What are Cysts?
Interdigital Cysts, (growths between the toes). Interdigital cysts are common in some breeds of dog. Interdigital cysts are large bumps, or nodules, between a dog’s toes. They can also be called interdigital furuncles, follicular pododermatitis, or podofurunculosis.
Interdigital cysts usually appear as pink to red fluid-filled swellings that form in the web of skin between the toes. They are most commonly found on the front paws. They sometimes rupture and discharge fluid or pus. Dogs may limp from the pain or lick or chew at their paws.
They usually clear up on their own and I am of the opinion they should not be punctured because that can lead to infection. If possible try to avoid the antibiotic route unless there is an infection.
Nobody really knows what causes them, some people think it is a fungus and some think it is an ingrown hair or that it may form as a result of the penetration of the skin by a foreign body – frequently grass awns.
The following breeds of dog are said to develop interdigital cysts commonly :
- English Bulldogs
- German Shepherd Dogs
- German Short-haired Pointers
- Great Danes
- Scottish Terriers
- West Highland White Terriers
- Pigmentation of the skin and hair between the toes (red-brown-black)
- Soft to firm swelling(s) in the web of skin between the toes
- Discharge fluid or pus
- Increased licking or biting of the feet between the toes
Bacterial infection is a secondary complication
Diagnosis is based upon the typical location and appearance of the swellings in the interdigital skin. XRays may be taken to detect foreign material eg metal, or underlying involvement of bone, and a biopsy may be taken.
Medical treatment involves the use of corticosteroids (like prednisolone) which are effective in some cases. Surgical exploration under general anesthesia will help to identify and remove any foreign material eg grass awns. Surgical removal (excision) off the swellings is the usual outcome if a patient does not respond to medical treatment. Unfortunately recurrence at the same site or in another interdigital web is common.
In many cases, interdigital cysts can be eleviated, if only temporarily, by home treatment
Good if a foreign body can be identified and removed.
Guarded if no primary cause can be found because recurrence is common.
When the area is not infected applying the bath instructions below in an early stage this will help to dissolve it in a few days in 90% of the cases. Soak your dogs paws (preferably two or three times a day) with Epsom salts. The easiest way to do this is to do in the tub or fill the laundry tub up with 2 to 3 inches of warm water and 1 cup of Epsom Salts.
Put your Bulldog in the tub and just pet him for about 10 minutes or so. After ten minutes or so have elapsed, put your bulldog on a thick towel and gently pat his affected foot dry.
Some people use the method below when this does not work. My last Bulldog had this problem a few times but the method named above always worked for her so I never used the method described below.
After the first bath with Epsom Salts and drying its paws, fill up a cup with about an inch of hydrogen peroxide and hold his paws in this for a few moments. The area and in particular the cyst itself will respond to the hydrogen peroxide with bubbling, where as the rest of his foot does not. This shows that there is catalase enzyme present in these areas, which is one of the components released when blood or damaged cells are present.
Remember always consult with your veterinarian before starting any kind of treatment.