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Is It a Dog Wart or a Skin Tag? How to Tell the Difference

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A lump isn’t just a lump when it comes to your dog’s skin. Even benign lumps should be identified just to make sure you’re not missing anything. Of those benign lumps, warts and skin tags are common occurrences on our pup’s skin. At first glance they may appear the same, but a closer look will show that skin tags tend to dangle from the skin from a narrow stalk, while warts will have a thicker base.

What Do Dog Warts Look Like?

Warts on dogs are a benign lump caused by an infection with the canine papillomavirus. They are typically harmless and will even go away on their own within a couple of months. However, it’s easy to confuse a dog wart with a more serious cancerous lump, so it’s always best to have lumps or bumps checked out by your veterinarian.

dog wart
Image showing a wart on a dog

Warts may come singular or in a cluster of several. They tend to be lighter or darker than skin color, and lumpy like a head of cauliflower. They can pop up anywhere on the skin, but more commonly are found around the mouth, eyes, and toes.

Warts are contagious, so it’s possible that all of your canine companions can show up with warts at the same time. Warts tend to affect older dogs and puppies since these groups have a weaker immune system that can’t fight of the virus as easily.

What Do Skin Tags Look Like?

Skin tags are another benign lump that can show up on your dog’s skin. The exact cause of skin tags isn’t known, but it is believed to have to do with persistent skin irritation or pressure. For that reason, skin tags are more commonly found on the chest, lower legs, and face, or anywhere there is friction from skin rubbing on skin. Skin tags are usually an older dog problem and are more common on large and giant breeds. However, they can show up on any dog and obesity can play a role as well.

Skin tags are flesh colored and small. They usually dangle away from the body on a stalk that is smaller around than the lump. Skin tags may be lumpy or smooth, and can grow to the size of a grape or bigger.

skin tag on dog
Image showing a skin tag on a dog

How Are Skin Tags Different From Dog Warts?

Small, flesh colored lumps on your dog’s skin can be hard to differentiate, however, there are a few differences that will help clue you in. Skin tags will be more tear-shaped and hang from a stalk, while warts are rounder, with a thicker base close to the skin. Warts may be darker or lighter than the surrounding skin and skin tags tend to blend in.

The area of your dog’s body can help clue you in as well. Warts can be anywhere, but since they come from a contagious virus, they’re more likely to show up on the face and feet, where they come in contact with other dogs. Skin tags congregate in areas of friction or irritation, so between the legs and body, on the chest and the lower legs.

Your vet will be able to definitely diagnose warts or skin tags by taking a small sample and looking at it under the microscope.

What Should You Do Next?

Any time a fresh, new lump pops up on your dog’s skin, see your veterinarian. This is because cancerous, or malignant, skin tumors can grow and spread very quickly and you’ll want to know what you’re dealing with to ensure timely treatment. However, benign lumps like warts and skin tags don’t always need treatment.

  • Dog wart treatment: Most warts will go away on their own, so the wait-and-see approach is often used. Sometimes a dog will have many warts or they’ll be in places that cause irritation. If this is the case, these warts may be removed surgically. In extreme cases, dogs may need immune-boosting medications or wart vaccinations to get rid of these bumps.
  • Skin tag treatment: Skin tags should be monitored for changes in size, shape, and color as sudden changes can indicate a more serious problem. Those that don’t grow rapidly can be left alone, however some may be too large or in a spot that causes a dog irritation. These may need to be removed by your vet.

Learn More:

wart on the muzzle of a dog 7 Pictures of Dog Warts (Close-Up, Removal & Treatment) - Dog warts are single or cluster of tiny lumps, which can disappear after a few months. They are occasionally cancerous,… [...]
skin tag on dog Dog Skin Tags: Pictures & What to Do (Veterinarian Advice) - Our dogs may develop various lumps and bumps on their skin over time. You may have been running your fingers… [...]


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Author

  • Dr. Chyrle Bonk received her Master in Animal Science from the University of Idaho and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Oregon State University. She has over 10 years of experience in small animal veterinary practice, working for a veterinary clinic in Idaho.

Disclaimer: This website's content is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action. Read More.

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