Just like humans, our four-legged friends can also develop skin tags. Also known as acrochordons or hamartomas, skin tags are fleshy, painless growths on the skin.
Skin tags are made up of fibrous tissue found in bone, cartilage, and connective tissues and appear as single or multiple lumps.
Although they may look like warts, skin tags are tear-shaped, are of the same color as the dog’s skin, and do not typically calcify. They mostly appear in areas with skin-to-skin contacts such as the legs and belly.
Types of Skin Tags
Two types of skin tags have been identified:
- Fibroadnexal or collagenous hamartoma is the most common type. Easily identified due to its hairless properties, this type is typically found in the lower limb areas and pressure points.
- Follicular hamartoma is less likely to occur. This type looks like flattened lumps with thick hair and is often found in clusters.
Not to worry, this skin disease is generally harmless and does not pose a major negative threat to your dog’s life. However, if a skin tag becomes too large, it can interfere with daily activity and increase the risk of catching infections.
Diagnosis – Knowing If It’s Serious or Not
The slow growth of skin tags usually means you will not notice them hiding under your dog’s fur until they become so big that they peek out. Signs uncharacteristic of skin tags include pain, discoloration, abnormally rapid growth or swelling.
Have your veterinarian check these lumps, bumps or growths that you see on your dog. Most lumps can wait until your next regular vet visit, but any lumps growing rapidly, causing irritation or in a sensitive area should be checked sooner.
An exam that includes looking at a possible skin tag will cost anywhere from $30 to $80. Your veterinarian will also check your dog’s basic health during this exam. This includes taking a heart rate, temperature, and feeling the abdomen.
Your veterinarian may be able to determine the type of lump simply by looking at it. They may also recommend a procedure called fine needle aspiration.
The mass will be poked with a needle in several locations. Material from the mass will be placed on a slide for cytology.
If your veterinarian is confident looking at the cytology themselves, this can cost as little as $15. If the slide needs to be sent out to a specialized laboratory this will cost $90 to $150.
Different Skin Tag Removal Treatments Costs
Due to its benign nature, few skin tags are actively treated. Those located in the facial area that could interfere with the dog’s vision or breathing are usually removed by surgery.
Dog breeds that require frequent grooming would also benefit from skin tag removal. These can get caught in clipping blades which would cause bleeding and pain.
Other owners choose to excise the skin tags just for aesthetic purposes. However, this could be expensive and could lead to multiple unnecessary surgeries for your dog since they tend to grow back.
The cost of dog skin tag removal mostly depends on the difficulty of removal itself. If the growth is near the eye your dog, anesthesia will be needed to get it removed.
If the growth is in a less sensitive area, the skin tag can be removed while your dog is awake. Dogs that have difficulty sitting still or are aggressive may also need anesthesia for their safety.
Determining that the lump is a skin tag and removing it without anesthesia costs $60 to $300. The price range mostly depends on the amount of diagnostic testing.
The cost jumps to $250 to $600 or more when anesthesia is needed. This cost varies based on the size of your dog, the amount of diagnostic testing and the local market.
For example, the dog skin tag removal cost through surgery at Helping Hands Clinic in Virginia ranges from $125 to $725 depending on the size.
1) Simple Skin Tag Removal
Simple removals can be done the same day as your office visit. The area around the skin tag will be shaved and sterilized by a technician.
The veterinarian may or may not inject a local anesthetic into the area. Many times, the anesthetic injection is more painful than the removal itself.
Once the area is prepared, the veterinarian will cut the skin tag off. The wound will be cared for by a technician until the bleeding comes to a stop.
If possible, a bandage will be applied to the area to go home with. The whole procedure should cost between $30 to $150. This depends on the difficulty and if local anesthetic was used.
2) Surgical Removal Requiring Anesthesia
- Pre-Anesthetic Health Checks:
Skin tags normally occur on older dogs. These dogs need their health tested before they can go under anesthesia.
Most veterinarians will do a blood chemistry test, a CBC, and a urinalysis. These cost $175 to $250.
These tests will show kidney and liver health. Results will decide if your dog should go under anesthesia and which drugs to use.
Sometimes veterinarians can remove skin tags with anesthesia the same day as your office visit.
If your dog has to come back, your veterinarian will do a short physical exam before using anesthesia. This is to make sure it is still healthy enough for the procedure. This costs about $30 to $50.
- Anesthesia and Procedure:
Removing a skin tag is a quick procedure. Your veterinarian will likely use a reversible anesthetic injection.
This typically costs $25 to $100. The price depends on the size of your dog.
Similar to a simple skin tag removal, a technician will shave and sterilize the area around the skin tag. The veterinarian will cut the skin tag off in a sterile manner.
A few stitches may also be required. The cost of this procedure is $30 to $50; with suture for stitches adding an extra $25 to $30.
Your dog will then be injected to reverse the anesthesia. A technician will wait while the dog recovers.
Once he can walk on its own, he can go home. He will likely be a little sleepy until the next day.
- After Removal:
The removed tissue can be sent to a pathologist. This is the only way to be certain that the mass was not cancerous. This test costs roughly $100 to $300.
Your dog may need an e-collar to prevent chewing or scratching at the removal area. These cost about $10 to $30.
Your veterinarian might recommend antibiotics be taken home. These should cost under $30.
A non-invasive treatment option is cryosurgery.
This treatment method involves the use of extreme cold to destroy abnormal or diseased tissue and slow its regrowth. Quick and painless, it is considered a safer method for skin tag removal since it does not involve sedation or anesthesia.
Boston Pet Clinics performs cryosurgery starting at a price rate of $300. Be advised that there might be minimal post-procedure pain.
Cauterizing the skin tag using high-frequency electric current is another treatment option. Also known as electrodesiccation, an electric current will be delivered via a needle-shaped electrode to the targeted area.
Cauterization usually costs $175 but can be as high as $300 to $500; maybe even more if extra lab works have to be performed to ensure that the skin tags are not cancerous.
This technique offers fast wound healing and does not require extensive preparation. The cauterizing tip also ensures minimal to no blood loss, which is particularly advantageous for dogs with blood clotting issues.