Lumps and bumps can appear for a wide range of reasons on a dog’s body, but they can be somewhat alarming for any responsible pet owner. Skin tags are an example of what you might find on your pet’s body and while it is a good idea to understand what they are and take them to the vet, you should not be panicked about them immediately.
Read on to find out more about skin tags, what they can be, and when you should feel worried about them.
What are skin tags?
Skin tags can be any type of small and benign growth that you might notice on your dog’s face, elbows, armpits, hips, or trunk. Sometimes they might even grow around your pet’s mouth or around their eyelids.
While in most cases, they do not put your dog’s health at risk, they can become infected, especially if they rupture or if your dog is constantly scratching the area and accidentally creating a wound.
What does a skin tag look like?
A skin tag can often be mistaken for a tick, especially one that hasn’t completed feeding yet. These growths are white, and there is no discharge coming out of them (or blood) so long as they weren’t ruptured by a type of trauma or even friction.
In general, skin tags are a lot lighter in color when compared to scabs, warts, and even some types of tumors, such as hemangiomas. The majority maintain their size and do not spread to other areas, but they also don’t disappear and reappear like some types of warts, especially the viral kind called papillomas.
Causes of skin tags on dogs
First of all, there are some breeds that are more likely to develop skin tags compared to others, and they are the following:
- Miniature Schnauzers
- Cocker Spaniels
Besides this genetic predisposition, they can appear in all dogs, regardless of age, gender, or general health status. They do seem to be somewhat more common in larger and giant breeds.
They tend to appear in areas where there’s constant friction, such as in the shoulder or hip areas. If the dog is sleeping on a hard surface, this can also lead to the development of skin tags.
But what is important to remember is that in most cases, they are not painful, and they do not cause any degree of discomfort to the dog. They also cannot be passed from one dog to the other or to people, for that matter, so they can’t be considered contagious.
Diagnosis of skin tags
If this is the first skin tag your dog might have developed, you will naturally feel worried about its nature. Fortunately, there are many diagnostic methods these days that can be utilized to rule out more potentially negative growths such as tumors.
Veterinarians usually rely on two types of diagnostic techniques. The first is cytology, and it involves the collection of a number of cells from the tag itself using a fine needle aspirate method.
There is also the option of the tag being completely removed with surgery, in which case a histopathology specialist can analyze the sample under the microscope and determine if it is benign or malignant and if it is a neoplastic growth, exactly what type it is and what stage of development it has reached.
In terms of cost, the price of such a diagnosis can vary largely depending on factors that pertain to the animal and if their general health is alright or factors that deal with where you are located and the types of clinics available in your area. In most cases, you should expect to pay anything ranging from $200 to $300 or more for the pathology report only.
Usually, other tests, such as a complete blood count and biochemistry, along with anything else that your vet might recommend, have to be added to that calculation.
How are skin tags treated?
If the growth is diagnosed as being completely benign, your vet might recommend surgery for its removal. However, do keep in mind that there are many dogs that are middle-aged or seniors that have tags on their bodies that never end up affecting their health.
The skin tag can be cauterized if you are wary about general anesthesia – a mild sedative and a local anesthetic usually get the job done, especially if the tag isn’t attached to any of the surrounding or underlying tissues at all.
Do not try to treat your dog’s skin tags at home. More often than not, some of the home remedies you will come across online are not only ridiculous, but they can also put your dog’s health at risk. Using string or floss or trying to remove it through any forceful methods can be dangerous for everyone involved – plus you will also create a wound that will require treatment anyway.
It is always better to know exactly what your dog has on their body and only then understand what the best way to treat it is.
Is there any way to prevent skin tags on dogs?
As previously mentioned, some breeds are just more predisposed to developing skin tags compared to others. Besides taking your pet to the animal hospital regularly so that your vet can give them a check-up and also look at their body, there aren’t a lot of things you can do in the way of preventing skin tags.
But because any self-inflicted wound can end up developing into a skin tag, you should make sure that you treat your dog’s external parasites regularly so that they don’t develop an allergy and that you give them a well-balanced diet for skin health.
Avoiding harnesses or collars that are too tight and that could cause chafing is another good idea since this can also cause skin tags in time.