Dog owners work hard to take care of their furry companions, but sometimes some matters seem beyond our skillset. One of those times is when you find a strange new growth on your dog's skin. Chances are its a skin tag, which is a small fleshy growth of tissue. While skin tags are generally not a cause for major concern, it's important to know what they are and when a trip to the vet could be necessary.
A skin tag — also called a skin polyp, fibroma, or acrochordon — is a soft, fleshy growth about a few millimeters in length that can appear anywhere on a dog's body. Noncancerous, it resembles a flat or round tag rising from the skin's surface, sometimes lumpy in texture and similar in color to the surrounding flesh. You might find a single, stalk-like skin tag with hair growing from it or many growths in one spot.
Skin tags mostly develop because of an overproduction of fibrous tissue, resulting in masses growing on the skin. While they aren't official causes of the condition, other factors may compromise your dog's skin health and increase the likelihood of developing ailments. These include parasite infestations, exposure to chemical pollutants, and skin infections. Pressure points are another concern, such as an ill-fitting collar rubbing against the neck.
Unless it's inconveniencing your dog or causing anxiety, a skin tag is merely a cosmetic issue. Similar to warts, tags are painless growths that become more common as a canine enters its senior years. Keep an eye on lumps to ensure your dog isn't scratching or biting on them. If a visit to the groomers is necessary, let them know about any skin tags to prevent injuries.
Skin tags are generally harmless and best left alone. Unlike warts, which are caused by a virus, skin tags are not contagious to other dogs. Once removed, a skin tag will not regrow. New growths may develop, however, and if you decide to remove them, avoid DIY solutions. Skin tag removal is a skilled procedure, and you could harm your pet by attempting to do it yourself.
Call your veterinarian if you spot an infection on your dog's skin or if a lump becomes painful to the touch. Even if your dog isn't experiencing discomfort, a bump that changes in size, shape, or color could be a cause for concern. A visit to the vet is the only way to ease your anxieties and get your furry friend the attention they need.
Cryosurgery uses nitrous oxide or liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy the tissue, which eventually falls off. The dog feels a slight pain during the process, but recovery is painless. If the skin tag is in a sensitive spot, like the eyelid or on a paw, they may have to undergo anesthesia for the surgery. If your dog is already getting anesthetized for a separate procedure, ask about adding skin tag removal to the list.
Skin tags can appear on any breed of dog at any point during their lifespan, and there isn't much of anything you can do to keep them from growing. Some dog breeds are predisposed to developing them, such as toy and mini poodles, mini schnauzers, cocker spaniels, and some terriers. If your dog is a mix of any of these breeds, there is a better chance they will develop skin tags, though the condition is not exclusive to their varieties.
If you find a strange growth protruding from your dog's flesh, the first step is to determine if the lump is indeed a skin tag. Examine the area closely, touching the mass with your finger. A skin tag feels soft and flexible, and moving it shouldn't hurt your furry friend. For long-haired breeds, you may have to wet the surrounding hair to get a good look at the growth.
While examining your dog's coat for lumps and irritations, keep in mind that skin tags aren't the only condition you may across. If your dog spends a lot of time outside, you will find the occasional insect bite or tick. A blockage of the sebaceous gland results in a sebaceous cyst, which usually heals on its own, though some require antibiotics. Other benign growths include small, horny projections called cornifying epithelioma, or red lumps nicknamed button tumors.
Check your dog's skin every month for irregularities, noting changes in lumps and growths. Tags are common where the skin is thin, such as on the chest, face, armpits, or legs. Skin tags near the tail bruise easily, so monitor them more frequently. Also, try not to bathe your dog too often. It can strip their skin of protective, natural oils, welcoming skin irritation and infection. Set your pet up for success with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. A healthy immune system goes a long way in protecting your furry friend's overall well-being.
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