A skin tag on a dog is very similar to how they appear when they are on humans; insomuch as they are growths that almost dangle from the skin on a pendulous base. More often than not they do not create any health risks to the animal concerned. They will often vary quite considerably in size and can feature in any one of a number of locations on the dog’s body; also it is not uncommon for a dog to have more than one of these benign lesions.
It is perhaps important to understand that skin tags can affect any age of dog, irrespective of their breeding or pedigree. Owners are sometimes overly concerned when they spot a skin tag, and in some cases will mistake them for signs of canine cancer.
What are the Main Causes of Skin Tags on Dogs?
Most veterinarians will admit they don’t have all of the answers when it comes to understanding just what causes skin tags on dogs; however, a lot of research points at both environmental and hereditary reasons as to why they might develop. Some of the main theories include the following:
- Internal and external parasites: Very often the dog will have a huge number of different parasites living in and on their bodies, these might include the likes of mites, lice, fleas and ticks; all of which increase the chances of the dog scratching the area concerned. It is this scratching that has been thought as a main contributor to the dog going on to develop skin tags.
- Poor or inappropriate skin care: Sometimes an owner might not take as much care as they should in keeping their dogs fur and skin as clean as possible, this can result in skin issues for the animal. Alternatively using too harsh a shampoo can also lead to problems, with the dogs’ skin drying out, which in turn can affect the pH levels; as a result it is not uncommon for skin tags to develop.
- Environment: In most cases a dog owner cannot always control quite where their dog will roam, sometimes these areas can be laden with pesticide or other harsh chemicals; many scientists are of the opinion that these can have a bearing a dog getting skin tags.
- Genetics: As with the human form of skin tags it is believed that a skin tag can be passed down in the genetics between a dog and one of its parents.
Are They Dangerous?
As stated earlier a skin tag on a dog is normally a benign growth that on its own will not provide any serious health risks to the animal; however, there are some circumstances where the skin tag can go on to cause issues.
One such issue is the location of the skin tag, often this will affect the potential for discomfort in the dog; sometimes a skin tag might appear in the collar area, in these cases it is likely that the collar will irritate the tag making the dog scratch or possibly even try to bite the skin tag off. Of course a dog won’t have the same level of understanding that an individual does when they have a skin tag, so it could well be a case that the animal constantly scratches the area; this has the potential to cause an inflammation of the skin tag and in some cases can lead to infection, for this reason it might well be worth thinking about having the skin tag removed.
Can a Veterinarian Remove Them?
Thankfully it can be quite an easy process for a veterinarian to remove skin tags on dogs, although in many cases the vet might only consider this approach if the skin tags are shown to be causing the dog a level of irritation or discomfort. Although many pet owners could well be alarmed at the initial appearance of the skin tags, especially in the cases of the larger ones; it is important to take appropriate steps to ensure the proper grooming of your animal. At least this way you will have a good understanding of any changes to the skin tags on your dog, and in the unlikely event of the skin tag developing into something more serious, steps can be taken early to alleviate the symptoms.
Methods of removing the skin tags include:
- Cutting: This simple, but effective method is one of the more popular ways of skin tag removal. The veterinarian will isolate the area concerned with a local anaesthetic, normally the owner is close by to re-assure the animal during the procedure. The offending skin tag is simply cut away by the use of a scalpel or similar, then an antiseptic is used to protect the area. It is normal for the dog owner to need to clean the area over the forthcoming week to ensure there is no infection.
- Tying: This is quite possibly even easier to carry out than the cutting method, the vet will again use a local anaesthetic to numb the area concerned, after which a suture or sometimes piece of fishing line is tied very tightly around the skin tag. As a result the blood supply is cut off and over the course of the next few days the skin tag will die, in most cases the skin tag will fall off after about a week. Some vets might suggest that the dog wears some kind of jacket or shirt, which will cover the affected area; this will of course help to prevent any scratching whilst waiting for the skin tag to fall off.
In the vast majority of cases the dog will not feel any real discomfort from either of these procedures and should be ready to make the journey home once the skin tag has been dealt with.