There are few things as painful as cuts, lesions or warts on your feet, can you imagine how painful it would be for a dog to have a growth between their toes? Interdigital cysts are fairly common in most breeds of dogs, especially those with longer hair between the pads of the feet. In most dogs cysts start very similar to pimples or ingrown hairs and are infections in the sebaceous glands (oil glands) or the hair roots called follicular cysts. These cysts will occur between the toes and around the bottoms of the feet and, in the case of true cysts, will often occur in more than one foot. Typically dogs that are prone to cysts will have them reoccur throughout their life and there is little that owners can do to prevent the problem. They can, however, keep the hair trimmed between the pads and watch for any early signs of redness, swelling or lesions between the toes.
Once the cyst is present surgery is usually the most effective way to remove the problem. The cyst and surrounding affected tissue will be removed and the area will be treated with antibiotics and kept clean and dry until healed. Rarely will the cyst come back in the same spot if the affected tissue has been completely removed.
More common than true interdigital cysts in dogs are localized areas of skin infections known as pyoderma. This condition produces a cyst-like lesion between the toes that is often very moist, smelly and very infected looking. The areas of the foot will typically be hot and somewhat sensitive to the touch. Often infections between the toes can be a result of allergic reactions and irritation of the area by constant licking that keeps the skin between the toes moist and ideal for growing nasty infections. Dogs that have other infections in their body including urinary tract infections, extreme parasite infections, flea problems or ear infections may be more prone to this type of lesion or cyst between the toes. These areas can also be present around the top of the foot or even at the base of the foot up to the dewclaw area. Treatment in this case involves clipping the hair in the area, cleaning two or three times a day with a strong antibacterial treatment and complete drying of the area. Dogs will have to wear an Elizabethan collar if they are prone to licking and this is what has caused the problem. A full allergy test should be done to determine the source of the irritant.
Finally some cysts between the feet can also be tumors from skin cancer and other skin related diseases. In these cases the vet will usually biopsy the growth and check for cancerous cells. In cases where it is cancer surgical procedures to remove the toe or even the foot may be required, depending on how far the cancer has spread and how malignant it is. Thankfully this type of condition is often detected very early so such drastic measures are not required.