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Close up of a brown dog‘s 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 habit of checking your dog’s paws daily 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 convey hints of their overall health. Painful, fluid-filled swelling in between your dog’s paw pads or “digits” as they’re properly called, are referred to as interdigital cysts. They are often caused by underlying conditions such as allergies, atopic dermatitis, or even obesity. Thankfully, interdigital cysts are often easily treatable, but may require a trip to the vet.

What is an interdigital cyst?

An interdigital cyst is a site of painful swelling in between your dog’s digital pads. The space in 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 in between their paws, but some breeds like the Labrador retriever retain their webbing into adulthood.

While the terms “interdigital cyst” and “furuncle” are often used interchangeably, they’re not exactly the same. Technically, an interdigital furuncle refers to irritation with or without swelling, while a cyst is a fluid-filled sack that may or may not be painful. A dog might have both a furuncle and an interdigital cyst, or one without the other.

Signs and symptoms

It’s always a good idea to monitor your dog’s extremities daily for signs of change. Keeping an eye on their ears and paws can help you catch potential injuries and infections quickly, which allows them to heal faster. 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. The musty corn chip 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 is favoring their paw, you should always check it for foreign material, such as a stick wedged in between their toes. If you don’t find anything in 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.
interdigital cyst on dog toes

a moderately advanced interdigital cyst (furuncle)

What causes interdigital cysts in dogs?

Anything from injuries to genetics may cause an interdigital cyst. 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:


Short-haired breeds such as Great Danes and basset hounds are more prone to getting interdigital cysts than long-haired breeds. The short hairs can easily become lodged in the webbing between their pads, creating ingrown hairs or keratin. If your dog’s system mistakes these hairs as foreign bodies, it may give an inflammatory response which can then form interdigital cysts.

Breeds more likely to develop canine eczema may also be more susceptible to interdigital cysts, such as the bull terrier.


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 was untreated and developed an infection.


The extra pounds not only put your dog at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases, but also make it cumbersome to walk. The stress on your dog’s toes can result in interdigital cysts.


Your pup may also suffer from springtime sneezes when the pollen hits the air. Unfortunately, environmental allergies can also cause itchy skin. This can lead to interdigital cysts—especially if your dog further irritates their paws by excessively licking them.

Demodex mites

Commonly known as the 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 properly. Thankfully, mange isn’t contagious, and can be treated with topical prescriptions from your vet.

Treatment options for interdigital cysts

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

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 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 having it surgically removed. 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 making your decision.

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 only a minor problem or if your vet determines the condition can be treated at home, these remedies may help:

  • Apple cider vinegar. The kind with the “mother” has a fine reputation for its antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. You can try an ACV foot soak for your pup by combining equal parts apple cider vinegar and warm water. Rinse afterwards, 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 contain any toxic ingredients, such as tea tree oil.

Interdigital cyst removal cost 

Interdigital cyst removal costs anywhere from $200 to $1,000 depending on the severity of the condition. This 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 weeks to a lifetime depending on the cause. Early detection and treatment usually leads to a better prognosis, especially if the cyst goes away after a quick course of antibiotics. If the cyst isn’t caught early, CO2 laser therapy or surgery may be required.

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 is greater than 65℉, you should always feel the road with your fingers or toes before letting your dog’s paws touch the ground.

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 lessens the likelihood of requiring extensive treatment such as surgery or CO2 therapy.

Help them maintain a healthy weight — Feeding a balanced diet and exercising your dog daily 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 in 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. If possible, 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 in between your dog’s paw pads, which make it difficult to walk. If you notice any swelling or other signs of interdigital cysts or furuncles, you should take your dog to the vet for treatment.

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.