If you come across an unusual lump or bump during grooming or while checking for pests, it's important to identify it. Although in many cases a tick or a skin tag is obvious, small ticks and dark-colored skin tags may require the use of a magnifying glass and close observation to determine the difference.
A tick is a pest that is part of the arachnid family. It has eight legs and a hard shell, and is usually brown or gray. Depending on the type, a tick may be as small as the head of a pin or as large as 1/2 an inch long. A tick's body shape changes from flat before feeding to round and engorged when it is filled with blood. Part the dog's hair at the site of the suspected tick and look for legs along the side of the body, near the attachment point.
A skin tag is an unexplained growth on a dog's skin that looks similar to a wart. Unlike a wart, however, a skin tag is thin and flat, almost as if the skin has been permanently pinched together. Dark-colored skin tags may look similar to ticks that are not yet engorged with blood, but they cannot be removed with tweezers and pinching or pulling them is painful for the dog and can cause bleeding. After examining the suspected tag to make sure you can find no signs that it is a tick, such as the presence of legs, feel the skin tag, taking care not to squeeze it. It should feel like living skin and not hard and smooth like a tick.
If you are still unsure whether the spot in question is a tick or a skin tag, schedule a visit to your veterinarian. Don't pull on it or try to remove it until you are sure. Skin tags should not be removed at home; fortunately, they generally don't need to be removed or treated at all.
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