How to Help Alleviate a Dog Toe Cyst (From an Expert)

Bassett Hound in grass

Dog toe cysts, more often known as interdigital cysts because they form between the digits, must be taken care of early on to prevent further damage. By understanding the causes and symptoms, you will learn what to look for and how to proceed.

What are Interdigital Cysts?

Interdigital cysts are lesions that develop between the toes of a dog's front paws, usually in the webbing. Interdigital cysts are usually red and might be filled with blood or pus. Interdigital cysts are frequently caused by bacterial infections. Secondary infections can occur as a result of these lesions.

Symptoms of Dog Toe Cysts

The symptoms of a dog's toe cysts may be confused with a simple irritation at first, but they can quickly worsen. Symptoms of interdigital cysts include:

  • Redness and inflammation
  • Bleeding
  • Excessive licking
  • Itchy skin
  • Growths on the paw or between the toes
  • Discharge of fluid or pus
Close-up on a beautiful dog at the vet and owner holding his paw

What Causes Interdigital Cysts?

Interdigital cysts can form in a variety of ways, but the most common cause is a deep underlying bacterial infection.

Nodules on paws can be caused by skin disorders such as demodicosis, fungal infections, Demodex mites, atopic dermatitis, baldness (alopecia), blackheads (comedones), and skin malignancies.

It's possible that medical issues are to blame. Interdigital cysts can develop in dogs with arthritis or obesity because they apply additional pressure on the spaces between their toes while walking. Abnormalities in the paw shape structure (bad foot conformation) can potentially cause issues.

Dogs who lick or chew their paws frequently might irritate their skin and fur, resulting in interdigital cysts. A medical ailment, such as allergies, or a behavioral issue, such as boredom or anxiety, might induce excessive licking. Foreign items can get stuck in a dog's toes or the webbing between their toes. According to Kelly Roper, professional breeder, "Dogs can get cysts between their toes, and these pesky sores fill up with puss, causing pain and irritation. This typically causes a dog to lick and chew the site, causing more damage."

Recurrent lesions are frequently caused by foreign body reactions and can lead to subsequent infections. Recurrent lesions may indicate an underlying cause, such as a skin condition, hypothyroidism, or a yeast infection.

Which Breeds are Most Prone to Toe Cysts?

Interdigital cysts are more common in certain breeds. Dogs with short hair between the webbing of their toes is particularly vulnerable, as these hairs can be pulled into hair follicles. Inflammation and subsequent bacterial infections can result from this.

English Bulldogs, Great Danes, Chinese Shar-Peis, Basset Hounds, Mastiffs, and Boxers have shorter, rougher hair coats and are more likely to have irritated follicles. Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Pekingese are among the canines with the widest paws and are also prone to this condition.

Great Dane dog sleeping on couch with paws hanging off

Diagnosing Interdigital Cysts

Your veterinarian will examine the cysts between your dog's toes and may start with noninvasive testing by taking skin impressions, scrapings, or hair samples. For non-healing infections, they may take a skin culture or biopsy tissue for lab analysis (to look for secondary infection). Veterinarians may also test for allergies, bacterial diseases, and mites. A veterinary dermatologist may be recommended.

To help diagnose what's causing the interdigital cysts, talk to your vet about your dog's behavior, diet, and environment. The cysts may reoccur if the underlying issue isn't detected and addressed, resulting in scarring, more inflammation, and more vet expenses.

Treating Dog Toe Cysts

According to Roper, " If there is a cyst, it will need to be drained. I am not a vet, but I used to do this for my dogs myself. This is a tricky procedure and not for the squeamish, so it would probably be best to let your vet take a look at your dog's paw and determine what needs to be done."

Female veterinarian with injured boxer on examining table

There are three methods your veterinarian may use to remove the cyst.

  • Medication: Because cysts are frequently caused by bacterial infections, veterinarians may prescribe anti-inflammatory and antibiotic medications. A cream antibiotic is rarely sufficient on it's own, and dogs may require anti-inflammatory medication. You might need to administer antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medicines, and foot soaks for several weeks to resolve the problem.
  • Surgery: Dogs with more severe cases may require surgery. The damaged webbing and toes can be removed by a surgical specialist. Surgeons may suggest fusion podoplasty, which involves removing the web that connects a dog's toes. This can be beneficial, but it can also cause orthopedic problems. Following surgery, paws will need to be wrapped, and vets may advise wearing protective footwear.
  • Laser Therapy: Chronic infections may be treated with a CO2 laser in extreme situations. The lesions from the webbing are vaporized by the CO2 laser, which allows cysts to be safely removed. This permits the tissue to recover while maintaining the typical anatomy of the paw. It may, however, necessitate multiple treatments.

Contact Your Veterinarian if You Notice Any Changes

If you notice any changes in your dog's paws, catch them before they worsen by making an appointment with your veterinarian. The earlier a dog's toe cyst is caught, the sooner it can be treated and the less likely it is to result in an infection.

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