skin tags in dogs

Skin Tags (Acrochordon or Fibroepithelial Polyps) in Dogs

Overview of Dog Skin Tags

The medical terms for a dog skin tag is an acrochordon or acrochorda (pleural) and are also known as a fibroepithelial polyp.

A skin tag can be described as a growth of skin with a small narrow base. It is generally the color of the underlying skin but can be slightly darker. Dog skin tags are often about the size of a grain of rice but can be bigger or smaller and some can be very long in dogs. Most dog skin tags look like small pieces of hanging or dangling skin. Dog skin tags are permanent growths unless you have them removed.

The most common location for dog skin tags is around the face, head, neck, armpits, eyelids, elbow and chest, but can occur anywhere on the body. They can occur in clusters, especially on the chest (sternum) in a heavy deep chested dog. Skin tags are also common in humans and also frequently occur around the face, head, face and upper chest.

A dog skin tag is considered a benign type of tumor. Benign tumors are proliferations of cells that do not invade other tissues or spread to other locations. A true skin tag is generally painless and harmless. They generally do not change over time into something cancerous.

Their significance is largely cosmetic, as pet owners may not like how they look on their pet. They may need removal if they inhibit any important function, become damaged and bleed, or become a nuisance. They can create issues when grooming, as they can be accidentally cut. Other problem can occur if a collar rubs on the tag causing it to break open, bleed, or become infected.

The cause for skin tags is largely unknown although there are some breed predispositions e.g. they are more common in Great Danes, Bulldogs, and boxers. Friction is thought to be a factor in some skin tag clusters on the chest that can occur in large deep-chested dog breeds. They can occur at any age but are more common in dogs as they age and are most common in dogs over the age of 7 or 8 years.

Many pet owners confuse a dog skin tag with a canine sebaceous adenoma or common dog “wart”. Learn more about Sebaceous Adenomas (LINK PENDING) and Canine Viral Papillomas (Dog Warts). This article has a helpful section about how to tell a skin tag from a wart – go to “What to do if Your Dog Has a Skin Tag” (Pillar article – link pending).

Diagnosis of Skin Tags (Acrochordon or Fibroepithelial Polyps) in Dogs

The diagnosis of a skin tag in your dog will largely be by the history and physical examination. Generally, veterinarians can diagnose a dog skin tag be looking at it. It is generally soft, attached to the underlying skin with a narrow stalk, hairless, easily moveable, and flesh colored.

Your veterinarian may take a complete history and ask questions about any growth that may include:

Additional tests may include:

These tests are generally not required for a typical dog skin tag.

What to Watch For

Any new lump or bump should be evaluated right away, especially a lump that is rapidly growing, is warm or painful, is ulcerated or bleeding, is irregular in shape or is well attached to the tissues under the skin.

Any of the above signs should prompt you to seek veterinary attention.

Treatment of Dog Skin Tags

Treatment depends on the cause of the mass. If the growth is diagnosed as a true skin tag, no treatment is required. However, some skin tags can be irritated by leashes, collars, halters or be close to the mouth and become damaged. In these cases, surgical removal of the skin tag is recommended.

Dog skin tags can be removed with a surgical scalpel or surgical laser. Some veterinarians can remove skin tags by giving a local anesthetic (lidocaine) to numb the skin areas then surgically removing the skin tag.

Home Care

Observe for additional masses or skin growths. Evaluate the skin tags for heat, redness and pain, which can be signs of infection. Also observe any lump or mass on your dog for changes in color, ulceration, or other changes. This could mean that it is not a benign skin tag and should be evaluated by your veterinarian.

If the growth has been removed or biopsied, keep your dog confined to allow for healing. Do not allow your dog to scratch or lick at the surgical site. Observe the incision site closely for drainage, swelling, redness, heat or pain. Follow-up with your veterinarian for suture removal if needed.

Prevention of Dog Skin Tags

There is no known way to prevent dog skin tags.