Dogs who lick and chew their paws are just as concerning to dog owners as dogs with itchy skin. Both issues can be a sign of a serious problem. In the case of your dog’s feet, any redness or rawness between the toes can mean interdigital cysts.
Here’s what to look for and some things you can do using home remedies for interdigital cysts in dogs.
What Are Interdigital Cysts?
Interdigital cysts in dogs are sores or abscesses between the toes … that are also known as interdigital furunculosis or follicular pododermatitis. They can be one or more fleshy irritations in the webbing of your dog’s paws. There’s usually a bacterial infection that goes along with it.
Signs Of Interdigital Cysts In Dogs
If you see your dog licking or chewing his paws you need to take a closer look. Here’s what you might see.
- Red welts between your dog’s toes (interdigital)
- Wounds that are fleshy, ulcerated or sore
- Spots between toes that are hairless
- Obvious redness plus inflammation
- Fluids that include blood or pus
- Trouble walking, limping or favoring his feet
There’s already a high probability of infection and you want to avoid a secondary infection. So, give the problem immediate attention and treatment.
Here’s what you can do right away … so you can both get some relief. Then read on to find out more about interdigital cysts in dogs.
Home Treatment For Interdigital Cysts In Dogs
You can definitely avoid toxic drugs when healing interdigital cysts. It’s just a matter of first removing the infection. Then you can heal the wound. These are some natural methods to manage interdigital cysts in dogs:
1. Clean The Paws
Step 1: Magnesium can help rid the body of toxins that cause inflammation … while also reducing swelling and stiffness. And the best source of magnesium is Epsom salts. Soak your dog’s paws in an Epsom salts bath. This will open the skin and draw out the infection. It will also draw out a foreign body that might be causing the problem.
You can make a foot bath using 1 cup of Epsom salts in a gallon of warm water. Soak your dog’s paws for 10 minutes so have lots of treats and affection standing by.
Step 2: Then you want to clean your dog’s feet with an organic shampoo. Castile soap is a good option. Use about an ounce. Then add ONLY 1-2 drops of an essential oil like garlic, oregano, clove, cinnamon or myrrh (choose one). These are antibacterial and antimicrobial. This can fight infection while cleansing the area.
Step 3: Now you want to rinse your dog with a conditioner. Make it using 1 oz of almond oil, 1/2 tsp of vitamin E, and 2 drops of myrrh essential oil. Add in some ground organic oats to make it a bit creamy. Using the natural oils in the oatmeal, you’ll be moisturizing dry, cracked paws. This helps reduce inflammation that leads to itching.
Step 4: Next you can dry the paws with your own homemade foot powder. You can use a combination of organic oats or Bentonite clay. Use equal amounts. The high sodium and calcium content will draw out infections and bacteria.
You can also add just a drop or 2 of an antibacterial essential oil mentioned earlier … along with some vitamin E oil. But keep it powdery. Sprinkle between the affected toes. The clay will pull out the toxins and dry out the wound.
2. Use Paw Balms, Pastes and Butters
Paw balms provide a coating of protection. When you make them yourself you’ll be assured they’re safe and natural, with antibacterial and healing properties. Look for natural ingredients that are dog-friendly, safe and edible.
Here’s a healing recipe to start with:
Soothing Colostrum Paw Paste
This paste combines the infection fighting qualities of colostrum with the anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera. Bovine colostrum is rich in antibodies that form part of your dog’s passive immunity. These antibodies can bind to viruses and pathogens to neutralize them. So they can help fight infections in interdigital cysts.
Combine these ingredients into a paste:
- 1 Tbsp bovine colostrum powder
- 1-2 tsp aloe vera juice
- Filtered or distilled water 1 tsp or more as needed to create a paste
(Recipe can be doubled or tripled as needed)
Gently massage the paste onto wounds between toes. Refrigerate in a glass jar with a lid.
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Ingredients For Homemade Balms
Here are ingredients to look for in prepared balms … or to use in your own balms:
- Heavier consistencies like beeswax, shea butter, cocoa butter, candelilla wax
- Sweet almond oil, safflower oil
- Aloe vera – as an anti-inflammatory, to heal dry skin and wounds, and to reduce pain and swelling
- Niaouli – to protect and restore skin and to heal wounds
- Benzoin – for ulcers or cracked skin
- Vitamin E – an antioxidant for blood, brain and skin health
- Antibacterial and antimicrobial essential oils: oregano, garlic, clove and cinnamon
- Additional essential oils:
- Lavender – anti-inflammatory for itching and swelling
- Chamomile – antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and it speeds up healing
- Frankincense – nature’s antiseptic, plus it’s a disinfectant and astringent to heal boils, infected wounds and inflammation
- Sea Buckthorn – high in antioxidants, and vitamins C and E to treat burns & wounds
- Myrrh – antifungal, antimicrobial, astringent; used for viral and fungal infections
Here’s a recipe that makes 4 x 4 ounce jars so you can also halve or quarter the recipe.
Homemade Protective Paw Balm
- 8 tsp beeswax (natural)
- 4 tbsp coconut oil
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp vitamin E oil
- 4 tbsp shea butter
- 4 tsp sweet almond oil
- 2-4 drops of essential oil (see suggestions above)
Slowly melt oils and wax together on the stove. Gently stir in the essential oils. Then pour into jars. Cool and store in a cool location. Rub onto paws as needed. To drip between toes, melt a bit at a time in a container in hot water. Try to keep your dog distracted from licking it for 15 minutes or more to give it time to absorb.
These foot baths can also help the healing process.
3. Do Regular Footbaths
Try to soak your dog’s paws every few days to help healing.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Soak
Apple cider vinegar restricts the growth of bacteria like E. coli, S. aureus (staph infection) and yeast like C. albicans (candida) (1). It doesn’t alter the skin’s microbiome as medicated topicals do.
Add 1 cup of ACV to a bucket of warm water. Soak paws for 30 seconds, dry and apply the foot powder.
Iodine disinfects wounds, and will treat yeast infections caused by constant licking or chewing. Add enough iodine to a bucket of warm water to turn it the color of tea. Soak paws for 30 seconds, dry and apply the foot powder. Iodine is non-toxic for dogs so don’t worry if your dog licks his feet.
Baking Soda Rinse
Add 1-2 tbsp of baking soda to a gallon of warm water. Rinse your dog’s feet in it to remove allergens he might pick up from a walk or a hike. It also soothes inflamed and irritate skin.
Herbal Tea Rinse
All-natural herbal teas are healing when added to your dog’s foot bath.
Make a foot bath of these teas separately or combined: chamomile, sage, echinacea, goldenseal or decaffeinated green tea. They have mild astringents that heal sores or wounds … plus antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help stop itching. Use a few tea bags to a gallon of warm water, or the ACV soak, and allow to steep. Rinse your dog’s paws for 30 seconds, then air-dry.
Here are some causes of interdigital cysts so you’ll know what to watch for in the future.
Causes Of Interdigital Cysts In Dogs
There are several causes of interdigital cysts.
- An irritation between his toes from an ingrown hair or a foreign body like a twig or thorn. Constant licking breaks down the skin and causes ruptured hair follicles … leading to inflammation and a cyst.
- Atopic dermatitis with red, itchy skin can lead to cysts.
- Eczema caused by allergens like pollen, as well as stress, dry skin, and infection.
- Hair between the toes splits from walking on hard surfaces. Then these split hairs create inflammation that causes irritation and cysts.
- Household soaps and cleaners can trigger this and lead to licking.
- Hair between the toes can split from walking on hard surfaces. Split hairs create inflammation that causes irritation and cysts.
- Food allergies.
- Environmental allergies.
- Excess weight puts pressure on the feet and between the toes.
- Poor foot conformation.
- Yeast infection, often caused by the licking.
You can visit your vet if you need diagnostic tests. A skin biopsy can be done to ensure it’s not cancerous. Your vet can also do a bacterial culture to identify the bacteria or do skin scrapings to check for demodex mites or allergies.
Breeds Prone to Interdigital Cysts
Some breeds are more susceptible to interdigital cysts than others. They include Shar-Pei, Boxer, Bull Terrier, German Shepherd, Dobermann Pinscher, and Pit Bull breeds. Dogs who are overweight or have allergy or thyroid problems are also prone. Dogs with broad paws like Great Danes, Basset Hounds, Mastiffs, Labrador Retrievers and English Bulldogs are also susceptible. Dogs with short fur, bristly hair and excessive webbing may have a higher likelihood of ingrown hairs. But it can happen to any dog.
Veterinary Options For Interdigital Cysts In Dogs
Veterinarians will often offer three options for treatment: surgery, CO2 laser, and/or medication. Surgery can lead to orthopedic issues in the future. CO2 laser will vaporize the cyst but it might take several treatments. It shouldn’t alter your dog’s normal paw structure.
Drugs are usually the first line of defense. Vets often recommend a combined treatment of steroids and antibiotics. They can be given topically for minor issues … or orally, as a systemic treatment.
They may also suggest medicated cloths or protective footwear.
Avoid Medications For Interdigital Cysts
There’s a problem with medications and antibiotics. Just as your dog has a microbiome in his gut, he has one on his skin. Antibacterial products will destroy the good bacteria your dog needs to fight the problem bacteria causing the infection. Plus you don’t want him licking these drugs!
Instead, use natural antibiotic solutions to fight infection and support your dog’s entire system.
It’s important to note that if your dog gets interdigital cysts often, it could be a deeper issue or an allergic reaction or sensitivity. These might include other symptoms like weepy eyes, digestive issues or inflammation elsewhere. They could be signs of other issues so you’ll need to find the cause, which could start with diet or environmental influences.
Foot pain stops your dog from enjoying the things he loves … walks, hikes and the outdoors. Follow these remedies and suggestions to keep his feet healthy and happy.
Karen A Moriello DVM DACVD. Interdigital Furuncolosis in Dogs. Merck Veterinary Manual. Updated October 2020.
Yagnik, Darshna, et al. Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. Scientific Reports. Volume 8, Article number: 1732 (2018).
Kshirsagar AY, Vekariya MA, Gupta V, et al. A comparative study of colostrum dressing versus conventional dressing in deep wounds. J Clin Diagn Res. 2015;9(4):PC01-PC4. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2015/12004.5739