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  • Interdigital Furuncle / Interdigital Cyst


    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:

    • Bulldogs
    • Labs
    • 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
    • lameness
    • 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:

    • shiny
    • fluctuant
    • 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.

    Sally’s Treatment

    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.

    Foot bath


    • 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

    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

    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

    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
    Comments 24 Comments
    1. 2BullyMama's Avatar
      2BullyMama -
      Great info!!
    1. ChrisRN's Avatar
      ChrisRN -
      Our vet also said to use our Mal-a-ket wipes between Mabel's toes. He said spraying her toes with the old-fashioned yellow Listerine would help, because it's a good antiseptic and discourages licking. These furuncles are awful. Mabel's had a few.
    1. Lokismom's Avatar
      Lokismom -
      Great info!
    1. ModernFemme's Avatar
      ModernFemme -
      Duoxo shampoo/wipes really helped this for Remi (but we caught it before it got bad)
    1. dolphin's Avatar
      dolphin -
      @JeannieCo Thank you so much for this, I never knew about any of this.
    1. bullmama's Avatar
      bullmama -
      Excellent article @JeannieCO thank you for this wonderful information!
    1. KMARINO's Avatar
      KMARINO -
      Very informative I read every bit of the article, great job @JeannieCO, Thank goodness I have not had to deal with this issue.......... yet!!! lol
    1. cali baker's Avatar
      cali baker -
      I agree, this article is very, very helpful and informative. The pictures are just great in showing us what to look out for. Great job, @JeannieCO !
      @ChrisRN, i've heard of using Listerine too!
    1. JeannieCO's Avatar
      JeannieCO -
      Quote Originally Posted by ModernFemme View Post
      Duoxo shampoo/wipes really helped this for Remi (but we caught it before it got bad)
      I will addd those the shampoo to the list then.

      Quote Originally Posted by pdolphin27 View Post
      @JeannieCo Thank you so much for this, I never knew about any of this.
      I never heard of them either until last year I think. I was glad I knew what it was though. I save $$$$.

      Quote Originally Posted by KMARINO View Post
      Very informative I read every bit of the article, great job @JeannieCO, Thank goodness I have not had to deal with this issue.......... yet!!! lol
      Sally was a trooper with her. Maybe it was her high pain tolerance or that she was still new in our house and was behaving. But she was an angel during the processs.

      Quote Originally Posted by cali baker View Post
      I agree, this article is very, very helpful and informative. The pictures are just great in showing us what to look out for. Great job, @JeannieCO !
      @ChrisRN, i've heard of using Listerine too!
      I placed it in the health section too as a sticky so it'll be easy for everyone to find for others if needed.
    1. Marine91's Avatar
      Marine91 -
      Great info. Thank you @JeannieCO
    1. ZeusCsmommy's Avatar
      ZeusCsmommy -
      I guess that's what Zeus had. We just cleaned it and put hydrocortisone cream it went away withing 2-3days. We sure got lucky since I didn't to all that stuff. We also kept him from licking and scratching his paws.
    1. ChanelnBrutus's Avatar
      ChanelnBrutus -
      Great Job as always @JeannieCO Very good information for us all
    1. agingermom's Avatar
      agingermom -
      Wow!! Arnold has one of these and I had no idea what it was. It was a fluke I saw the pix !! Thank you so much
    1. Chumley's Avatar
      Chumley -
      Chumley got his right as this was published. very helpful thanks so much Jeannie! Especially for all the Pm's I bothered you with!
    1. Susan in Savannah's Avatar
      Susan in Savannah -
      My Bear-Bear's were thought to possibly be a problem from the Demodex mange he was covered in when he was surrendered to my Vet. I don't have pics, but they would look like a bump on his puddin' webs then would look exactly like a miniature volcano. Never had anything but clear fluid come from them either, but my baby was in pain & limped around. My vet gave him a med that had steroid & antibiotic combined, along with soaks. Thankfully, the older Bear-Bear has gotten, the less frequent these eruptions are--thanks for a great article & wonderful suggestions on alternative things to use!!
    1. chopkins's Avatar
      chopkins -
      thank you @JeannieCO !!!!...I have been following this to a tee and its looking better and better!!!

    1. JeannieCO's Avatar
      JeannieCO -
      Quote Originally Posted by chopkins View Post
      thank you @JeannieCO !!!!...I have been following this to a tee and its looking better and better!!!

      Oh you're very welcome. Sally (my rescue senior) got one shortly after we rescued her. I had read about them here but had no experience so I researched and the article is the info I gathered. Be sure to treat until fully gone, that was my mistake. They're nasty buggers but so treatable. Hope Ernie's heal fast.
    1. dolphin's Avatar
      dolphin -
      Quote Originally Posted by JeannieCO View Post
      Oh you're very welcome. Sally (my rescue senior) got one shortly after we rescued her. I had read about them here but had no experience so I researched and the article is the info I gathered. Be sure to treat until fully gone, that was my mistake. They're nasty buggers but so treatable. Hope Ernie's heal fast.
      Have you ever heard of or seen a cyst on the fold on the face?
    1. AngusBaby's Avatar
      AngusBaby -
      We've been battling this for a year now with our bully, Angus. He's seen 6 different vets and have gotten 6 different explanations, treatment plans, etc. He's had skin scrapes, investigative surgery, x-rays, numerous directions to change his food, etc. Nothing seems to have any effect. In the meantime, our poor bulldog has been on Prednisone for over a year as this is the only thing that keeps his swelling down. We just had an allergy test done this week and are waiting for the results. I'm not convinced that this will shed any new light on the cause.
      His feet look exactly like the pictures you posted above, even with the ruptures and bloody seepage. We have tried some of the treatments above, but after reading your directions, we obviously have not done them for long enough or in the right combination. We've spent well over $1000 trying to find the cause and develop a treatment plan to control this condition. At this point we are soooo frustrated, we don't know what to do next!
    1. JennyBean's Avatar
      JennyBean -
      Great information!! Poor Farley has splayed toes and came into rescue with one of these nasty things. It was a constant battle trying to get it under control. I think it took a good 9 months to get his feet looking good as they can and a few vet visits. I wish I found this article back then.*lol* He still gets his epsom salt soaks when being bathed 2 -3 times a week. This helps me clean out the dirt and crud under is feet and toes. I used to soak 2-3 times a day when we first got him...