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Removing a Skin Tag From a Dog

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My dog, Brutus, had a very large skin tag develop over the course of a few years before we finally got it removed.

Learn all about the skin tag removal process for dogs.

Learn all about the skin tag removal process for dogs.

Are Skin Tags Harmful?

When our dog Brutus was 11 years old, we noticed a skin tag growing between his front legs. We visited the vets and were told that it wasn't harmful, but to keep an eye on it. Two years later, the skin tag had grown into a four-inch (10cm) dangling droplet of floppy skin that was truly unsightly.

I started to notice whilst out walking with him that perfect strangers would stop and stare at him, and children would laugh. Brutus didn't much care either way—if it got him an extra scratch behind the ear, he was a happy boy. I, on the other hand, started to find it embarrassing, I felt like these people were judging me and wondering why on Earth had I not gotten that thing removed?

I checked the tag every day for bleeding. However, it always felt cold to the touch, leading me to believe that there couldn't be much blood flowing into it. You can see in the picture below how large the skin tag was prior to taking him to the vet (you can see it just behind his left armpit laying on the carpet).

The skin tag on our dog before removal.

The skin tag on our dog before removal.

Tying Off a Skin Tag From a Dog

I was worried that he might catch it whilst snuffling around in the garden, thus creating a bigger problem than we already had, so I took him to the vet, who exclaimed, "Oh yes, it is a large skin tag isn't it?" Er. Duh.

He explained to me that it could be removed through surgery, but as Brutus was older in his years, he thought that it would be best to try to tie it off! Tying off is a process that entailed the vet first tying some sort of thin line (like a fishing line) around the top of the tag close to his chest. He'd tie it as tightly as he could to stop the blood flow. It would hurt a bit, so I had to hold Brutus head, so he didn't take a chunk out of the vet.

So, I held onto Brutus, gently talking to him whilst he tried to take sidelong glances at the vet trying to see what he was up to. The vet (let's call him Bruce) told me to brace Brutus' head as he pulled the line tight. Brutus let out a whimper and thrashed around a little, but within about 30 seconds, he seemed to have forgotten it had happened.

What Happens After Your Dog's Skin Tag Has Been Tied Off:

Bruce explained to me the following things:

  • Within a few days, the blood within the tag would start to dry up. This is because the flow had been cut off and over the course of about a week it would then would shrivel up, turn black, and fall off.
  • Initially, the tag could swell up so it would be a good idea to put Brutus in a t-shirt to keep the tag close to his chest so that he didn't try to catch or scratch it with his back paws.

So as you can see from the next two photos, I willingly gave up my Superman t-shirt for him to wear. Personally, I think it looks better on Brutus than it ever did on me!

After skin tag removal, putting your dog in a t-shirt is recommended.

After skin tag removal, putting your dog in a t-shirt is recommended.

does-your-dog-have-a-skin-tag

After a Dog's Skin Tag Has Been Tied Off

What happened, then? Well, we then waited with anticipation for it to start swelling up.

Holy goodness, did it swell up. It was massive! Within a couple of days, it was about the size of a tennis ball and the skin was very stretched around it. It was starting to emit wetness quite badly, leading us to change the t-shirt twice a day. My husband would hold the ginormous tag so it didn't pull and I would switch the t-shirts over.

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Brutus seemed completely unaware of what was happening to him—it did not affect his eating, drinking, or going for daily walks. (Yes, while wearing the t-shirt. He became part of the elite group, that is, wearer of doggy fashion. And yes, it was commented on more than once!)

If the Tie Around Your Dog's Skin Tag Wasn't Tied Off Tightly Enough

After another four or five days, the tag was showing no signs of shriveling up. It was still the same size and still weeping profusely, so it was time to visit Bruce again.

I could tell from his face that it wasn't meant to look like that, he explained to me that it wasn't tied off tightly enough, and a small amount of blood was still getting through into the tag and keeping it alive. Time to tie it off again.

Brutus let out a little yelp when this happened. I think the skin near his chest must have been quite sore at this point. However, again after about 30 seconds, he seemed unaware of it.

Luckily, Brutus is a very laid back, relaxed dog. If he weren't, he may have reacted very differently to this treatment and all the t-shirt changing. Afterwards, we went home and continued with the t-shirt changing and the daily tag checks (2x). Amazingly, within about three days, it was black and flattened by Brutus laying on it.

A day or two later, whist vacuuming the living room carpet, I found the deposited skin tag on the floor. I checked Brutus' chest and there was hardly any sign at all that it had ever been there.

Bruce admitted to me when we went back for Brutus' check-up that he had never tied off a skin tag so big before but was pleased with the results, although he did tell me that there was a good chance that it might grow back again. Brutus is now almost 16 years old and has never grown another skin tag, thank goodness!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2009 Skye

Comments

Sarah on June 08, 2020:

My staffy had a 3-4 cm skin tag hanging from his belly and the vets said he would need to have surgery. He has a heart disease so no way was i going to put him through that risk!!.Vet's are money hungry so of course they are going to tell me he needs surgery and not even factor in the risks associated to his heart disease and offer a natural alternative like the tie off method. I tied off the skin tag on Wednesday night, it swelled up a lot the next day (double the size) and started blistering and sweating. Mind you, my boy had NO idea what was going on. We still went for walks, and he was happy as Larry. On Friday, the tag stopped blistering and became black. On Sunday the tag was small, black and hard like plastic. I actually got out the scissors and cut the tag off (i cut below where the elastic band was attached to his skin) I let him lick the peanut butter jar while i did this and he didnt even budge, he wagged his tail the whole way through me cutting off the dead tag. On Sunday the band i had tied on his tummy was still there and was starting to look red and irritated. I put some betadine on it and hoped the next morning i would wake to find the band attached to his skin had fallen off. Well it didn't :( i then started to panic that his skin would grow over the elastic band and he would need surgery to get it off :( :( today (being Tuesday) i got out the peanut butter again and let him lick the jar while i tried to get as close to the band as possible with my scissors. I finally did it! I cut into the elastic band and it immediately fell off. There is no open skin, it just looks like an indent but a little red. I'm going to the vets tomorrow to have them check for any signs of infection just to be safe. Thanks everyone for your posts! It gave me the confidence to try this and i have no regrets. This was the most natural way to remove his skin tag and it didn't cause him any discomfort at all :)

Ryan K on December 05, 2019:

This form was a true blessing to my dog and my wallet. 12 year old female pit “Lola” had a black skin tag on her lower stomach area near her back legs. Vet told me $800 and she would have to have anastasia, shes way too old for that. She had TPLO surgery on both back knees when she was 9 yrs old. with 3 screws in each knee. After reading this form it gave me the confidence to do the tie off method. The growth was about the size of your thumb, black tear drop shape. Day 1 I tied dental floss around it and a rubberband to help keep the pressure. Day 2 the skin tag filled to a hard redish / raw skin, started to leak/bleed a bit. I was nervous it looked pretty bad and large now. I tied another dental floss in tighter. Day 4 I tied another floss on tighter. Day 7 it still looked the same as day 4 so I decided to tie a thin rubber band around it as tight as I could. That night I noticed it start to shrink in size. What a relief. Day 10 in the morning there was no skin tag to be found just a little indent about the diameter of a pencil eraser that looked good, not raw, no blood. Did not bother her. We were both very excited and relieved. My advice after going through this is to make sure you tie the Floss on as tight as possible at first and Cut a thin rubber band and tie that on as well as tight as you can. If Lola would have had the rubber band on the whole time with the floss I think it would have taken less time. The rubber band really helped keep consistent pressure on it so the blood would not flow. We are forever thankful for Brutus, Skye and this from.

ChineseCrestedMom on January 07, 2019:

So glad I came upon this message thread!

After visiting the vet with my 14 yo Chinese Creasted, who NEVER told me that we were just dealing with a skin tag that was growing (about the size of a grape), and a second surgery consult ($1000 + quote) with this vet because of the constant bleeding (little girl wanted to scratch it ever day exacerbating it - btw, a sock loosely secured on offending hind paw worked well to stop this, but of course this tip did not come from the vet), I examined the growth around her neck more carefully myself, and saw that the base was relatively small with the growth literally mushrooming out of it. This is when the idea to tie it off came to me, and these wonderful posts helped me make the decision to go for it!

After cleaning the area really well, I used dental floss (alcohol cleaned & then dried) to tie off the base. I was a bit nervous that this was going to hurt my little girl, but she never made a peep (although I didn’t pull tight with all my strength to be honest). Then I put the sock back on her hind paw, as well as her “protective neck collar”, and off to sleep we both went without a hitch.

The next morning the growth was still fleshy looking and she had bleed a bit more than I would have thought. At this point my husband suggested cutting a rubber band open, cleaning it and then using the rubber band on top of the string. I was committed at this point, so I decided to go for it. This really did the trick and within an hour, the growth started to turn black!

Based on my experience, I would suggest starting with a rubber band to tie off the growth. In my situation, the string served to cut into the base of the growth, but didn’t really stop the blood flow. So...start with the rubber band, wait for the growth to go black, and then start to use the thin string to encourage the dead tissue to fall off.

I am now into day three of the procedure. There has been absolutely no blood or seeping since the growth went black. She no longer has to wear her protective collar (padded cloth one) to collect all the discharge from the growth. I still put the sock on her although she seems to have stopped scratching for now (I am being cautious since once the growth breaks off, she might start scratching the area again). I fully expect the black, dead skin to eventually fall off on its own accord. If the outcome is any different, I will post the information to help the next person along.

As a side note, I would have really preferred to do this whole thing under the supervision of my vet. After reading more online, I see that there are probably vets that support this procedure and others that do not. I would call around and find a vet that does.

Skye (author) from Leicestershire, UK on August 06, 2018:

I’m so pleased that your dog was well behaved and let you tie off the tag. I’m sure you were far more stressed out than he was

Momma2FurKid on August 05, 2018:

Thank you all for posting. Faced with more bills than month, we decided to tie off a skin tag on our dog’s chest because it was getting pulled from time to time and growing.

It was about 1 1/2 inches long on a narrow stalk, tubular, uniform, soft, skin-colored so we thought it was a good candidate for the tie off (not an agioma and not a wide base, no hardness). I used a small trimmer to shave the fur around the growth the night before. I thought some pain from hair pulling could be minimized. He also got used to being touched on his belly around the area, to build trust. Took a while to even get him to let me trim with the buzzy noise, but cheese is a great tool for conditioning. :)

I was nervous as he’s a relatively new rescue with some dominance traits and had snapped at the vet. I wasn’t sure he’d let us. I held and distracted him with a toy and treats while hubby worked on the tie off. (51 lbs English, Australian, or Anatolian Shepherd mix, we think. Beautiful farm collie look about him and very loving and protective.)

He did well! Clearly knew something was happening but showed no sign of pain at all. We had to do it twice because the first attempt was with thread which broke and was not tight enough. Second attempt was to add chord, like what is used to make tassels, which was wound twice and tied once. He didn’t flinch, panic, or snap. Showed no signs of discomfort either time. Played immediately after I let him go. Lays on it without any sign of pain. Acts completely normal.

We just did it with him standing. It seemed to stress him to try to position him lying down. Awkward angle but okay.

It’s day two, and this is as nerve wracking as day one. Within hours the tag swelled about a third larger, turned bright red. By day two, it turned dark red and looks round rather than tubular now. It started weeping today; he’s in a tank top and acting normal. We’re hoping it will be gone in a few days.

I’ve been far more anxious and suffering than the dog! I wanted to post in case I never returned to express gratitude for the tips and shared experiences that will increase our dog’s quality of life within a week or so.

Laila on July 18, 2018:

Wow we are still coming to your blog thick and fast. Thank you my sweetheart for the advice. I don't know how old my staffie is as we got her off the street years ago. I saw the pdsa for her grape like skin tag last week. Today for bladder infection. My dogs name is sky by the way

Misty on July 17, 2018:

I got scared and took the band off it’s still supper large and bloody looking but it’s cold to the touch my dog acts like she feels bad I’m giving her antibiotics and I bathed her today she’s 12 years old surgery is not an option I can’t afgo it nor do I think she would make it through. I don’t understand why vets can’t just numb the area and cut them off and sew it up..

Should I tie it back off or leave it alone and see what happens from here?

Misty on July 17, 2018:

My lab has a tag and I tied it off on Sunday night it’s now a little smaller than a baseball and black and wet. I’m nervous should I wait a few more days or just take her to the vet I really can’t afford the $700-$800 vet bill though

Skyepie on July 04, 2018:

Dennis K, I’m sorry to hear your vet has taken you for a financial ride, they seem to be able to charge whatever they like.

I hope my hub has been helpful and you get you lovely dog sorted out soon

dennis k on July 04, 2018:

My dog is half Rottweiler and lab. He is very tall and great on the trail!! He has a tag the size of a walnut on his back leg that flopps around when walking and I'm afraid it will get caught on something and get ripped off so I'm doing this research. I went to a vet and it cost me 300 dollars to get told they couldn't control him and nothing else and to give him some 75 dollar pills which were meant to calm him down!! I went back for the second appointment and was told the $300 didn't go toward the second visit and they couldn't do anything about it!! This was a t a pet smart in Reno Nv, I'm going to try this but put a bandage around his leg while the tag is dyeing! Thank you so very much all of you with your info and comments!!

Spice on June 04, 2018:

This will help my dog Mia because she has one and we are going to the vets to check it out in three weeks because she doesn’t really care about it she just does what she always does.

Skye (author) from Leicestershire, UK on April 20, 2018:

Thank you for all your lovely comments, I can’t believe this hub has been so popular!

DonTheMon on April 10, 2018:

Hi, thanks for the great advice. My labs tag was as big as Brutus's. It took two weeks to come off. At first after 3-4 days I didn't see much of a change so I tied it again with fishing line. Three days later it shrunk a tiny bit but not much. Was about to give up but tied a slip not with twine. Got it really tight . three days later it was flat and ozzing. after a couple days I touched it again, was thinking of cutting it off as it was all dried out now. I twisted it for about ten seconds and it came right off.! My advise is to tie tight til your dog yelps for a second then . add another tie every couple days. save 400 bucks the vet wanted and there was just a little pink hole were the tag stalk started. Put Neosporin on it.

Angela on April 24, 2017:

Hi I realize this post was from a long time ago but my sister tied the skin tag on her dog and it seems like it's peeling after 2 days of it being tied. Is this normal did this happen to Brutus?

De