What to Do if Your Dog Has a Skin Tag

There are many kinds of canine skin bumps, growths, lumps, tumors, and “tags”. Some skin tumors in dogs are benign (noncancerous) and some skin lumps are cancerous. A dog skin tag is a type of skin growth that can occur anywhere on the body but are common on the face, head, neck, elbows, and/or chest. Skin tags are common in humans and also commonly occur on the face, head, face and upper chest. Dog owners frequently have questions about dog skin tags wondering if they are cancerous, a problem that can turn cancerous, or no problem at all.

Below we will discuss what is a dog skin tag, how to determine if it is a dog skin tag vs wart, how to tell a skin tag from a cancer bump in dogs, and steps for dog skin tag removal.

Before deciding if a skin tag is a problem or not, let’s look at exactly what is a dog skin tag.

The medical terms for a skin tag is an acrochordon or acrochorda (pleural) and is also known as fibroepithelial polyp. A skin tag is a small flap of skin with a small base often about the size of a grain of rice but can be bigger or smaller. Some dog skin tags can be the size of a grape or even larger and appear to “dangle”.

Dog skin tags most often occur around the face, head, neck, armpits, elbows, and eyelids, but can occur anywhere on the body. Some deep chested large dogs will get clusters of skin tags over the chest area.

A true skin tag is generally painless and harmless. They generally do not change over time into something cancerous.

They are often diagnosed when combing or brushing your dog. They are easier to see on dogs with dark hair coats as they are often pink, fleshy, and protrude brightly. It is common for some pet owners to mistake a skin tag for an attached tick.  Collars, leashes or grooming procedures such as combing or brushing your dog, can irritate dog skin tags.

Why Do Dogs Get Skin Tags?

You may be wondering…“Why do dogs get skin tags”?  The cause for skin tags is largely unknown although but is considered to be genetic. There are some breed predispositions such as they are more common in bulldogs, boxers, and Great Danes although they can occur in any breed. Dog skin tags appear to be more common in dogs as they get older. Dogs that get skin tags will often have more than one.

Dog skin tags are most commonly diagnosed by your veterinarian after examining the growth. The classic appearance of a dog skin tag is a small raised soft piece of skin with a small base often referred to as a pedicle. It should not be ulcerated, inflamed or bleeding unless it is being irritated by a collar or by grooming.

Skin tags in dogs are not dangerous. Dog skin tags are generally permanent and do not regress. Generally, the only way they go away is by surgical removal.

If your dog has a skin tag and it is red, inflamed, draining, pigmented, then please see your veterinarian. Either the skin tag it is infected or not an actual skin tag and a different type of tumor or cancer.

Dog Skin Tag vs. Warts — What’s the Difference?

Is it a dog skin tag vs wart? This is a common question that dog owners ask.  Dog skin tags can appear similar to warts but there are differences. Warts, like skin tags, can grow anywhere on the body and dogs that get one will generally get more.

The biggest difference between a skin tag and a wart is the appearance of the bump. Skin tags generally are small, soft, thin, flesh-colored, floppy, and have a stalk or pedicle base.  You can generally move a skin tag back and forth with your finger. Warts, on the other hand, are thicker and attached to the skin over a broader area. They are generally flatter. Warts, known by the medical term as viral papillomas, are benign, non-cancerous tumors caused by a virus in dogs and other pets. Warts are more common in young dogs and often are around the mouth commissures of the lip or are in the mouth. Learn more about Canine Viral Papillomas (Dog Warts).

Another common question pet owners ask about dog skin tag is “How do you prevent dog skin tags?” The answer is that there is nothing you can do to prevent dog skin tags.

Can Skin Tags Turn Into Cancer Bumps on Dogs?

Can a dog skin tag turn into a cancerous bump? The answer is no. Skin tags are considered harmless and are not considered “precancerous”.

Sebaceous Adenoma in Dogs

There are several types of skin tumors that develop from the skin and adnexa (the parts adjoining the skin). The most common tumor is the Lipoma, commonly referred to as a “fatty tumors” and the second most common is a tumor arising from the sebaceous glands called sebaceous adenomas.

The sebaceous glands produce an oily substance called sebum, which lubricates the skin. The ducts of the sebaceous glands empty into hair follicles. A different problem that can occur in dogs that arises also from the sebaceous gland is a Sebaceous Cyst, but is less common in dogs.

Overview of Sebaceous Adenoma in Dogs

The development of sebaceous cysts is thought to develop from an obstruction of the follicles, leading to abnormal accumulations of sebum.

Sebaceous adenomas are benign tumors that originate from the landular or ductal tissue. In dogs, they are common on the head, neck, back, eyelids and limbs. They are generally hairless protrusions firmly attached to the skin. They can have the appearance of cauliflower.

Sebaceous adenomas develop more often in dogs as they get older and are most common in dogs over the age of 7 to 8 years. Dogs that are prone to sebaceous adenomas tend to get more sebaceous adenomas as they age.

What to Watch For

Sebaceous adenoma can turn into sebaceous adenocarcinoma, which is a malignant tumor.  Please monitor your pet for any changes in the sebaceous adenoma that could suggest a malignancy including rapid growth, changes in color, or ulcerations.

Diagnosis of Sebaceous Adenoma in Dogs

The diagnosis of a sebaceous adenoma in your dog will largely be based on the history and examination of the mass. Veterinarians can often diagnose sebaceous adenomas be physically looking at it.

Dog owners often mistake a sebaceous adenoma with an Acrochordon or Fibroepithelial Polyp in Dogs (commonly referred to as a dog skin tag) or with Canine Viral Papillomas (commonly referred to as dog warts).  This article may be helpful in the section that tells you how to tell a skin tag from a wart.

Your veterinarian will ask questions about your dog’s mass that may include:

  • How long has the mass been there?
  • Is there only one mass or are there others?
  • Has it gotten larger or smaller or changes in appearance?
  • Does the mass appear to be attached to the underlying skin?
  • How fast is it is growing?
  • Have there been any recent injuries or injections?
  • Are there any changes in your pet’s behavior, such as eating less, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea or lethargy?
  • Are there any other lumps, tumors, masses, or growths?

A complete physical exam will be done and your veterinarian will pay particular attention to the appearance of the mass, whether it is hot or painful, whether it is within the skin or under the skin, if it is attached to underlying tissues, if it is ulcerated, and where it is located on the body.

Additional tests may include:

  • Fine needle aspiration. A diagnosis can often be made by placing a small needle within the cyst and suctioning some cells out of it with a syringe. Microscopic evaluation of the cells will often be suggestive of a sebaceous adenoma.
  • An aspirate of the mass with a small needle may be done to collect cells for staining and examination under a microscope (cytology). This test usually requires no anesthesia and often leads to a diagnosis.
  • If the mass is ulcerated or draining fluid, a microscope slide may be touched to the fluid to make an impression for microscopic examination. This is referred to as an “impression cytology”.
  • A biopsy may be taken to send to a veterinary pathologist for examination. The biopsy may involve removing the entire mass or removing a piece of the mass.
  • A piece of tissue may be submitted for culture if infectious agents such as bacteria or fungi are suspected.

Treatment of a Sebaceous Adenoma in Dogs

If the growth is diagnosed as a sebaceous adenoma, no treatment is required.  However, some sebaceous adenomas break open, bleed, become infected or are irritated by leashes, collars, halters and/or grooming procedures. Some sebaceous adenomas are close to the mouth and become damaged when eating. Another common location is on the eyelid that can cause the mass to rub on the eye potentially causing corneal ulcerations. In these cases, surgical removal of the sebaceous adenoma is recommended.

Sebaceous adenoma can be removed surgically by removing the mass with a wedge of underlying skin to ensure the entire mass is removed.  Surgery can be performed under general anesthesia however some sebaceous adenomas can be removed using local anesthesia such as lidocaine.

How to Treat Diarrhea in Dogs

Diarrhea is one of the most common medical symptoms that veterinarians see in their hospitals, making “how to treat diarrhea in dogs” one of the most common dog owner questions. Before we review diarrhea treatments and various diarrhea medications, we will quickly define “what is diarrhea” and the possible causes of canine diarrhea.

Diarrhea is defined as having loose stools which are often more frequent than normal.   The consistency of diarrhea can range from watery, liquid with some form, pudding, to a formed but softer-than-normal consistency.  Some diarrhea can contain blood and/or mucous.

Diarrhea can be a standalone symptom or it can be associated with other symptoms. Some dogs will have diarrhea and otherwise be completely normal. This means they have a good appetite, no vomiting, and a good energy level. Other times diarrhea is associated with vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy, and/or weakness. In these latter cases, we recommend that you see your veterinarian to help determine the underlying cause and to get your dog the diarrhea treatment that will work best.

There are many different causes of canine diarrhea that range from very mild or minor problems to severe life-threatening problems. Specifically, causes of canine diarrhea may include the following:

  • Eating inappropriate food or materials (commonly referred to as dietary indiscretion)
  • Infectious agents such as bacterial, viral, fungal, protozoal, or parasitic infections
  • Drugs (in humans there are over 700 medications that are known to cause diarrhea)
  • Toxins
  • Telescoping of the bowel on itself (Intussusception)
  • Intolerance of materials in the normal diet
  • Intestinal obstruction that can be caused by ingestion of indigestible foreign material such as toys, socks, fabric, underwear, rocks
  • Metabolic disorders, such as liver problems or kidney disease
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)

Some of the underlying causes of diarrhea are minor and can resolve quickly while other causes can be serious and life-threatening. Below we will consider how to treat diarrhea in dogs, when you should see your veterinarian, what you can feed a dog with diarrhea, types of dog diarrhea medicine, and tips for handling diarrhea in puppies.

Tips for Treating Dog Diarrhea at Home

It is important to take special care when treating dog diarrhea at home.

First of all, it is important to consider if diarrhea is the only symptom and your dog is otherwise acting normal or is he is acting sick with diarrhea? It is recommended that if your dog is acting sick and showing other symptoms, you would seek help from your veterinarian. There may be a life-threatening problem and treating dog diarrhea at home is not a good idea. Such symptoms include:

  • Not eating or drinking
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Concurrent vomiting
  • The diarrhea contains blood
  • Or your dog is showing any other signs of illness

Second, we will give you tips on dog diarrhea medication below but it is important to NOT give any medication without the recommendation of your veterinarian. Some human medications not listed below are unsafe and can cause harm to your dog.

Finally, read “what you can do at home for dogs with diarrhea”. This short article contains specific instructions on how to feed a dog with diarrhea, recipes to feed at home, and medications that are safe to give dogs.  

One last tip – the best way to avoid accidents in the house is to ensure your dog has frequent opportunities to go outside. Don’t wait for your dog to wake you up, as by then it is often too late. Offer your dog frequent opportunities to “go out”.

What You Can Feed a Dog With Diarrhea

If your dog has diarrhea but is acting otherwise normal with a good energy level, no vomiting, weakness, lethargy or other abnormal symptoms, then it is generally safe to offer some water and some food.

The recommendation for water intake is to offer free choice water if your dog is not vomiting and otherwise acting normal. If your dog is having vomiting in addition to diarrhea – please read this article on home care for dogs with vomiting and diarrhea. This article will give you specific instructions on how to introduce water and food when both vomiting and diarrhea are affecting your dog.

The diet recommendation for dogs with diarrhea is foods that are easy on the stomach. In dogs, we call it a “bland diet”.  You can purchase a bland diet from your veterinarian or make a homemade version at home. Prescription bland foods include Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d (which stands for “intestinal diet”), Iams Recovery Diet, or Waltham Low Fat Diet.