Lumps and bumps come in all shapes, sizes, and locations. What if a bump pops up between your dog’s toes?
A good rule of thumb is never to assume what a bump is just by looking at it. In general, lumps can be masses—cancerous or benign—or caused by an infection. Fortunately, there is a good chance that a bump between your dog’s toes is an interdigital cyst.
An interdigital cyst is not a cyst
Why is it called a cyst then? I have no idea. The proper medical term is interdigital furuncle, follicular pododermatitis, or podofurunculosis—a mouthful, isn’t it? So that might be why.
What the heck is a furuncle? Furuncle, or a boil, is an abscess that forms at an infected hair follicle. Why don’t people call it a boil or an abscess then? It seems to be one of those things.
What causes them?
Any irritation, infection, foreign body, or injury of the paw’s haired skin can result in an interdigital cyst.
Tuffers was a six-year-old Cairn Terrier. His name suited him well—he was a tough little guy with a big personality. Tuffers has been a healthy dog except for a history of problems with his feet. Tuffers feet were often irritated and itchy.
His often itchy feet caused Ruffers to lick his paws, causing more irritation and bacterial infections. That made him prone to getting interdigital cysts.
Tuffer’s treatment consisted of antibiotics and topical treatment. Sometimes he needed anti-inflammatory medication to calm his feet down further.
Interdigital cysts are painful
Interdigital cysts hurt and for some dogs, they can be a life-long challenge. That was Tuffers’ case.
Unfortunately, the more the dog licks and bites their feet, the worse things get. The cone of shame helps, but who wants their dog to spend their lives in one of those?
When Tuffers got his interdigital cyst the first time, his veterinarian tried to nail down the cause. He checked for foreign bodies, parasites, specific infections and made sure Tuffers isn’t suffering from food allergies.
Most often, environmental allergies are at the root of the problem. Tuffer usually had the problem every summer—something that grew at that time bothered him.
Overall, Tuffers’ problem was well-managed by regular foot-baths and the above treatment when needed.
Environmental allergies can be tested for and treated with immunotherapy. I think it’s a smart approach to modulate the immune system rather than suppressing it or just dealing with the fallout.
Further reading: Immunotherapy for pets
Tuffers the six-year old Cairn Terrier