An itch between your fingers and toes can be hard to scratch. An interdigital cyst on dog's paw is no different.
Dogs with interdigital cysts will appear irritated and consistently gnaw at their feet. The lesions and lumps can be very painful, so quick relief is recommended.
Here's how you can help your pooch ditch the itch.
What Is An Interdigital Cyst?
Interdigital cysts, also known as an interdigital furuncle, are painful lesions or growths that form on the webbing between a dog's toes.
Interdigital skin is predisposed to disease due to close contact with potential allergens in the environment. The moist webbing between the toes promotes microbial overgrowth. Trauma to this area will cause inflammation and the growth of infected lumps.
The lumps on the connective tissue are often characterized as Canine pododermatitis. Canine pododermatitis can be part of a more generalized skin condition.
The cysts can sometimes be misdiagnosed for a lodged foreign body or a non-resolving pyoderma.
What Causes A Cyst?
Interdigital cysts can occur when injury or infection occurs to the skin hair on a dog's paw. Characteristics of a dog's breed may impact the possibility of cysts.
Dogs have compound hair follicles where multiple hair shafts stem from one opening. Dogs with shorter hair are more likely to experience infection or damage in the webbing of their paw.
The short hair can be more easily pushed into the hair follicle, causing inflammation of the skin and possible secondary bacterial infection.
Breeds with naturally wider paws are more likely to bear weight on the hair skin between the pads.
Existing Health Conditions
Obese dogs and dogs that suffer from arthritis or joint pain apply more pressure on the paws when walking. This exposes the spaces between the toes, leaving them at risk for cuts and lacerations to occur.
Licking Or Itching Paws
It is common for dogs to lick or chew their paws. Too much licking can irritate the hair follicles and skin, which may cause interdigital cysts.
If your dog is showing these signs, but there is no appearance of interdigital cysts, consult your vet as it could be related to allergies. It is essential to diagnose dogs with allergies to help with the prevention and treatment of interdigital cysts.
Rough surfaces may cause trauma to the hair skin.
Foreign bodies such as splinters and burrs can become embedded in the skin between the toes. This may cause inflammation and infection to the hair shaft.
How To Identify An Infected Dog?
Early signs of potential infection to the hair follicles are red rashes and spots over the webbing on the dog's foot.
The cysts will usually appear as large, red bumps, or nodules, filled with blood and/or pus. The cysts are most commonly found on the front paws.
The dog will limp, especially when walking on uneven or rough surfaces. If your dog is licking or chewing at its foot, this can be a common sign of inflammation.
Consult your veterinarian as skin samples may be required for diagnosis. Other skin conditions may also be the cause of the nodules on the paws such as skin cancers, fungal infections, and Demodex mites.
Your vet will recommend the best treatment depending on the severity and quantity of the cysts. In severe cases, it may take some medications up to 12 weeks to clear the infection.
Surgery will completely remove the cyst and infected webbing from the paw. This can help to eliminate all the infected tissue; however, it may not necessarily address any underlying issues.
As the webbing tissue heals, there is a risk that a change in the dog's foot's structure may occur. This may cause orthopedic issues in the future.
CO2 Laser Treatments
Laser treatment will vaporize the interdigital cysts from the paw webbing. Unlike surgery, this option will only vaporize the infected tissue, allowing the tissue to heal normally, and the paw's natural structure will not be affected.
Multiple procedures may be required for severe cases for complete removal.
Many interdigital furuncles can be treated through veterinary medicine alone. These options are less invasive for the dog and offer little to no risk of damage to the connective tissue.
A vet may administer oral (to be ingested in the mouth) or topical medication (applied via a cream or liquid) anti-inflammatories or steroids.
Topical steroids are a good option when there is only a single area of inflammation. The cream is applied on the surface of the dog cyst. Using a topical steroid is less likely to cause side effects to the rest of the body.
In more acute cases where the topical creams cannot penetrate deep enough to treat the cyst, an oral anti-inflammatory will be required.
In many cases, antibiotics will be dispensed alongside anti-inflammatories as interdigital cysts are commonly infected with bacteria.
Your vet will conduct a bacterial culture to choose an appropriate antibiotic.
When treated correctly, the cysts should not reoccur. However, improper use of medications, e.g., not finishing an entire prescription, can lead to the cysts reappearing.
If the interdigital furuncles do recur despite proper treatment, contact your vet immediately.
Recurrence could be a sign of underlying diseases that include parasites, hyperthyroidism, or fungal infection.
Foot Baths And Wraps
Another common treatment includes foot baths. This is done by soaking the pet's feet in warm water.
If advised by a vet, add an antibiotic solution or Epsom salts to the water. Carry out the soaking twice a day until the infected lumps have cleared. Consult your vet if the infection persists.
Some dogs may benefit from antibiotic wraps and bandaging. Both these treatments aren't seen to be as effective as veterinary medicine.
Check over the webbing of the toes regularly. Any redness, rashes or lumps should be assessed by a vet to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.
If the infection returns post-treatment, there may be a larger underlying skin condition that requires further diagnosis. Request an allergy test if your shows continued signs of redness and scratching.