and bends and that they have never noticed before.

Next thing they know, they rush over to the vet concerned about it.”What is this penduculated blob of  hairless skin doing on my dog’s chest?”

What do dog skin tags look like? Dog owners may describe skin tags as being small like a grain of rice or fleshy like a raisin, but what are really skin tags, and most of all, how did they end up being on the dog in the first place?

Medically known as acrochordons, the Merck Veterinary Manual describes skin tags as being benign, cutaneous growths often found in older dogs. Skin tags can develop in any dog breed and can present as isolated growths or they can be in good company appearing in several different parts of the dog’s body.

Skin tags are normally not painful when touched and may appear on the dog’s face, head, legs, chest area and armpit area, but they can really appear just about anywhere. Fortunately, in many cases, skin tags are nothing to worry about and the vet may recommend just keeping an eye on these growths and report if skin tags in dogs get bigger or change appearance. Yes, dog skin tags are unsightly, but they often seem to bother more owners than dogs. While skin tags are considered benign, as with any lumps, bumps and growths, a biopsy may be needed to confirm it’s truly a skin tag.

engorged-dog-tick
Dog skin tags may look like ticks!

Skin Tag or Tick?

Often, when dog owners find a skin tag on their dog, they often wonder if it’s an actual skin tag or a tick. The two may resemble a bit each other, but there is an easy way to figure it out.

Simply, part the dog’s hair and then carefully look at the area where the “growth” attaches to the skin. Do you see wriggling legs or a mouth part? To get a better look, you might have to grab a magnifying glass just to make sure. Just in case you are wondering, yes, the picture on the right is featuring an embedded tick.  Yes, gross!

If you see wriggling legs, then  you can simply remove it by grabbing it firmly by the head as close to the dog’s skin as you can  with a pair of tweezers and then gently tug it off. Ideally, you should get the tick all out, but if you leave the head behind, the dog’s body, with time, will dislodge it on its own.

If it’s a skin tag, you should have your vet take a look at it and see what he recommends doing. Chances are, if it ‘s just a skin tag, he may recommend keeping at eye on it, but some vets are more conservative and will recommend having it biopsied to err on the side of caution.

How to Remove Skin Tags in Dogsveterinary

Removal of skin tags in dogs is usually optional, but sometimes there may be some good reasons for removing them.

For instance, if the dog tends to pester his skin tag, chewing on it or scratching it, it’s a good idea to have it removed as skin tags tend to bleed, get irritated and can become infected.

If the dog’s skin tag is located in a bothersome area such as where the collar goes or near the dog’s eyes, rear end or mouth area, removal is also often recommended.

If the vet recommends having a skin tag removed, there are several options. Skin tags in dogs can be removed through a small surgical procedure that can be done under local anesthesia with some sedation or total anesthesia.  The choice for dog skin tag removal may vary based on its location and the over all temperament of the dog. Some vets may recommend having them removed through electrosurgery or cryosurgery.

warning cautionAbout Home Remedies for Dog Skin Tags

Many people look for home remedies for skin tags in dogs, but most of them are not safe and not recommended! We stumbled on several website offering tips on removing dog skin tags, but no, it’s not something to do at home!

For instance, veterinarian Dr. Loretta warns that yes, technically one can tie off the end of a skin tag with dental floss, apply alcohol and then cut it off with scissors, using a styptic pencil to stop the bleeding, but this can be stressful on the dog and will cause the dog to be likely screaming in pain!

Also, even though a skin tag may appear thin, it actually has a large blood vessel that bleeds and there are risks for infections. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can just easily remove a dog’s skin tag at home. Many have, and they have regretted it when their dogs got nasty complications.  It’s is best to have this done by a veterinarian in a sterile environment possibly with the vet using only local anesthesia.

And what about cutting off blood supply to the skin tag by tying it with dental floss if hopes of it dropping off? Even this procedure is dangerous. Veterinarian Dr. Deb warns that she has seen people with the best intentions trying to remove dog skin tags at home, only to create some nasty infections. No matter what you read, this is something that should not be done at home!

“Using floss, string, or rubber bands in this way is one of the worst things you can do… It is literally dying and rotting off the body.  Who thinks this is a good thing?  There is a big risk of infection or having more tissue than desired affected.  In the case of a mass or polyp, you leave the base in the skin so it has a chance of regrowing.  In order to completely resolve the problem you have to cut away the attached skin, not just remove the dangling part.” ~Dr. Chris Bern

Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as substitute for veterinary advice. If your dog has a lump, bump or growth, please see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

References:

  • Merck Veterinary Manual, Connective Tissue Tumors, retrieved from the web on November 21st, 2016
  • A Vet’s Guide to Life, Dental Floss Doesn’t Remove Skin Tags, But Thanks For Trying, November 21st, 2016

Photo Credits:

Wikipedia, Creative Commons, Jack Russell terrier sitting and tilting her head, Writ Keeper

 

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