Skin Tags vs. Warts on Dogs

It’s easy to get confused over the different types of skin growths that appear on dogs. Most of us consider dogs to be important members of the family. So, any ‘unknown’ skin condition could lead to concern. Fortunately, some skin bumps are completely harmless. Others may need treatment.

Two of the most commonly-confused types of benign skin growths on a dog are warts and skin tags. The two share several similar characteristics. Not many people know the difference between skin tags and warts upon first glance.

In many cases, most people are even more familiar with warts than skin tags, to begin with. This sometimes causes pet owners to misdiagnose what is wrong with their dog. Depending on what the growth is, that may not be a problem. But, if it’s a skin growth that could turn into something potentially dangerous, it puts your dog at risk.

Knowing how to tell a skin tag and a wart on your dog apart is important when it comes to getting them the attention and treatment they need. If you’re unsure of how to spot these differences, learning the characteristics of each condition can help.

How to Tell the Difference between a Skin Tag and a Wart on a Dog

We will focus on the individual characteristics of both skin tags and warts on dogs. While they share some similarities, there are certain factors that make each one stand out on their own. They are both some of the most common types of skin growths. However, they occur for different reasons and need to be treated differently.

You can take comfort in knowing that both of these growths are fairly harmless. However, both require regular monitoring to ensure infection doesn’t occur. Warts can sometimes become more dangerous if not properly treated, as well. Let’s look at the different features of each of these growths so that you can spot them easily on your dog.

What Does a Skin Tag Look Like?

A skin tag is a fleshy, soft fold or flap of skin that is connected to your dog’s skin by a stalk. It may be the same color as the rest of your dog’s skin, though it could be slightly darker. Skin tags are easily moveable and are often characterized as ‘flat,’ though they could have a rounded shape as well.

They can range in size. While most skin tags are usually quite small, it’s not necessarily uncommon for them to grow larger. It’s important to constantly check your dog for growths like this because they can occur almost anywhere on the body.

However, some of the most common locations for skin tags on dogs include:

  • Armpits
  • Face
  • Chest

In some cases, dogs can even develop skin tags on the eyelids, or wherever friction tends to occur. There are different theories about what causes skin tags on dogs, so there is no one location where they show up over another.

Do Skin Tags Need to Be Removed?

In most cases, your dog can live with a skin tag for years with no complications. Most veterinarians will advise against removing these benign growths. However, there are two possible reasons a pet owner might consider removing a skin tag on a dog.

  1. If the growth becomes infected, it can lead to bigger problems. Signs of infection include bleeding, oozing a pus-like substance, or redness and swelling around the area. If your dog’s skin tag exhibits any of these characteristics, there also may be a chance It’s not a skin tag, but a different type of growth or lesion that may be pre-cancerous. If a vet removes this growth, they will likely want to run a biopsy on it.
  2. If the skin tag irritates your dog in any way, it can be worth it to get it removed. In many cases, your dog likely won’t even notice this type of growth. But, if it’s in a notable spot that is easy for them to scratch or bite, they can risk cutting it open. This can be painful for your dog and potentially lead to bleeding and infection.

It isn’t necessary to remove a skin tag on your dog for cosmetic reasons. However, some pet owners do get these growths removed because they find them unappealing. A veterinarian might be hesitant to remove a skin tag for no medical reason. In these cases, there are home remedies to consider. However, they require a lot of extra care and can be risky.

Keep in mind that there are different types of skin tag removal procedures performed by veterinarians. Some are more invasive than others. These removal options all have different price points, as well. If you want to remove a skin tag on your dog, talk to your vet about the best option.

Skin tags are not preventable. It’s even harder to prevent them on a dog because no one is completely sure what causes them. Factors like age and immune system are important to consider, but until a concrete cause is pinned down, it’s not 100% possible for your dog to ever avoid getting this type of growth.

The best thing you can do if your dog does develop a skin tag is monitor it regularly, without irritating it. Keeping track of any changes will give you a better idea on whether or not it should ever be removed.

How to Identify a Wart on a Dog?

Warts can be just as common on dogs as skin tags. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, in either case, they can also be easy to confuse with one another. But, there are several key characteristics that make up the differences between these two growths.

Warts on a dog are often described as looking like a small cluster of cauliflower. Instead of being smooth and pliable like a skin tag, they are scaly and tend to have an irregular surface. Sometimes, they will appear as a firmer bump with a darker area in the middle.

One major difference between skin tags and warts on a dog is what causes them. While the exact cause of skin tags is still unknown, warts are caused by the papillomavirus. This virus is easily passed from dog to dog and is highly contagious between canines, which makes this growth so common.

How to tell the difference between a wart and a skin tag on a dog

Should Warts Be Treated?

Like skin tags, warts don’t necessarily need to be treated or removed. While a skin tag won’t ever go away on its own, a wart usually will. They shouldn’t cause any irritation or discomfort to your dog, and they should never look inflamed or red. Like skin tags, it’s also not normal for a wart to bleed.

In some extreme cases, dogs can develop multiple large warts. Because these are the result of a virus, it can cause your dog to experience symptoms like lameness, or even difficulty eating or drinking.

If your dog does have a wart that shows any of these characteristics, your veterinarian may want to remove it. Most veterinarians will also take a closer look at warts that form on a dog’s face – especially around the mouth.

While complete removal of the growth is the most common option, sometimes a veterinarian will prescribe specific medications for a dog who has multiple clusters of warts all over their body.

It isn’t completely possible to prevent warts. Even though the cause is better known than skin tags, some dogs still seem more prone to catching this virus and developing these types of growth. However, there are a few measures you can take to help protect your dog from warts. The best thing to do is to keep them away from dogs who do have visible warts. Almost any direct contact with another dog with warts can trigger the growth in your pooch.

Are Skin Tags & Warts on Dogs a Reason for Concern?

Again, any sudden unexplained growth on your four-legged friend can be unnerving at first. But, a closer examination of a particular growth can reveal quite a bit, and offer peace of mind. In the case of both skin tags and warts, there isn’t much to be worried about.

Skin tags don’t go away on their own. However, they typically remain benign growths once they are formed. Unless they are irritating your dog in any way or look infected, you can leave them alone. Warts may seem a bit more serious because they are caused by a virus. However, in many cases, warts will go away on their own.

Much like a skin tag, if a wart starts to look infected or multiple warts start showing up, removal may be needed. But, both of these growths are usually completely harmless. They won’t bother your dog or cause them to experience any pain or discomfort. With regular monitoring, you can ensure they don’t become infected and cause problems down the road.

We hope this article has helped you determine what type of skin growth your dog may be experiencing. Knowing the characteristics of both warts and skin tags is extremely beneficial, and can help to keep your pet healthy and safe from infection.