Treating Interdigital Cysts at Home
Image of a common interdigital cyst between the toes of a Bulldog. Image courtesy Bizkai Bulldogs
This has not been our week(s) when it comes to healthy Frenchies. First Journey ruptures an anal gland, then mystery chunks start falling out of Penelope, and now Elliott has an interdigital cyst.
For those who aren’t familiar with this particular bane of the French Bulldog and Bulldog owner, an interdigital cyst (their proper name is ‘Interdigital furuncle’) is an inflammation of the skin between the toes. The Merck Veterinary manual says –
The most common cause is a deep bacterial infection. Many dog breeds (eg, Shar-Pei, Labrador Retriever, English Bulldog) are predisposed to bacterial interdigital furunculosis because of the short bristly hairs located on the webbing between the toes, prominent interdigital webbing, or both. The short shafts of hairs are easily forced backward into the hair follicles during locomotion (traumatic implantation). Hair, ie, keratin, is very inflammatory in the skin, and secondary bacterial infections are common.
In Elliott, we first noticed he seemed a little bit lame, which I assumed was the result of a typical ‘rambunctious dog’ related injury. When he was limping worse the next day, I took a closer look. That’s when I saw the red swelling between his toes, with some crusted blood under the nail. The blood under his nail first led me to assume he’d damaged it somehow, perhaps by cracking it on the concrete patio after he’d jumped off the patio table. Elliott is our resident goat dog – if there’s a table, chair, or other high surface around, he’s sure to climb onto it, and jump back down. So much for the “Don’t let Frenchies jump off the couch” theory.
Closer inspection showed that the blood was likely from the swelling between his toes tearing the skin around the nail, which is when I realized it was a cyst, and not nail damage.
Although this is one the most common health problems in French and English Bulldogs, I’ve never personally had a dog with an interdigital cyst before. I’m familiar with them from talking to other owners and breeders, and aware that they can be nasty little suckers.
Cysts are scary looking. They’re huge, swollen and obviously painful for the dog.
My first reaction was to take him in to the vet, but the complicated course of treatment Merck recommends seemed rather daunting:
Interdigital furuncles respond best to a combination of topical and systemic therapy. Cephalexin (20 mg/kg, PO, tid, or 30 mg/kg, PO, bid) is recommended for 4-6 wk of initial therapy. However, because the lesions are pyogranulomatous, it may be difficult for antibiotics to penetrate them; therefore, >8 wk of systemic antibiotic therapy may be required for lesions to completely resolve. These lesions are often complicated by concurrent Malassezia spp infections. Oral ketoconazole or itraconazole (5-10 mg/kg) for 30 days may be indicated. The presence of Malassezia can be documented by cytologic examination of nail bed debris and/or impression smears of the skin. Topical foot soaks in warm water with or without an antibiotic solution (eg, chlorhexidine) and the application of mupiricin ointment are recommended. Some dogs may benefit from antibiotic wraps and bandaging. Antihistamines given for the first several weeks of treatment may partially alleviate pruritus, if present.
This is in stark contrast to the relatively mild and non invasive treatments other Bulldoggers and Frenchie owners recommend for treating cysts. I’d decided I would try a lower impact home remedy, before loading Elliott up with 4-6 weeks of antibiotics.
The most common home remedy I read about was to soak or compress the affected foot several times per day, then apply antibiotic ointment. A few people recommended applying Preparation H or other hemmorhoid creams. We decided to do a bit of each.
Three to four times per day we’ve been soaking Elliott’s foot in Epsom salts. The easiest way we’ve found to do this is to fill the laundry tub up with 2 to 3 inches of fairly warm water, to which we’ve added a cup of Epsom Salts. We then stand Elliott in the tub, and sit beside him for ten minutes or so. Luckily for us, he’s a good boy, and just stands there patiently so long as we give him the occasional head scratch.
After ten minutes or so have elapsed, we put Elliott on a thick towel and gently pat his affected foot dry. I then fill a large, wide coffee cup with about an inch of hydrogen peroxide, and hold his foot in the cup for a few moments. The affected areas on Elliott’s foot, in particular the cyst itself and the surrounding hair follicles, respond to the hydrogen peroxide with bubbling, whereas the rest of his foot does not. This shows that there is catalase enzyme present in these areas, which is one of the components released when blood or damaged cells are present.
After soaking in hydrogen peroxide, we again pat Elliott’s foot dry. I then apply either Panalog ointment, or Anusol hemorrhoid ointment.
We’ve been treating him using the above method since Saturday morning, and in that time period his swelling has reduced by approximately 40%, and the redness is almost completely gone. With any luck, it will be completely gone within another day or so, and with no antibiotics. Of course, if it doesn’t clear up, or returns, then we’ll try traditional Veterinary treatment and oral antibiotics.
You only should use the hydrogen peroxide once… it burns the skin and impedes healing. All the bulldoggers recommend the epsom salt soaks… By the way, if you had a homeopathic vet on your experts page, you could ask her. Hint, hint…
Interdigital cysts are NOT common in Frenchies. Since 1988, you are maybe the second or third Frenchie owner I’ve heard of who has a Frenchie with interdigital cysts. Neuter all your breeding stock immediately! Send me Tessa, poor little thing, living in that hotbed of genetic malfunctions… (an’ then there are the DOGS to consider…)
We have a 10.5 year old male Springer Spaniel with this interdigial cyst you speak of.
I have asked our vet what it is and she explained it’s an ingrown hair. She suggests not removing it unless it is bothering him.
He doesn’t lick it or limp but it is unsightly and it looks sore especially in the winter.
I so appreciate the advise of Epsom Salts baths and hemroid cream. I am going to try this beginning tomorrow.
I am so hopeful it will shrink the cyst which I believe must be hurting him. He’s so stoic he wouldn’t let me know.
Linda, regarding the cysts on your siberian’s foot. I have a labrador retriever and she has had cysts removed only to consist of hair folicles white stuff ect. But have another grow elsewhere. I had her thyroid checked and she is now on thyroid meds and the cysts have stopped.
I do use panalog ointment for some skin lesions that come up overnight (thyroid problems show themselves thru skin and hair and whatnot for the most part) as well as weight gain in some.
I may try the hemroid cream instead of the panalog in future, anything to get away from steroid use on her. But have your dogs thyroid checked if you haven’t already. My first clue was when I iced down a cysts over a period of couple of weeks and it went away.
there is a product line called Veterinarians Best. The earwash, yes earwash, is a wonderful product for interdigital cysts. Apply it to the top and bottom of the foot webbing two to three times a day. It’s all natural and very effective.It will reduce swelling and generally bring the cyst to a head if it needs to drain. It does wrk well in ears too. 🙂
We have used this on our own dogs and also very successfully on rescues, some of which had large, chronic cysts between every toe.
Over the years I have had numerous bulldoggers roll their eyes at this only to get a call later on with them telling me that they can’t believe it worked and they’re ready to buy any swamp land I might have for sale. That includes two veterinarians
One point, while many cysts are just cysts, caused by blocked skin glands or ingrown foot hair, a good percentage are formed around foxtails, grass seeds or even splinters or pieces of rock or glass. Anything entering the bottom of the foot will exit out the top.
can u please tell me were to buy this thanks soo much my poor boy who is a doxin keeps getting these as well 🙁
Which ear product do you use? They have a rinse and a dry?
I’d like to know where to get this product. My 18mos old Frenchie had no signs of anything wrong with here when I put her in the crate before I left for work. When I came home a few hours later, her rear foot looked like someone crushed it with a hammer! I went to her emergency vet only to find out it was a cyst. And for the person who said this is not common in Frenchies, wrong! My vet only sees “flat faced” breeds; bulldogs, pugs, frenchies etc…they breed and show Frenchies as well…and he’s advised that these are super common in this breed. Anyway, after having her little paw lanced, as it was out of control, he advised that she is probably going to be prone to get these…within three days she had them on each foot! I caught them early enough that the Epson soaks have helped some but they are still there and we are going on 10 days now. Help, need something else to try…something other than antibiotics if possible.
Targ had them too…. they were a side effect of his thyroid meds being too low…
We got a very nice topical pad to use… no antibiotics… and you could try calendula homeopathic. It’s for skin infections.
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I have also had issues with these cysts in our english bullies ( never a frenchie) we soak with douche, regular not scented, works great
I have an 11 y/o Lab named “LUCY”, who suffered from interdigital cysts on both front feet for over 6 months. We tried everything and saw several vets for different opinions. She was on five different antibiotics, including Cephalexin and nothing worked. We soaked her feet in Epsom salts and had biopsies performed, eventually we saw a vet dermatologist who performed blood and allergy testing but could not come to any conclusion. Anyways several hundred dollars later, we decided to see a holistic vet. She prescribed a homeopathic remedy of Sulfur. I know it sounds strange but within two weeks her cysts were completely gone. AMAZING! We couldn’t believe the results. In addition to treating her interdigital cysts the holistic vet helped to reverse the horrible side effects of months of antibiotic therapy. Moral of the story, if your dog has interdigital cysts and you’ve tried everything…. go see a holistic vet! We have had tremendous results and LUCY has been free of the interdigital cysts for over a year!!!
My dog (siberian husky/lab mix) was diagnosed with an inter-digital cyst about two months ago. I treated it with antiobitoics and ebson salt soaks, but it didn’t go away. It was surgically removed (analyzed by pathology and it was not cancerous, said it was caused by a lesion causing her fur to turn inward and have a tissue reaction), and then after the stiches came out (21 days later), within 7 days the cyst came back. My vet wants to perform another surgery three days from now and says she might have to have toes removed to ensure they remove the entire thing (including areas they cannot see). I am devastated. I don’t want toes removed. Does anyone have any advice?
My vet wants to perform another surgery three days from now and says she might have to have toes removed to ensure they remove the entire thing (including areas they cannot see). I am devastated. I don’t want toes removed. Does anyone have any advice?
GET A NEW VET.
Who on earth would suggest such a drastic surgery, for such a benign condition? Seriously, Linda, get a second opinion. That’s not a rational reaction to something so manageable. Would you let your doctor remove your foot because you sometimes get blisters?
Thank you frogdogz. Sorry it took me so long to respond. I read your response right away, and your candor made me smile. Good answer. Thanks for taking time to write.
I have taken my dog to see three more specialists. Good news is, I have done that, and didn’t do surgery again and specialists have hope to try to figure this out. Bad news is, it’s not solved, and she’s grown more cysts on the same foot. Top and bottom. My vet still wants to surgically remove. I am now waiting for more results from a dermatologist who suspects some sort of infection. My poor pooch has been so patient and been through so much already. I will keep everyone posted in case anyone else can learn from it. In the meantime, I am always open for more advice and experience.
My little pooch is continuing to struggle. She’s still seeing the dermatologist once per month. She has been on antibiotics (cephalexin) constantly, and steriods (prednisone) and also cyclosporine (Atopica). I’ve tried different levels – had the cysts “dried up, but still there” in November. Weened her off some meds and then ruptures again. It is still not under control. She doesn’t have any infection, the biopsy showed nothing, she has these cysts, which are now 4. Two on two toes = 4 total. That, plus the bottom of her foot it inflamed and gets worse (waxing and waning) and it’s just odd. No one can figure it out. I don’t want to do surgery because they said two are possible 1) to remove cysts with laser surgery but likely the cysts would grow back and 2) if she had her toes sewn together, but that was was when it was on one toe. Now it’s on two opposite toes, to it’s likely they can’t fuse them together. Does anyone know anything that can help my poor girl? Thanks.
As an English Bulldog and horse owner, massage therapist and advocate for acupuncture I’m wondering if anyone inquired about your dog’s diet? In oriental medicine skin issues are related to excess “heat” (vs. wind/cold). The body attempts to clear the heat through the surface of the skin. High protein diets are hard on the Liver Channel and produce “heat” especially Lamb. Aloe is considered a “cold” food and can help balance and cool heat conditions. Aloe Vera juice can be found health food stores like Whole Foods and Outpost or more local health stores. K-9 Krumbles brand can be sprinkled into food. Check out http://www.luckydoghealth.com for DIY acupressure charts and links to dog acupuncture. Some of those pressure points be pressed to clear the “heat.” Vitamins! A,B,and E are directly related to the skin as well as Fish and Flax oil. I pour the oil right in with the dog food and a spoon for me, too! Don’t forget to supplement PRO-Biotics for the immune system after all those nasty anti-biotics. Plain yogurt helps provide those. Lastly, look at your human family, yourself included. Healthy? Happy? Stressed? Our animals can be our mirrors and sometimes take on our problems and it shows up in bizarre ways. Stay Positive Linda! A little esoteric I know. Lots of Info! Hope something helps!
our dog a 4yr old bullterrier has had interdigital cysts for 5-6months. she had them between7 of her toes.we tried several ways of healing them.epsomsalts compresses followd by panalog twice daily seemed to help but not completely heal them.
people at local health shop suggested trying SCHUESSLER TISSUE salts. SILICA. told me Silica would cleanse her body and heal the cysts, and would also expel any foriegn matter that may be causing them. they say they have recommened Silica for several dogs with quite a lot of success. Tori weighs 24kg and she had 1 tablet 4 times daily for about 2wks then 1/2 tablet 4 times day for a few more weeks. tablets crushed and mixed with small amount of food.
WE Couldn’t believe it 1WEEK later her cysts were gone. She has been free of cysts now for about 3wks, and is so much happier and brighter.
hope this is helpful to any poor dog with this horrible problem
I also have a Bull Terrier. He is 3 yrs old and has suffered from these awefull interdigital cysts since we got him 6 months ago. I tried Schuessler Tissue salts – silica for a few days and it got worse. Maybe I need to try for longer……
I wanted to thank frogdogz for the post. We have an 10 month old chihuahua mix (not sure what the dad was) she got this sort of growth under her right front paw. It was pretty big and bothered her greatly. I read this post and thought I would try soaking it in epsom salt. We did this once a night after we got home from work. Within a day or so you could tell it was not only not getting worse but the redness was going away and the swelling gone. Within a week, it was completely back to light pink skin, no swelling and the cyst or lesion was all shrunk, dried up and in another day fell off. There is still a slight pink nub left behind where the larger blackish one once was. Needless to say we canceled the vet appointment, saved us some money, didn’t have to have her go thru needless surgery and it does not bother her at all. We did not stop soaking it. I will continue to soak it for another week or so just to be safe, but I wanted to say THANK YOU so much for your post, it was so helpful. Happy New Year everyone!
You’re welcome – I’m glad it helped! Thank God for epsom salts – they’re miracle workers!