Note for Pet Owners:

This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

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Interdigital cysts are common in some breeds of dog . They are soft to firm fluid-filled swellings that form in the web of skin between the toes. They sometimes rupture and discharge fluid or pus, and sometimes open sinus tracts form.

Interdigital abscesses may form as a result of the penetration of the skin by a foreign body - frequently grass awns.

The underlying cause of interdigital cysts is usually unknown and in fact they are not true cysts, but they form as a result of inflammation.. Bacterial infection is thought to be a secondary complication if it is not associated with a foreign body penetration

Breed Occurrence
The following breeds of dog are said to develop interdigital cysts commonly :

  • English Bulldogs
  • German Shepherd Dogs
  • German Short-haired Pointers
  • Great Danes
  • Pekingese
  • Scottish Terriers
  • West Highland White Terriers


The common signs are :

  • Matted hair over the interdigital space
  • Pigmentation of the skin and hair between the toes (red-brown-black)
  • Soft to firm swelling(s) in the web of skin between the toes
  • Discharging sinus in the interdigital skin
  • Increased licking or biting of the feet between the toes
  • Lameness

Bacterial infection is a secondary complication.

Diagnosis is based upon the typical location and appearance of the swellings in the interdigital skin. XRays may be taken to detect foreign material eg metal, or underlying involvement of bone, and a biopsy may be taken to eliminate the possibility of cancer.

Medical treatment involves the use of corticosteroids (eg prednisolone) which are effective in some cases. 

Surgical exploration of the cysts will help to identify and remove any foreign material eg grass awns.

Surgical removal (excision) off the swellings is the usual outcome if a patient does not respond to medical treatment. Unfortunately recurrence at the same site or in another interdigital web is common.

Good if a foreign body can be identified and removed. Guarded if no primary cause can be found because recurrence is common.

Long term problems

  • Recurrence
  • Osteomyelitis if underlying bone gets involved with infected "cysts".


Updated October 2013