PET CARE

What To Know About Skin Tags on Dogs, From a Veterinarian

Four minutes
Nov 13, 2023

Does your dog have a brown or black bump on their body? There are different kinds of lumps and bumps dogs can get, but it’s very likely that your dog just has a skin tag. Here are some quick facts about skin tags on dogs and how (and when) you should have them removed.

What Are Skin Tags?

According to Merck Veterinary Manual, skin tags are benign, stalk-like growths.¹ They tend to have a wart-like surface and are raisin-like in appearance, usually growing from or around your dog’s hair follicles. These growths can grow alone or show up in groups of multiple skin tags. Any dog breed can develop skin tags, but it's most common in large dog breeds – like German shepherds.

While most skin tags are typically harmless, they can bleed when they’re damaged. This could lead to secondary infections. If an infection is present, skin tags could ooze pus to help purge it out.

Types of skin tags on dogs

The medical term for a skin tag is hamartomas, which help medical professionals describe the excess skin tissue. Typical hamartomas fall into two categories: fibroadnexal or follicular.¹ Fibroadnexal skin tags are hairless and tend to form on the lower legs. Follicular skin tags, as the name implies, form around the hair follicles and tend to be flat masses that grow in groups.

There are some special types of skin tags on dogs that primarily affect senior dogs. One such skin tag is collagenous nevi. These can grow very large on middle-aged and senior dogs’ legs, heads, necks, and other areas that get a lot of friction.¹

The other type of skin tag that senior dogs can develop are fibromas. Fibromas are actually a special type of benign skin tumor that is found in senior dogs.¹ These tumors can be firm and rubbery to touch, or soft and mushy. Regardless of how tough or soft it is, it’s best to have a veterinarian examine your dog’s growth to ultimately determine its diagnosis. Certain breeds are prone to these tumors, including Doberman pinschers, boxers, and golden retrievers.

What Causes Skin Tags on Dogs?

The exact cause of skin tags is up for debate. Some veterinary experts believe that skin tags and other skin tumors could be caused by exposure to the environment, like solar radiation.¹ Others believe they’re caused by skin cell layers being exposed and constantly rubbed together, given that they tend to form around parts of the legs, neck, and other parts of the body that get a lot of friction.2 Another theory is that skin tags are potentially caused by a genetic predisposition, like many other skin disorders.

A beagle with a few skin tags on its face.

When to Consider Removing a Dog’s Skin Tags

Skin tags can become a nuisance to your dog. These are two instances when skin tags may need to be removed.3 Other instances could include when:¹,3

  • The skin tag becomes irritated, infected, or bleeds.
  • It changes color, size, and shape.
  • Multiple skin tags pop up in the same location.
  • Your dog is bothered by the skin tag.
  •  Your dog excessively licks, scratches, or rubs the area.

You may need to call your vet if you notice these sorts of changes in your dog's skin tags. Why? Irritated or bleeding skin tags are a sign of a secondary infection which may need prescription medications to treat. Skin tags that change size or color could also be a sign of skin cancer or another disease.3

Treatment Options for Skin Tags on Dogs

You should know that it isn’t advisable for pet parents to try to remove skin tags themselves. Removing skin tags at home could hurt your dog and the open wound could become infected.

Be sure to discuss your dog’s skin tags with your vet. If you have a MetLife Pet dog insurance policy, you can use the app’s telehealth feature to send a few photos of the tags to a vet who can provide proper consultation and treatment options, if necessary. You can also  contact your local vet and possibly set up an appointment.

How to remove a dog’s skin tags

Once you talk to your vet, they may want to schedule a visit to conduct a biopsy of the skin tags to make sure your pup doesn’t have skin cancer.² They’ll likely remove the skin tags by hand using a local anesthetic and a hand needle.²

Sometimes, they may choose to remove the skin tags for cosmetic reasons and skip the biopsy. If the technology is available or there are a lot of skin tags, your vet may offer cryotherapy to freeze the skin tags off. Both options — removal by hand and cryotherapy — are relatively painless with short recovery times.

MetLife Pet Insurance Could Help Prevent Bills From Getting Under Your Skin

Most of the time, skin tags are cosmetic blemishes that won’t harm your dog. They’ll continue being their lovable selves even if you choose not to remove them. However, there are times when your vet will have to step in to make sure your pup hasn’t developed a skin disorder or something serious.

That’s when pet insurance can step in to help you care for your best friend. Consider getting a free quote today to find out how you can get up to 100% reimbursement on covered vet bills today.

Protect your Dog

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Dr. Hunter Finn is an integrative veterinary expert first, and social media star second. America’s favorite veterinarian owns Pet Method in McKinney, Texas, where he cares for pets while prioritizing their emotional well-being. When he’s not at his clinic, he’s starring in viral videos on TikTok (2 million followers) and Instagram (500K followers) — where he’s been known to snuggle puppies and conquer the latest dance trends.

¹ “Tumors of the Skin In Dogs,” Merck Veterinary Manual

2 “Skin Tags on Dogs,” The Spruce Pets

3 “Dog Skin Lumps & Bumps: When You Should Worry,” American Kennel Club

Coverage underwritten and issued by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85254 or Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations. Application is subject to underwriting review. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC for details. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator for this coverage. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

 

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