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Person holding a brown dog paw

The essentials

  • Interdigital cysts have a range of causes, from allergies to ingrown hair — Certain breeds are also more prone to develop these sores than others.
  • Excessive paw chewing or licking may be a sign —  If your dog suddenly becomes obsessed with their feet, this could be a sign of an interdigital cyst. Developing a daily habit of checking your dog’s paws can also help you catch problems early.
  • Some interdigital cysts can be treated at home — A trip to the vet is sometimes necessary, especially if there’s an infection. In severe cases, your dog might need surgery or CO2 laser therapy.

Your dog’s paws were made for walking, but they also provide clues and flags about their overall health. Interdigital cysts are one. What are interdigital cysts in dogs? Painful, fluid-filled swelling between the digits or paw pads. They are often caused by underlying conditions such as allergies, atopic dermatitis, or even obesity. Are Interdigital cysts dangerous? The issue can lead to infection. Thankfully, interdigital cysts are often easily treatable, even if they may require a vet trip.

What is an interdigital cyst?

Despite the name, interdigital cysts are not true cysts. Instead, they refer to a site of painful swelling between your digital pads. The space between your dog’s toes can harbor yeast and bacteria, which can result in interdigital cysts or furuncles.

👉 Did you know that dogs have webbed feet? All dogs are born with some webbing between their paws, but some breeds, like the Labrador retriever, retain their webbing into adulthood.

Interdigital cysts in dogs: Symptoms and signs

An interdigital cyst in a dog will present as red bumps, but they may be challenging for pet parents to see, especially if a dog has ample hair between their toes. Knowing the common symptoms of interdigital cysts in dogs can help pet parents flag concerns and seek prompt care from a veterinarian. If your dog shows any of these symptoms, you should take them to the vet to see if they have an interdigital cyst:

  • Redness or hair loss on their toes. If your dog has thick hair, you may have to look closer to notice their paw’s condition. The primary cause of the irritation may stem from impacted hair follicles or even allergies.
  • Unpleasant odor. A musty, corn-chip-like smell is a good indicator of a yeast infection. You also may smell blood if their skin is broken.
  • Limping or holding up one paw. If your dog favors one paw, you should always check it for foreign material, such as a stick wedged between their toes. If you don’t find foreign objects between their paws, but it’s still irritated, that’s a good indicator of an interdigital cyst. Their front paws are also more commonly affected than their back feet.
  • Excessive paw licking. Some dogs lick their feet because they’re bored. Others might be trying to tell you something’s wrong. Any unusual behavior means it’s worth taking a closer look.

👉 Monitoring your dog’s extremities daily for signs of change is always a good idea. Keeping an eye on their paws can help you quickly catch potential injuries and infections, allowing them to heal faster.

interdigital cyst on dog toes

a moderately advanced interdigital cyst (furuncle)

What causes interdigital cysts in dogs?

Interdigital cysts in dogs have several potential causes. Genetics, certain skin conditions, allergies, untreated injuries, and the dog breed can all cause an interdigital cyst.

How do interdigital cysts develop?

Interdigital cysts may stem from numerous underlying causes, but they share a common development pattern. When hair follicles between a dog’s toes become inflamed, the body reacts. Then, the follicles may burst, exacerbating the inflammation and creating swollen cysts.

The cysts may have tiny openings, which can drain, irritating, such as itchiness, excessive chewing and licking, and redness. As a dog reacts by licking and chewing, the hair follicles become traumatized and — potentially — infected. New lesions can appear in several nodules, even as others improve.

Underlying causes of interdigital cysts

While there are some things you can do to reduce their risk of developing cysts, such as keeping your dog clean and at a healthy weight, they may not be entirely preventable. Interdigital cysts or furuncles may be caused by underlying issues such as:

  • Environmental allergies. Allergies are one of the most common causes of interdigital cysts in dogs. In addition to sneezing, environmental factors like pollen can also cause itchy skin. This irritation can lead to interdigital cysts, especially if your dog further exacerbates the problem by excessively licking their paws.
  • Coat length and texture. Breeds with short, coarse, or bristly hair, such as English bulldogs, Great Danes, and basset hounds, are more prone to getting interdigital cysts than long-haired breeds. Short bristly hairs can become lodged in the webbing of your dog’s toes, creating ingrown hairs or keratin. Dogs may even mistake these hairs as foreign bodies, potentially causing an inflammatory response that can cause interdigital cysts.
  • Eczema-prone breeds. Breeds more likely to develop atopic dermatitis or canine eczema may also be more susceptible to interdigital cysts, such as the bull terrier. Eczema is an inflammatory and chronic skin condition that causes red, itchy skin.
  • Obesity. Excess weight puts a pet at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases and makes walking challenging. The stress on your dog’s toes can result in interdigital cysts.
  • Untreated injuries. Getting a minor scrape or walking on hot asphalt may irritate your dog’s paws and lead to an interdigital cyst, especially if the injury is untreated and develops an infection.
  • Demodex mites. Commonly known as mange, this condition refers to hair loss caused by mites. All dogs have some mites, but mange only occurs when their immune system fails to respond to them appropriately. Demodectic mange isn’t contagious and can be treated with topical prescriptions from your vet.

How is the underlying cause of interdigital cysts diagnosed?

Since the causes of Interdigital cysts in dogs vary, your pet’s vet is the best person to see for a correct diagnosis. Generally, your vet will do the following:

  • Assess medical history. Your vet will evaluate your dog’s complete medical history, such as allergies and skin conditions, and ask about any new developments.
  • Perform a complete physical examination. The vet will take your dog’s vitals and check the interdigital skin between your dog’s feet. This step will also help the vet flag any other potential causes of the pain or irritation. A vet may diagnose a dog based on physical symptoms alone .
  • Additional testing. The vet may advise more testing like hair plucks, skin scrapes, and taste preps. These tests may turn up mites, bacteria, or yeast, all of which can affect dogs’ toes. A vet may also perform skin tests for environmental allergies or perform bacterial culture or sensitivity testing.
  • Diagnostic testing. To rule out cancer, Cushing’s disease, and endocrine diseases, a vet may perform diagnostic testing by taking a urine sample and ordering bloodwork.

Treatment options for interdigital cysts

There are many ways to treat interdigital cysts, but the best method depends on the underlying cause. Since some problems really need medical intervention to solve, such as steroids or an antibiotic for bacterial infections, it’s best to go to the vet before you begin diagnosing and treating interdigital cysts at home.

Topical medications

Depending on the cause of your pet’s condition, your vet may prescribe topical medications such as antibiotic creams. They may also suggest ointments to soothe their itching or foot soaks with a fungicide such as Ketoconazole or Chlorhexidine if they determine that a yeast infection is the root cause.

Oral medications

A bacterial infection will likely need a combination of topical ointments and oral antibiotics for successful treatment. Your vet may also prescribe pain medication depending on the severity or allergy medication if that’s the primary issue.


If the interdigital cyst impairs your pet’s ability to walk, your vet may recommend surgically removing it. CO2 laser therapy is much more efficient since it can remove the cyst without altering your dog’s paw webbing. Fusion podoplasty , however, surgically removes the webbing altogether. This procedure has some risks, so it’s worth weighing the pros and cons before deciding.

Home remedies

While you might try an at-home remedy for mild irritation, it’s always best to take your dog for a checkup if you notice any signs of discomfort. Interdigital cysts can lead to serious infections, so you don’t want to delay their treatment if an antibiotic is required. If it’s a minor problem, your vet may determine that Interdigital cyst dog home treatment is warranted. These remedies might help the condition:

  • Apple cider vinegar. You can try an ACV foot soak for your pup by combining equal parts apple cider vinegar and warm water. Rinse afterward, and make sure their feet are completely dry.
  • Balms. Paw balms can soothe your dog’s feet by providing nutrition and moisturization. You can find paw balms at your local pet store or make your own with dog-friendly ingredients such as coconut oil and beeswax.
  • Baths. An Epsom salt bath can cleanse their pores and soothe their paws. Epsom salts commonly contain essential oils, so be sure they don’t have toxic ingredients, such as tea tree oil.

👉 Avoid topical therapy and soaks before you visit the vet or veterinary dermatologist so they can see what your dog’s toes look like without treatment.

Interdigital cyst removal cost

Interdigital cyst removal costs anywhere from $200 to $1,000, depending on the severity of the condition. This procedure is only recommended in severe cases, such as when the dog is struggling to walk. CO2 laser therapy is much less invasive but may cost more.

How long do interdigital cysts last?

Interdigital cysts last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a lifetime, depending on the cause. Early detection and treatment usually lead to a better prognosis, especially if the cyst goes away after a quick course of antibiotics.

It’s critical to manage the underlying cause correctly by following your vet’s instructions on care, such as dosages and frequency for medications and topical treatments. If the root cause isn’t managed well, the cysts can reoccur, heightening a dog’s risk for pain, chronic inflammation, scarring, and pain.

Severe cases or cysts caught late may require CO2 laser therapy or surgery, particularly if the dog isn’t responding well to initial treatments. Rarely, a veterinarian may recommend a fusion podoplasty, which involves merging the toes together.

Preventing interdigital cysts

Although you might not be able to completely eliminate your dog’s chances of getting an interdigital cyst, there are some things you can do to help, such as:

Watch the pavement — While we may be able to slip on shoes and hit the road, your dog’s paws may be searing on the scorching pavement. If the air temperature exceeds 65℉, you should always feel the road with your fingers or toes before letting your dog’s paws touch the ground.

Consider dog bootiesDog booties may help, particularly with decreasing environmental allergy exposure.

Monitor their feet daily — Make a habit of checking their feet while you’re giving them their good morning or good night belly rub. Catching interstitial cysts early can help them heal faster and lessen the likelihood of requiring extensive treatment such as surgery or CO2 therapy.

Help them maintain a healthy weight — Feeding your dog a balanced diet and daily exercise can reduce their risk of developing obesity.

Treat allergies — Recognize the signs of allergies in dogs, such as licking their paws or scratching. Talk to your veterinarian about treatment options.

Keep their feet dry — Towel off your dog’s feet after their bath or rainy walk to avoid fungal and bacterial infections. Be sure to rub between their toes to dry their webbing.

Frequently asked questions

Will an interdigital cyst go away on its own?

Maybe. Although interdigital cysts may sometimes go away on their own, they can also worsen into skin infections that require prescription antibiotics or more extensive treatment. It’s always best to take your pup to the vet if you notice something’s wrong.

Is an interdigital cyst harmful for dogs?

Yes, interdigital cysts are located between your dog’s paw pads, which makes it difficult to walk. You should take your dog to the vet for treatment if you notice any swelling or other signs of interdigital cysts or furuncles.

What’s the difference between furuncle dog paw and interdigital cysts?

Furuncles are painful lesions on your dog’s paw, usually caused by a bacterial infection. Although the term interdigital furuncles is often used interchangeably with interdigital cysts, a furuncle might not technically be cystic, which means “fluid filled.” Interdigital cysts are often filled with blood or pus.

What’s the difference between sebaceous cysts and interdigital cysts?

Sebaceous cysts are filled with natural oils. Interdigital cysts manifest in red or purple skin inflammation and aren’t likely filled with oil. Rather, they’re usually filled with blood or pus resulting from an injury or infection.

Are interdigital cysts cancerous?

Interdigital cysts are not cancerous. Allergies, untreated injuries, or other skin conditions commonly cause interdigital cysts. However, only a biopsy can confirm interdigital cysts can be confirmed. Therefore, any visual bumps between the toes could be considered cancerous until proven otherwise — talk to your vet.