Any lumps, bumps, or growths on your dog should be evaluated by your veterinarian, according to renowned veterinarian, Dr. Karen Becker. This is so for one important reason: to rule out mast cell tumors and other potentially dangerous conditions. Some bumps and lumps are easy to differentiate from others. For instance, lipomas – or fatty lumps – are fatty deposits that grow beneath the skin, not on it, while skin tags grow on the skin itself. Mast cell tumors, on the other hand (which usually require need surgical removal and treatment) can sometimes be mistaken for skin tags and benign fatty lumps.
As dogs age, it is important to be vigilant and to report any growths you notice to your vet. Rescue dogs aren’t per se at a greater risk of having skin tags than dogs who have grown up in a home, but dogs who have lived many years in an abandoned state may have lumps and bumps that have not been spotted and treated before. Therefore, if you do adopt an adult dog, one of the first things you should do is inspect his skin, heading for the vet if you notice any growth on or beneath the skin.
What is the Nature of a Skin Tag?
Around 25% of people have skin tags and as noted by AvoDerm, skin tags are also very common growths to appear on canines. Skin tags are small, soft, and skin-colored. They can look like warts and vary in size, tending to form in older dogs more often. Skin tags comprise of loose collagen fibres (which in turn are made of protein) and blood vessels, enveloped in skin. Sometimes, skin tags look like hairless growths. At other times, they are flat masses containing fur. The vast majority of skin tags are deemed non-cancerous, but a small percentage are deemed 'benign cancers'. They can sometimes bleed and become infected. Most are caused by overactive cells called fibroblasts.
When Should You See Your Vet?
Any time your dog has a growth, it is important to show it to your vet. While a skin tag is not considered an emergency, you should keep an eye on it. Watch out for changes in shape, fast growth, ulceration (bleeding), etc. Any fast changes warrant a special visit to your vet. Bear in mind that some lumps (such as mast cell tumors) can have so many different appearances. Some even resemble skin tags. Therefore, if you are (pardon the pun) a worry wart, it can't hurt to pay the vet a visit to rule out anything serious. Remember that mast cell tumors account for 20% of all skin tumors in dogs. If it is a cancerous growth, the vet may decide to remove it surgically, leaving a margin around the growth. Early detection and staging of any growth is vital for successful treatment, which is why you shouldn't leave too long before paying a visit to your vet. To determine whether or not a growth is potentially dangerous, your vet will most probably perform a fine needle aspirate, for subsequent study of the cells.
Should Skin Tags be Surgically Removed?
Skin tags are mainly an aesthetic issue, though you may agree that Fido is just as cute with them as without. Your vet will generally advise you to let it be, but if the tag is in a place that can bother your dog, surgical removal might be recommended. This is true for skin tags on the eyelid, for instance. If the tag is large enough or positioned close to the waterline, it can irritate your dog's cornea and possible cause infection and pain.
Skin tags are generally harmless growth that are common in older dogs as they are in older human beings. As a dog owner, it is important to be vigilant of any growths on or beneath your dog's skin. Although skin tags are not considered an emergency, play it on the safe side and visit the vet to ensure any growth is benign. Rest assured that skin tags do not hurt and generally will not harm your dog, unless (in the rare case) the tag is near the eye and causes discomfort.