Interdigital Cyst in a Dog: Tuffers’ Swelling Between Toes/Pododermatitis

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.

Interdigital Cyst in a Dog: Tuffers' Swelling Between Toes/Pododermatitis

Tuffers’ story

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

Source article:
Tuffers the six-year old Cairn Terrier

Related articles:
What Is That Bump on My Dog: Canine Lumps, Bumps, and Growths
Canine Leg Swelling: Jasmine’s Mysterious Swelling And Another Experience With VetLive

Further reading:
Interdigital Cysts in Dogs
Pododermatitis in Dogs
Interdigital cysts and their God-forsaken therapies

Categories: ConditionsDog health advocacyInterdigital cystItchingPododermatitisReal-life StoriesSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.


    This is not something I am familiar with but I can see that it could make life uncomfortable and unpleasant for the poor dog. OUCH. I am relieved there is treatment available, and Tuffers sounds as though he has a very caring dad.

  2. We can only imagine how irritating and painful interdigital cysts are for dogs. It’s a vicious cycle – the irritation, itching, cysts, and round-and-round it goes. Tuffers sounds like his parents figured out how to help him manage environmental allergies. We undervalue how important foot baths are for dogs – it’s something that is greatly beneficial to them!

  3. Really interesting post as all of a sudden Layla is licking her one paw all the time but am washing them down when we come inside from walks and have made a vet appointment for March, soonest I could get so hopefully will get to the bottom of it.

  4. Poor Tuffers! I’ve never heard of this issue, between the toes. It’s good information to have, if a dog is obsessively licking his paws it could be this! I like your suggestion to test & treat for environmental allergies instead of just waiting for the symptoms to continually occur.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  5. I can only imagine how painful interdigital cysts would be. After all, they are located in a spot that would constantly be irritated with every step. Luckily, I haven’t had to deal with one in any of our dogs but I will DEFINITELY be watching for any signs that we may have one to deal with moving forward. That’s why I love reading personal experiences like this… It’s a great heads up!

  6. This is very interesting, such great information. My dog used to get these. This was many years ago but I remember the vet never gave it a name. He just related it to allergies and said it’s caused from paw chewing. I wish I had known all of this back then!

  7. Yikes! Interdigital Cyst sounds so painful. I’m so sorry to hear Tuffer had to suffer but happy to know that treatment is available. What a crazy long name for an abcess irritation.

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