Is This a Tick, Or Just a Skin Tag? How to Tell the Difference

Posted by Krissy Howard
Dog with tick on the head, abandonment

It isn't uncommon to find bumps and bulges on our dog's skin, especially as they age. So how can we tell if the abnormality is a tick or a skin tag? 

As anyone with a pet probably knows, ticks not only make for unwelcome pests that settle into the skin of our furry friends but can also transmit infectious diseases, such as tick fever, or even Lyme disease.

However, these brownish bumps can also be attributed to relatively harmless skin tags, so it's important to familiarize yourself with both in order to keep your pet healthy and happy.

The best way to tell if a new bump is a growth or a tick is by getting to know your dog well, monitoring its skin every so often. If you're petting your pooch and immediately notice a bump where there wasn't one before, you'll definitely want to investigate closer.

While ticks are always brownish or reddish in color, a skin tag will most likely be the same color as, well, your pet's skin. This can be easy to spot on a light-haired dog with a pinkish body, but darker dogs may require a closer look.

close up of an adult tick on dog fur

If you can't immediately tell if you have a tick on your hand, you'll need to get a better view, which many do with a magnifying glass or even reading glasses. You can usually see tiny legs on the side of a tick's body, which will often be oval in shape. A tick will often be plump or fuller after engorging on blood, whereas a skin tag will typically lie flat against the skin.

Places Ticks Like to Hide

  • Armpits
  • Tail
  • Neck
  • Eyelids
  • Under Collars

If you still aren't sure, keep an eye on it. If the bump gets bigger, you most likely have a tick on your hands, and if you happened to find the protrusion behind the ears or in between toes, there's a good chance it's not just a tag.

If you've identified the culprit as a tick, you'll want to remove it immediately. This can be done with tweezers or a tick removing tool. Always be careful to remove the head along with the body, and kill the pesky perpetrator after removing it from your dog's body.

Closeup many ticks on foot dog, selective focus, pet healthy concept

Of course, the best measure for avoiding ticks is by implementing a method of prevention, which can easily be done with medicated flea and tick collars, drops, or even vaccinations.

Try to keep up with your yard work at home to avoid the chance of an infestation, and if you and your pal just came back from a jaunt in a wooded or grassy area, be sure to check both of your bodies for unwanted hitchhikers and tick bites.

Anti-tick Products

1. Tick Removal Tool

Tick Removal Tool


Five stars, y'all! Even if your dog has a preventative tick treatment, it's always good to keep these on hand.

2. Flea and Tick Collar

Flea and Tick Collar

4.2 out of 5 stars isn't bad at all! There's up to eight months of protection with this flea and tick collar. The collar is adjustable and waterproof. The best way to combat ticks and fleas is to prevent them.

3. Vet's Best Flea and Tick Home Spray

Flea and Tick Spray

If your dog recently had fleas or ticks, it's a good idea to clean your home. Throwing away dog blankets and a pet bed will definitely do the trick, but you could also spray down any furniture your dog has been in contact with.

Skin Cancer Symptoms

If you have ruled out ticks and the common skin tag, it may be time to schedule a checkup. Don't worry too much, cancer in dogs can be treatable.

This post was originally published on January 3, 2017.

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Is This a Tick, Or Just a Skin Tag? How to Tell the Difference