Skin Tags on Dogs (Plus Lipomas and Other Lumps) — What to Know

While skin tags on dogs and other lumps are common as dogs grow older, no skin growth should be dismissed without veterinary attention!

An old, sick senior dog lying down.
An old, sick senior dog lying down. Photography ©dageldog | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

What do we mean when we talk about skin tags on dogs? We’re certainly not talking about (nor would we ever advocate) putting a tattoo on your dog, or any other kind of physical graffiti. No, skin tags on dogs are growths that appear on the surface of a dog’s skin. Just like humans, as dogs age their skin exhibits the ravages of time, resulting in skin tags on dogs — and other such growths.

The typical skin tags on dogs start out as small, fleshy growths, resembling warts, any place on a dog’s body, but commonly around the face, legs and belly. Unlike warts, skin tags on dogs tend not to calcify, but rather remain soft and retain the color of the dog’s skin.

While skin tags and surface growths like lipomas typically consist of excess skin or fatty deposits and are normally self-contained, localized and harmless, that does not mean they should be ignored or dismissed. Indeed, any suspicious or random growth has a chance of being cancerous.

Skin tags on dogs are common with advancing age

A gray senior dog.
Skin tags on dogs are common as they get older. Photography ©Akchamczuk | Thinkstock.

As dogs reach middle and senior age, their owners should be paying closer attention, especially during normal grooming and bathing, to the external signs of aging. As long as the skin tags are not located in their underarms or around the eyes, where they can irritate or impede a dog’s normal functioning, removal of skin tags on dogs tends to be unnecessary and pursued mainly for aesthetic reasons. The most important thing you can do about skin tags on dogs is to be observant.

If you notice any changes, irritations or abscesses at or around the site of a skin tag, your dog should see a veterinarian to rule out malignant possibilities. Where skin tags on dogs grow out of the surface of the skin and have generally no ill effects, there are a number of other growths that affect dogs as they age.

Lipomas and mast cell tumors, for instance, may resemble skin tags on dogs, but vary in their nature and potential long-term consequences. A quick fine-needle aspiration performed by your veterinarian can tell whether cancerous cells are present, which a biopsy will confirm if true.

Lipomas and other fatty tumors on dogs

So, what are lipomas and fatty tumors — and how are they different from skin tags on dogs? Lipomas are fatty deposits that form just beneath the skin and fur, rather than appearing to grow out of them. Like skin tags on dogs, lipomas tend to stay soft to the touch, and like skin tags on dogs, are usually harmless and painless. That can vary, though, depending on where they form and whether the dog can scratch or bite at them. Lipomas form as the body and its standard filtration systems deteriorate, purging excess toxins through the skin.

The causes of lipomas are varied, but generally contain elements of food preservatives, medications, and other chemicals, such as traces of chlorine found in tap water. As a dog ages, the body’s ability to filter or excrete these unnatural elements in urine, feces, panting or sweating can decline. This decline is expedited if a dog is obese or has pre-existing issues with the kidneys or pancreas.

Foreign chemicals and other such substances are isolated, displaced and stored by the aging canine body in the form of lipomas. Like skin tags on dogs, it is usually unnecessary to have lipomas on dogs removed or treated. Lipomas provide a reliable and otherwise-unavailable service in older dogs, and removing one can lead to others appearing. If a sudden growth appears on or beneath the surface of a dog’s skin, the best thing to do is have it tested by a veterinarian. A confirmation of its nature as a fatty tumor will rule out potential diagnosis of cancer.

Mast cell tumors on dogs

Mast cells are part of the immune system, assisting in defense against allergies and in healing processes. These types of tumors in dogs are one reason why any strange or suddenly appearing skin growth should be tested. Mast cell tumors may be mistaken for lipomas and skin tags on dogs. Like lipomas and skin tags on dogs, mast cell tumors tend to affect mostly older dogs.

Two major differences between lipomas and mast cell tumors are that mast cell tumors can form at any time in a dog’s life and can change size rapidly. Similar to skin tags and lipomas, mast cell tumors can appear anywhere on a dog’s body, but many are found on the lower body, including the genitals, and on the legs.

Another significant difference is that mast cell tumors can be aggressive and spread through the body. Treatments vary depending on the nature of the mast cell tumor and how far it has advanced. Yet another reason to consult a veterinarian at the first sign of a strange growth.

The bottom line on skin tags on dogs and other growths on dogs — stay vigilant as your dog ages!

In my research, I’ve come across a number of home remedies and do-it-yourself solutions for removing skin tags on dogs. I’m a researcher, not a veterinary health specialist, and wouldn’t advise or instruct readers to do anything I wouldn’t be comfortable doing myself. Since skin tags on dogs can be confused with lipomas and mast cell tumors, the first thing you should do is make an appointment with your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

Tell us: Have you ever dealt with a skin tag on dogs or other kinds of lumps on dogs? Share your experiences with lumps and skin tags on dogs in the comments.

Thumbnail: Photography ©dageldog | iStock / Getty Images Plus. 

This piece was originally published in 2014.

Plus, concerned about your own skin tags? Read this.

About the author

Melvin Peña is a writer, editor, and social media manager who spends most of his time in Durham, North Carolina. His interests include his dog, Baby (of course!), art, hiking, urban farming and karaoke.

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28 thoughts on “Skin Tags on Dogs (Plus Lipomas and Other Lumps) — What to Know”

  1. Hi, my 8 yo rescue Shih Tzu has black growths that really look like pimples. I can scratch off the black stuff that oozes out of them. The vet said last year that they were warts and it was not a worry. She is growing more of them and I am worried.

  2. Emerald Fillmore

    People in my area have no idea that fast growth shampoos (of course with no sulfates, no parabens, no DEA) exist. We all now may have longer hair and attain more possibilities. Definitely worth looking into it.

    When you’re studying hair loss, hair damage, avoiding scalp disorders, hair growth, hair and scalp care generally, the same ideas become relevant.

    In most cases, you want to steer clear of hair treatments and products that include chemicals such as parabens, DEA or sulfates.

    What’s beneficial for your hair is healthy for your skin as well.

    For obvious reasons the content on this page is so useful for many reasons. It avoids the common errors and pitfalls too many fall into- purchasing horrible alternatives. Keep up the great content!

  3. Hey everybody! My dog seems to have a small skin tag between his toes on the underside of the paw. He WONT stop licking it and whenever I try to get to it he clearly erks with pain. I will be going to the vet very shortly, but is there anything to stop him from licking the wounded area so he doesn’t cause more harm to his paws?

  4. Well that gives a lot of information about skin tags in a very simpler way. Apart from that it also covers all the main points of it. For further information click on the link given below

  5. Pingback: What You Need to Know About Canine Lumps and Bumps – Dog Lovers

  6. Pingback: What You Need to Know About Canine Lumps and Bumps – Pet Supply Deals

  7. Pingback: What You Need to Know About Canine Lumps and Bumps – Ten15AM

  8. Jodi says:
    Our cinnamon and white 10 year old female beagle was discovered a few years ago to have a raised, wart-like hard growth on her lower back near her tail. The vet said it is nothing to worry about and that she would just leave it if she were us. We did. It has gotten somewhat laeger. What do you think it is. I think she has a smaller one on one of her legs.

    1. my 10 year old dog had a bump in that same area. the vet did a biopsy and it was a mast cell tumor low grade. the next week, the vet removed and so far it has not returned. I always feel it’s better to err on the side of caution. maybe I’m a helicopter mom.

  9. I have a male Pomeranian, that is approximately thirteen years old, who has three skin tags. One is on the top side of his neck and two of them are on the top side of his lower back. I was really concerned about them because they are blackish colored and raised. At first I thought that he had a pimple but as I looked at it more I realized that it was not a pimple and that worried me, so I took him to the Vet to have them checked out. I have never had a dog that developed skin tags before and I had not known that they could get them. I was relieved to find out that that was what was going on. I was told that they could be removed but that that would be for my benefit, not his because they did not bother him. I did not have them removed. I do have to be more careful when I am brushing him but otherwise they are not a problem. I can see that he is starting to get a couple more of them. They start out looking kind of like a flat mole and then develop into the skin tags (bumps). He is getting on in his years and there are things that are more of a concern than skin tags.

  10. I had a dog with Mast cell carcinoma, he was diagnosed at age 9 and lived to be 14 before we had to let him go. By that time his body was covered with lumps. Our vet did a biopsy on the first lump, that is how he was diagnosed. We also had a Ger. Shep. that suddenly had a lump appear in front of one of her hind legs. I took her to our vet right away. He drained the lump, but didn’t look at the pus that came out of it under a microscope. He said from the looks of it, that it was just a fatty cyst. Within 2 weeks, she had a lump between her shoulder blade and one on her stomach. We had her go for a dental and they removed all 3 lumps at the same time. It came back as cancer. The oncologist at the lab said that because of the location of the lumps, the cancer had likely spread throughout her body. We had no choice but to let her go also.
    We have a 14 yr. old mix breed with a huge fatty cyst on her side, she is healthy as a horse. We know it is a fatty cyst due to a needle biopsy being done on it. She also had a wart on her neck and the top of her head. I check her every day. She is my heart .

  11. My 8 year yorkie poo has one on her under belly.
    It looks like a skin tag like a person would get. It doesn’t seem to bother her at all. Only when I take a closer look at it a few weeks just to make sure. It’s only because she doesn’t like to be on her back for me to look.

  12. I have a nine year old small white poddle of only 5 pounds she now is showing bumps on her skin that look like moles. Is that something to be concerned about. I have taken her to a vet that said she did not think it was anything be be concerned about, but now more are showing up.

  13. My dog has a bump on his chest near his front left leg the vet says it is cancer cuz it is hard not soft & squishy. But today he was having trouble getting up & down on the sofa. Why would this happen? Please help as I am very worried. He is 10 years old

    1. being as your vet said it is cancer – this is why he would have trouble getting up & down from things. cancer wreaks havoc on the body. especially dogs. have you done any treatment for the cancer? if not, your dog is in pain. that is why. please take your dog to the vet & develop a health plan to combat the cancer.

  14. I had a dog with mast cell tumors. She presented with one that popped up overnight. We had it removed and she went for about 6 to 8 months with no re-occurrence. Then they popped up all over her and eventually ulcerated. Our house looked like a murder scene as she would try to shake the wetness (blood) off of her and left blood stains where she slept. Really gross. Eventually we had to put her down. I totally agree – if a bump appears – please go to your vet to have it diagnosed and possibly treated!

    1. My beagle gets skin tags on her lower eye lid all the time. This may sound strange, but my vet doesn’t want to remove them because she’s worried about excess bleeding. So one day I’m washing my baby’s face with a warm cloth and as I’m cleaning around her eyes the skin tag just pulled right off,no pain no bleeding nothing! You might want to try a VERY gentle tug and see if the skin tag will come off. Unfortunately they grow back so I have to repeat this process.

  15. Interesting to read about toxicity being a possible cause of lipomas. I wonder also about heavy metals from foods, soil, and some medications?
    Maybe our dogs need to be detoxed more often?

  16. Hi my name is Mary, my dog is eight years old I noticed after I took her to be groomed some of her hair was missing from her right hip they were unable to tell me what happens her hair hasn’t grew back and I don’t know what to do please help

    1. Hi Mary,

      We suggest asking your vet about this question. Here’s an article on hair loss in dogs, too:

  17. Christina Barakos

    Several months ago I noticed small dermal growth’s on my Pug’s belly. At first I thought they were nipples and dismissed them. Later the same growth’s grew larger. I took my dog to his vet and they determined that some were actual mast cell tumors, by aspiration.

    Luckily all were removed and none had metastasized.

    I still check regularly for new growth’s and if the mole or skin tags remains constant in size and does not continue to grow that usually is a GOOD sign.

  18. Can somebody please tell me what these lumps are from and how I can get them to go away. He recently had an allergic reaction which caused the whole side of his face to swell up down to his neck , we took him to the vet and he had two injections for allergy and it was gone the next day. Now we have all these bumps devolping over his left and right side and its making me so so worried. Please help!!!

  19. My 14 year old poodleX had a skin tag on the side of her face under the floppy ear. It would be oozy and red sometimes, then clear up, then return to being red and draining. I finally had it removed even though it was harmless according to the vet. I’m glad I had it done. It hasn’t returned at it’s been over a year.

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