Downeast Dog News

What are those dangly things on my dog?

By Dr. Judith Herman | May 01, 2018

Q. My dog has these pieces of skin that are dangling. They don’t bother him, but they look gross. Should I be concerned?

A. These growths may be skin tags. Skin tags in dogs can be confused easily with warts. Unlike warts, though, skin tags are thin and floppy and attached loosely to the skin. They may be flat or teardrop-shaped and can move or dangle, and they have the same color as the dog’s skin. These growths are not cancerous. We don’t know why dogs get skin tags, but researchers suspect factors such as genetics or allergic sensitivities may play a role. Groom your dog daily and examine the skin carefully for lumps and growths. If you find any, consult your veterinarian to make sure these are benign.

Skin tags are usually harmless, and most of the time, they don’t require removal. Sometimes the skin tags can become irritated or damaged from your dog scratching them or if the skin tag catches on something or gets pinched or crushed. Large skin tags are more vulnerable to damage than small ones. Damaged skin tags should be removed. This can be done quickly and painlessly on an outpatient basis by your veterinarian. In extremely rare occasions, skin tags can become cancerous. If you notice a change in the growth, have your veterinarian check it.

There isn’t enough research to tell us why skin tags form, so it is difficult to know what we can do to prevent them. We do have enough evidence to show that some environmental factors can play a role in increasing the chances of developing and repeatedly getting skin tags.

Here are some factors that may be implicated in forming skin tags:

Parasites such as fleas, ticks, and mites can cause your dog to itch. The constant scratching will leave your dog’s skin inflamed, raw, and susceptible to infections. The weakening of the skin makes it easier to develop a skin tag. To prevent parasites, you can frequently wash your dog’s bed, keep grass cut short, use parasite prevention, wash your hands after exposure to soil, and visit your veterinarian for annual parasite checkups.

Skin care is often over looked, especially if you have a short haired dog, but neglect of this important organ can result in problems. When grooming your dog, starting with the skin makes sense since it is the first line of defense against illness and infection. Brush your dog daily to remove mats and debris. Bathe them as necessary, which can be monthly. If neglected, the skin can become dry and itchy which will cause inflammation and possible infections.

Diet is important to maintain health and a strong immune system. No longer is it considered one diet fits all. We have more knowledge and options than ever before. We know that what we put in our body and our best friend’s body makes a difference. It is important to meet your dog’s specific nutritional needs. You can consult your veterinarian or a canine nutritional expert.

Allergic reactions and intolerances can result in an eczema-like skin reaction that weakens the body defenses. Most commonly, the causes are food and hygiene products. When you see your dog is having issues, you can try changing the diet, or even bathing may help. There are many sources to help you decide on what products or diets you can try.

Some dogs are born more prone to this condition than others. Just as you may have been born with freckles, sensitivity to the sun or bad eyesight, genetics plays a part in what your dog is likely to develop. Though you don’t have control of the genetics in your dog, you can limit the environmental impact by following the recommendations above.

There are many websites on how to remove these tags yourself, but I do not recommend it. First, if a veterinarian hasn’t diagnosed it as a skin tag, you may be setting up your best friend for complications down the road. Second, if you don’t remove it correctly infection, pain, and bleeding could develop.


Judith K. Herman, DVM, CVH

Animal Wellness Center

Augusta, Maine 04330