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My Dog Has Skin Tags – Is He Alright?

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You pull your pooch in for a little cuddle and an ear scratch and whoa, what’s that? It’s a skin tag, that you’ve never noticed before. Now before you panic and assume it’s the big “C”, take a deep breath and relax. Because the truth is, skin tags are normal for dogs and they’ll get any number of them throughout the course of their life.

While they are typically found on the face, chest, armpits, stomach (and with my boyfriend’s black Lab, his eye-lid), they can crop up anywhere on his body. While they don’t cause him any discomfort and are typically harmless, it doesn’t hurt to take note and then check periodically for any change in size.

Now when it comes to what causes these fleshy, dangly bits of skin on your pooch, it can often be down to the same things that cause skin tags to appear on humans.

  1. Constant skin friction. For people, skin tags can be caused by tight clothing that rubs against the skin. For dogs, it can be as simple as a harness or collar that is continuously rubbing in certain spots and irritating the skin. If the tag is around his neck, shoulders, and chest, have you started using a new harness? Are his walks longer? Has he put on weight and his equipment is now a little snugger? It’s worth investigating because if it’s causing skin tags, it’s also rubbing them. And if they’re substantial in size, they may be starting to cause your pooch some discomfort on his outings.
  2. Too much bathing. Seriously, there is such a thing as “too clean” when it comes to dogs. Each time your little guy gets the old rub-a-dub-dub, you’re stripping his skin of essential oils. Now, there are times – such as a visit to the groomers, or he’s gotten into something really nasty – that bathing is required, but it really shouldn’t be a regular routine. Unlike when he goes for a swim or runs under the sprinkler and his fur simply gets wet, the soaps in shampoo remove the natural lubricants that help prevent dryness, chafing, and skin tags.
  3. Age, size, and breed of dog. Just like with humans, older dogs begin to acquire skin tags on various parts of their bodies due to the day-to-day wear and tear we all experience. It’s just a natural part of aging and is likely to be on the upper body where his collar or harness typically makes contact. Genetics also factor in, and breeds such as Cocker Spaniels tend to be prone to tags. As well, for an undetermined reason, skin tags are also more prevalent in larger breeds than smaller dogs. In each instance, they are typically harmless but should be visually monitored for any changes.
  4. Fleas or ticks. While the actual bite of a parasite won’t cause skin tags, it’s the resulting behavior that can bring them on. Fleas, ticks, or mites attach themselves to your dog’s skin, bite, and cause itching. As a result, your dog scratches. Over time, incessant scratching can cause inflammation or infection, and leave that area more vulnerable to skin conditions, including tags.

While your first instinct may be to snip skin tags off with a pair of scissors or nail clippers, resist the urge. First of all, it hurts your pet. And if he has multiple tags, you’re going to cause him more stress and anxiety than its worth. It can also result in bleeding and/or infection, so best to just leave the tag alone. Now, if you do feel it needs to be removed because he’s fussing over it, or it happens to sit along his harness or collar line, go to your vet. He needs to be able to get a visual of the situation before anything is done, just to ensure that it’s nothing more than a fibrous piece of skin.

If your vet does recommend removal, there are three methods that are safe, simple, and won’t cause distress to your pet. Surgery – if the tag is in a location (such as eyelid) where extra caution is required and your dog is healthy enough to be anaesthetized. Cryosurgery – freezing that destroys the growth and causes the tag to fall off. And cauterization – a local anaesthetic numbs the area and the tag is burned off. But keep in mind that older pets and some breeds don’t do well under anaesthesia, so simply leaving it alone may be the best advice.


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