Exactly what is an “Interdigital Furuncle/Interdigital Cyst”? Interdigital Furuncles are often incorrectly referred to as “Interdigital Cysts” according to the Merck Veterinary Manual (read here: Merck Manual - Overview of Interdigital Furunclulosis). They are painful and limp-provoking growths between the toes and that can rupture and discharge a bloody fluid and/or pus. They are areas of inflamed tissue that form as a result of some irritant, such as a fungal or bacterial infection, a parasite or even an infected hair follicle and/or foxtail. Treating the underlying infection with antibiotics will clear up the infection.
What does “Interdigital” mean? It simply means “the fingers or toes” as in interdigital space. An Interdigital Furuncle/Cyst is PAINFUL!
You could look all over the internet and find various ways to treat these. So to hopefully to save you time and possibly unnecessary trips to your vet, here’s some information on how to treated your Bulldog’s Interdigital Furuncle/Cyst. It’s important to remember that while one treatment works for one Bulldog, it may not work, or work as fast, for another. We hope this article helps you treat your Bulldog’s Interdigital Furuncle/Cyst.
Try not to get discouraged as Treatment can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 12 weeks depending on the severity.
What is the difference between a “Furuncle” and a “Cyst”?
• A “Furuncle” is simply a boil. It is a deep folliculitis, i.e., an infection of the hair follicle. They are painful lesions that erupt between the toe webbing and are usually caused by a deep bacterial infection. They are almost never cystic.
• A “Cyst” is a closed capsule or sac-like structure, typically filled with liquid, semisolid or gaseous material - very much like a blister and may occur as a lump or bump. Cysts on dogs are common and can be formed on the surface of the skin or on the inside of the body.
Dogs that are prone to Interdigital Furuncle/Cysts are:
• Short-haired or allergy prone canines
• Overweight/obese dogs.
• Any pet can get one of these Interdigital Furuncles/Cysts.
Some of the first signs that your Bulldog is about to get an Interdigital Furuncle/Cyst are:
• a change of skin pigmentation and hair between the toes (red-brown-black)
• soft to firm swelling in the web between the toes
• a discharge fluid or pus
• an increased licking or biting of the feet between the toes
• redness with swelling (like one may be coming on)
• paw licking (a sign for them to relieve stress)
An Interdigital Furuncle/Cyst between your Bulldog’s toes look like any of the following or all:
• a fleshy welt
• an ulcerated sore
• hairless bump
Interdigital Furuncles/Cysts almost always need treatment with oral antibiotics, they may rupture when palpated and exude a bloody discharge, and they sometimes require surgery to remove a foreign body such as a foxtail. Foxtails are a sharp pointed seed that implants itself in the toe webbing. If a foreign body can be identified and removed before anything else, use blunt tipped tweezers to grasp and pull it out. This will be painful for your dog, so expect some flinching, jerking, or possibly a quick yelp. You may need a second person to steady and restrain the dog.
My own first experience with an Interdigital Furuncle/Cyst was with Sally, my 7 year old rescue girl. I knew what a Interdigital Furuncles/Cysts was since I had read posts on them but, I never really paid attention how to treat them. In essence, I was clueless on how to treat it and needed help right away when I first noticed hers. What I learned was that treatment MUST be done until the Interdigital Furuncle/Cyst is 100% healed, not 70, 80 or 90%. Sally’s flared back up with vengeance because I thought she was in the clear so I stopped treating it. I started the following treatment back up and within another 2 weeks it was finally gone.
Remember, before starting any type of treatment, it is always best to consult with your veterinarian first.
1. First I trimmed the hair around the Interdigital Furuncle/Cyst and keep it trimmed until completely healed. This keeps the hair from poking and irritating the Interdigital Furuncle/Cyst more.
2. I gave Sally an Epsom Salt soak, twice daily and 3 times on the weekend. (Note: Epsom salt is a laxative if swallowed, so you don't want your Bulldog lick off too much). I used a bowl big enough for a gallon of water and dissolved approximately ¾ cup of Epsom salt in it. I used very warm water and soaked Sally’s foot for about 5-8 minutes (you can go longer too). We did this outside and in the bathtub to keep the saltwater off the floor.
3. If you do this is in the bathtub, fill the it with 2 to 3 inches of warm water and 1 cup of Epsom Salt. Then drain the water and gentle rinse his paws off gently pat his affected foot dry.
4. After Epsom Salt soak, refill bowl with enough water to clean the Interdigital Furuncle/Cyst with an antiseptic or antibacterial solution. I used Hibiclen (you can get this at Walgreens). The generic form is called Walgreens Antiseptic Skin Cleanser.
5. I then dabbed on some prescription Mupirocin 2% that I already had on hand from another lesion she had.
6. I repeated this regimen until COMPLETELY healed.
Items to get at Walgreens, Walmart, CVS, etc.:
• Cholrhexidine (see Hibiclens).
• Hibiclens solution. The Hibiclens will kill any bacteria that is in or around it for up to six hours especially after it opens up. At Walgreens brand name is called "Walgreens Antiseptic Skin Cleanser.
• Epsom Salt - helps to reduce swelling
• Duoxo Pads work well
• Duoxo shampoo
• Malaket wipes
• Vetercyn! It works awesome on these and many other things: hot spots, cleaning nose rope,etc. It's a bit expensive but worth it! You can find it anywhere.
Another method you can do for treatment is:
• Soak the paw in a solution made with 1 cup of Epsom salts dissolves in 2 gallons of warm water, or an antiseptic solution like Betadine Solution in an strength of 0.01 - 0.1%. If you purchase higher strength Betadine, dilute it with distilled water until it is the color of weak tea. If you are unsure of the dilution, call a pharmacist or veterinarian. This not only washes off fungi and bacteria that could cause infection, it is also soothing to the sore, itchy feet and can help bring a foreign body or ingrown hair to the surface.
• Fill the bathtub so that your Bulldog can stand in the water and soak all 4 feet at once. Be sure to rinse and dry his feet after he soaks, because moisture makes the pads more attractive to infection.
• Soak in chlorahexidine & water soak at first signs of redness and swelling until it's completely gone. This usually occurs when it's been a while since they have had a good bath/scrubbing.
In some cases, Interdigital Furuncles/Interdigital Cysts seem to be bacterial in nature, and many bullies on the forum the relief from finding the right food. While it's not thought to be directly related to a food allergy, when they lick the paws from relieving the itch of their allergic body they cannot reach, they put bacteria in the toe webs of their paws.
• If an infection develops you will see a discharge of pus. It is best to clean and soak the paw in an antiseptic solution as described above. When two paws are affected, you can use a small pan and treat one paw at a time like I did. Remember to rinse and dry your Bulldog's feet afterward because antiseptic solutions shouldn't be swallowed.
The Visit to the Vet
• If you went to your vet first for treatment, you may have been told your Bulldog has an Interdigital Cyst. Since it is believed that they are a caused by a various things such as allergies, poor foot conformation, yeast infections, mites, ingrown hairs, excess weight, etc., your vet may extracted a sample of some cells to and/or took a culture to see what kind of bacteria was present. Your vet may have scraped the area also to check for the presence of demodex mites which can sometimes the cause. It may have taken months to figure how to treat it. Maybe you were giving antibiotics, steroids and/or mite killers. Maybe you had your Bulldog tested for thyroid disease? Or maybe it’s a food allergy so you tried another food (unless you have an allergy test done it’s really just a guessing game on the food). All that said, your vet does understand that interdigital cysts (furuncles) aren't so simple to treat, but that they are always treatable; just as long as you get to the right diagnosis as soon as possible and limit all offending factors and give medical treatment a good solid try before embarking on more drastic cures, like web amputation surgery.
• Yes, if the furuncle sores fail to heal despite your efforts, surgery may be necessary to try to clean out any ingrown hair, sharp seeds, foxtail, and/or infection. Keep the incision site clean by wiping away any drainage from around the wound with a gauze pad dampened with sterile saline contact lens solution.
A web amputation photo.
What Antibiotics should you use to Interdigital Furuncle/Cyst?
Metronidazole is an antibiotic used to kill bacterial organisms. It kills them by disrupting their DNA. However, metronidazole can fight only anaerobic bacteria and is commonly used in conjunction with other antibiotics to treat mixed-bacterial infections. Dogs tolerate metronidazole better if they take it with food. This antibiotic has a wide variety of uses; therefore the frequency of use, dosage and length of treatment all vary and are best determined by a veterinarian.
Doxycycline is part of the tetracycline antibiotic family, which fights bacterial infections by inhibiting bacterial protein synthesis. The most common side effects of doxycycline are nausea and vomiting, so administer this medication with food.
Cephalexin kills bacteria by preventing them from forming an adequate protective cell wall. This medication is frequently used to treat skin infections in dogs. Side effects from cephalexin are vomiting and sometimes diarrhea. Dosage is commonly 10 to 15 mg per pound, given every eight to 12 hours orally; however, consult your veterinarian for the proper dosage for your dog. Treatment duration depends on the severity of the infection and how well the dog responds to treatment.
References by: insightout, VetMD, Vetinfo, Ehow, Wiki-Pet