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Your Local Vet Clinic and Animal Hospital

Interdigital Furunculosis in Dogs: An In-Depth Guide to Abscesses Between the Toes

Interdigital Furunculosis in Dogs

Overview of Interdigital Furunculosis

Interdigital furunculosis, also known as interdigital pyoderma or toe cysts, is a painful and recurrent skin condition in dogs. This disorder is characterized by the development of abscesses or localized infections within the webbing between a dog’s toes. These abscesses cause swelling, redness, and discomfort, often leading to lameness and excessive licking or chewing of the affected area.

Causes of Interdigital Furunculosis

Bacterial Infections

The primary cause of interdigital furunculosis is bacterial infection, predominantly Staphylococcus pseudintermedius. These bacteria are commonly found on the skin of healthy dogs but can invade the deeper layers of the skin when the skin barrier is compromised.

Allergies and Irritants

Allergies, such as atopic dermatitis or food allergies in dogs, can also contribute to the development of interdigital furunculosis. These allergies may cause inflammation and itching, leading to self-trauma as the dog licks or chews the affected area.

Foreign Bodies

Occasionally, interdigital furunculosis can be caused by foreign bodies, like grass awns or thorns, becoming lodged in the webbing between the toes. These foreign bodies can cause irritation and inflammation, leading to abscess formation.

Conformation and Gait

Certain breeds, such as Bulldogs and Labradors, are predisposed to developing interdigital furunculosis due to their conformation and gait. These breeds have a higher incidence of splayed or flattened feet, which can contribute to the development of interdigital furunculosis.

Diagnosis of Interdigital Furunculosis

Physical Examination

A thorough physical examination by a veterinarian is crucial for diagnosing interdigital furunculosis. The veterinarian will inspect the affected area for signs of inflammation, swelling, and discharge.

Cytology and Culture

In some cases, a sample of the discharge or a skin swab may be collected for cytology and bacterial culture. This allows the veterinarian to identify the type of bacteria causing the infection and determine the most appropriate antibiotic treatment.


Radiographs or ultrasound may be necessary to rule out foreign bodies or other underlying causes of the infection, such as bone or joint abnormalities.

Treatment of Interdigital Furunculosis


Oral antibiotics are the primary treatment for interdigital furunculosis. The choice of antibiotic is typically based on the results of bacterial culture and sensitivity testing. The course of antibiotics usually lasts for at least 3-4 weeks or until the infection has completely resolved.

Topical Treatments

Topical treatments, such as medicated shampoos or ointments, can also be beneficial in managing interdigital furunculosis. These treatments can help reduce inflammation and provide relief from itching and discomfort.

Pain Management

Anti-inflammatory medications, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), may be prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation in the affected area.

Addressing Underlying Causes

Identifying and addressing any underlying causes, such as allergies or foreign bodies, is crucial in preventing recurrence of interdigital furunculosis.

Preventing Interdigital Furunculosis

Regular Grooming

Keeping your dog’s feet clean and well-groomed can help prevent the development of interdigital furunculosis. Regularly trim the hair between the toes and check for any signs of irritation or infection.

Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight for your dog can help reduce the pressure on their feet and lower the risk of interdigital furunculosis

Paw Care

Taking care of your dog’s paws is essential in preventing interdigital furunculosis. Ensure their nails are trimmed regularly, and routinely examine their paw pads for any signs of injury or infection. Additionally, use pet-safe paw balm to keep their paw pads moisturized and protected.

Allergy Management

If your dog suffers from allergies, work with your veterinarian to identify the specific allergens and develop an appropriate allergy management plan. This may include dietary modifications, allergy medications, or immunotherapy.

Regular Veterinary Check-ups

Regular veterinary check-ups are crucial in monitoring your dog’s overall health and detecting any signs of interdigital furunculosis early. Early detection and treatment can help prevent complications and improve your dog’s prognosis.

Environmental Modifications

Minimizing your dog’s exposure to irritants and allergens can help reduce the risk of interdigital furunculosis. Keep your dog’s environment clean, and avoid exposing them to areas with known allergens or irritants, such as pollen-rich fields or chemically-treated lawns.

Prognosis and Management of Interdigital Furunculosis

Interdigital furunculosis can be a challenging condition to manage, as it often has a tendency to recur. However, with appropriate treatment and diligent care, most dogs can achieve a good quality of life. In some cases, long-term management may be necessary, including regular use of topical treatments or ongoing antibiotic therapy.

It is essential to work closely with your veterinarian to develop a comprehensive treatment and management plan tailored to your dog’s specific needs. Lesions that reoccur could be an indication of an underlying disease such as canine atopic dermatitis. By addressing any underlying causes, diligently monitoring your dog’s paws, and providing prompt treatment for any flare-ups, you can help your dog live a comfortable and happy life.

In conclusion, interdigital furunculosis is a painful and recurrent skin condition in dogs that can significantly impact their quality of life. By understanding the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention strategies, you can help your dog avoid this painful condition and maintain optimal paw health. Regular veterinary care, proper grooming, and addressing any underlying causes are crucial components in managing interdigital furunculosis and ensuring your dog’s overall well-being.

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