Lumps and bumps on your dog’s paws? It could be interdigital cysts

Vets CornerMost dog owners fear the worst when they find lumps or bumps on their dog’s paws, but as Paul Boland explains, this isn’t necessarily anything serious.

If you’ve noticed lumps that look like a fleshy welt, an ulcerated sore or a hairless bump between your dog’s toes, then it is more than likely your dog has an interdigital cyst. The correct term for this is actually interdigital furuncle as these are very rarely true cysts. First of all I would advise that you get it checked by your vet to ensure its not a cancer, however I am pleased to say you can do something about this.

What is an interdigital cyst?

Any type of dog can get them however they are more common in breeds such as Labradors, Bulldogs, German Shepherds and Scottish Terriers. Any dog that is overweight also has a predisposition to them as well as any dog that generally suffers from allergies. They are painful and can cause excessive limping.  If left untreated they can rapidly develop into single or multiple nodules. They are usually are 1-2 cm in diameter, reddish purple and shiny.

What causes them?

Allergies, excess weight, demodex mites, bacterial infections and in grown hairs are just some of the potential causes.

The most common cause seems to be a deep bacterial infection or allergic reaction. Labradors are more susceptible to bacterial interdigital furunculosis because of the short bristly hairs located on the webbing between the toes. The short hairs are easily forced backward into the hair follicles during movement especially if the dog is overweight.

How can these be dealt with?

A quick way to deal with these which I would certainly not recommend is to opt for surgery to explore and find the infection; however this may lead to having to remove the entire web between the toes. Although this may heal more quickly it generally doesn’t remove the underlying problem and can also lead to more troubles with the foot including orthopaedic issues and foot pad overgrowth. At the very least the dog won’t have the same movement in the foot as it has done previously.

Dealing Naturally

If your dog is licking her paw the first thing to do is stop this. I would recommend buying an Elizabethan collar. The next steps will also help.

Weight Management

It’s essential for this condition and to prevent a range of other potential issues that your dog is not overweight. In this case keeping your dog at the correct weight is helpful as fat cells secrete cytokines that contribute to inflammation and thus can contribute to skin allergies and other skin diseases.

It’s normally very easy to tell if your dog is overweight. Every veterinary practice will have a set of scales however you can perform a few simple checks yourself.

Checking Weight

Ribs: There should not be a fat layer over the ribs and you should be able to feel them with light pressure.

Hip bones, shoulder blades: You should only be able to feel these if you apply moderate pressure.

Waist: There should be an obvious waist between the chest and abdomen.

Chin: The longitudinal flap of skin that hangs beneath the lower jaw or neck is called a dewlap and this can become enlarged if the animal is overweight.

Preventing obesity

Preventing obesity is not just as easy as prescribing lower calorie food and it is essential that your dog does not miss out on vital nutrients. A few simple tips can be followed that will also help you achieve your goals.

–  Measure out your dog’s food every day using a cup with a line drawn to the correct level.

– Avoid titbits.

– If you need to give your dog treats hold back a portion of their daily food portion and use it for treats.

– Make sure your dog takes a suitable amount of exercise.

– Weigh your dog regularly.

Table Scraps and Treats

Feeding table scraps to a dog is not recommended, at least in excess. Just as in humans, a dog’s diet must consist of the appropriate mix of nutrients, carbohydrates, and proteins in order to give them the minerals and vitamins that they need. While the exact ratios vary, the food you buy for your dog should be about 50% meat and 50% vegetables. If you must choose a food that contains grains, try to find one with rolled oats, barley, or brown rice. A human diet is not ideal for a dog so feed human food sparingly if at all. In addition, table scraps often consist of fat rather than meat protein. It is not uncommon for people to overfeed their dogs by giving them leftover human food, such as ice cream.

Dogs Diet

How much food to feed a dog?

This will vary enormously from dog to dog. The guide on the packs of ready made food will give you a very rough guide and can be used as a starting point.  The best thing to do is weigh and condition score your dog regularly. If your dog is becoming over or under weight adjust the feed appropriately and continue to monitor.

How often should a dog be fed?

Adult dogs can be fed once or twice daily; your dog will let you know which they prefer. Make sure you feed the same total amount each day however frequently you decide to feed.

How should I feed my dog?

Introduce any new food very gradually, this allows the enzymes in the intestines to adjust preventing stomach upsets.  Start by feeding 1/10 new food 9/10 old food and gradually alter the balance over about 10 days to 10/10 new food.  Whilst there is nothing wrong with finding a food that your dog enjoys, beware of offering lots of alternatives if your dog does not eat his dinner. She will quickly learn that not eating her dinner is a good way to get rewarded with lots of attention and an array of different foods to choose from. It is quite normal for some dogs to miss occasional meals; it is usually their body telling them that they do not require any more food, if you override this natural feeling by offering tasty treats your dog will be at risk of becoming obese.  If your dog has not eaten her dinner and is otherwise healthy take the food up after half an hour and offer a fresh bowl a few hours later. Try not to make a big fuss about it and act unconcerned as to whether your dog eats or not.  If your dog misses more than one meal, has suddenly gone off his food, is losing weight or has any other symptoms or contact your vet for advice.


Allergies in humans manifest themselves in sinus problems such as a runny nose and itchy eyes however allergies primarily show themselves in dogs via the skin. It is important to try and get to the bottom of the source of the skin allergy. A good place to start is to see if food is the cause. If a food allergy is suspected, modify the dog’s diet to eliminate the potential allergen. Remove all potential allergens and then re-introduce them gradually as per the guidelines for introducing new foods above. Adult dogs can be fed once or twice daily; your dog will let you know which they prefer. Make sure you feed the same total amount each day however frequently you decide to feed. While the exact ratios vary, the food you buy for your dog should be about 50% meat and 50% vegetables. If you must choose a food that contains grains, try to find one with rolled oats, barley, or brown rice.


Omega 3 – EPA & DHA

omeganatural-oilOmega natural oils (DHA and EPA) are believed to be essential for the maintenance of healthy skin function, immune function and inflammatory response. These seem to work by inhibiting the production of the pro-inflammatory eicosanoids and leukotrienes.

I would recommend using an orally administered fish oil that delivers high levels of DHA and EPA. For an average size Labrador I would recommend at least 500mg of EPA and 360 mg of DHA per day.

I also use Bee Propolis based products very successfully for this condition. Bees Harvest propolis for maintaining their hives and has antiviral, antibiotic and antimycotic effects. It is also high in flavanoids which are thought to be its antimicrobial effects. I would also advise applying a propolis balm as this accelerates epithelial repair. The Elizabethan colour will ensure she doesn’t lick this off.


stempetsStemPets can also support the natural release of adult stem cells from your pet’s bone marrow and scientific studies have shown that increasing the number of circulating adult stem cells in the body is an important aspect maintaining optimal health.

Garlic and fenugreek

Garlic and Fenugreek seem to work synergistically to help a wide range of conditions including skin conditions and minor infections. Used regularly it seems to stimulate the immune system. Garlic itself has been renowned for its antibiotic, antiseptic and anti-viral properties. I would recommend 60-70mg of Fenugreek per day for your dog and 1mg of Garlic Oil per day.

Other things to do

It may be worthwhile soaking her foot in Epson Salts 4 times per day for 10 minutes for a period of one week and then monitor.


Conventional treatment usually involves a course of antibiotics however it can be difficult for antibiotics to penetrate them. Topical foot soaks in warm water with an antibiotic solution, antibiotic wraps or bandages may also be used alongside antihistamine therapy. Recurrent interdigital furunculosis is actually most often caused by incorrect antibiotic therapy whether due to too short usage or the wrong drug.