Any kind of lump or growth on your dog is alarming and, of course, raises immediate concerns for your pet's health. Canine skin tags, also called fibropapillomas or achrochordons, are skin growths that can appear on any breed at any age. Often mistaken for skin cancer, particularly keratoacanthomas and malignant melanoma, skin tags are almost always benign.
At first glance, a skin tag resembles a wart. However, according to Vet Info, while warts have a thick base and are firmly fixed to your dog's skin, skin tags have a pendulous base and tend to dangle. You can move the tag back and forth with your fingers. Skin tags vary in color and may have a flattened or slightly rounded teardrop shape.
There are several factors that may cause large skin tag growths on dogs. It might simply be part of his genetic makeup, in which case there is nothing you can do to prevent it. Other causes include untreated parasite bites, improper nutrition, poor skin care and environmental irritants such as chemical pesticides or harsh detergents.
Never assume your home diagnosis is correct. Any lump, bump or lesion you find on your dog should be examined by a veterinarian. Skin tags generally require no treatment unless they are causing discomfort. There are some exceptions. Skin tags located in or around your dog's mouth or lips could be malignant (cancerous) and should always be thoroughly checked. Large skin tags may require removal if they are causing uncomfortable friction. Large tags are also more susceptible to damage; they can easily become irritated if scratched, pinched or crushed. Irritated or injured skin tags will require professional removal.
Once your dog has been given the all-clear by a veterinarian, it's still important for you to monitor his skin tags regularly. Although rare, it's possible for benign skin tags to become cancerous. Check them at least once per week for damage or for changes in size, color or shape. Any injury, irritation, redness, bleeding, discharge or changes in appearance should be reported to your veterinarian immediately.
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