Interdigital furuncles (toe cysts) develop on the webs of a dog's paws between his toes. The painful, knotty sores are inflamed tissue that is almost always caused by a deep bacterial infection.
Painful, knotty sores or inflamed tissue between the toes, not directly caused by excessive boredom paw licking.
Dogs have either webbed feet or very short, bristly fur on their feet that easily becomes ingrown and causes infection. Another cause is a foreign body like a foxtail seed that implants itself in the webbing. Occasionally, a microscopic skin mite that causes demodicosis (a type of mange) may prompt toe cysts.
Diagnosis can be made by veterinary examination.
Toe cysts almost always need treatment with oral antibiotics, and they sometimes require surgery to remove a foreign body. Demodectic mange requires specific medical diagnosis and treatment to cure. First aid can help relieve a dog's discomfort and help speed recovery.
- Remove any foreign object - Before doing anything else, examine your dog's paw for a foreign body like a grass awn or splinter. If you can see and reach the material, 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.
- Soak the paws - Soak your dog's feet 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. You can fill the tub so that your dog can stand in the water and soak all 4 feet at once. Se sure to rinse and dry his feet after he soaks, because moisture makes the pads more attractive to infection. Also, Epsom salts are laxative if swallowed, so you don't want your dog to lick off too much or to lap up any of the water that he's standing in.
If surgery is required - If the sores fail to heal despite your efforts, surgery may be necessary to try to clean out any ingrown hair, sharp seeds, 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.
After surgery, the vet may tape a bandage to your dog's paw. Keep the bandage clean and dry by slipping a plastic bag over the foot whenever your dog goes outside.
You will need to change the bandage every 2 - 3 days. Watch for swelling above or below the bandage or a sudden interest in licking. This could mean trouble beneath the covering that may need medical attention.
Allergies - people with hay fever often sneeze a lot and develop itchy, red, watery eyes. Dogs with hay fever - more correctly called atopy - instead develop itchy skin, especially on their skin.
When toe cysts develop and won't heal, or they keep coming back, it's probably that your dog is allergic to something that he is breathing or eating. It could be pollen, dust, molds, or just about anything that also affects people.
If you can figure out what is triggering the reaction and get rid of it, your dog's itchiness will go away. Unfortunately, that is rarely easy to do. There are a number of skin tests that your veterinarian can perform to help identify the culprits.
Many dogs may start licking a paw from an itch, but the licking turns into a habit and eventually, sores develop. The more they lick, the more the sore itches, and they continue the cycle. The most important thing you can do at home is to stop this cycle by physically restraining your dog from licking and chewing his feet. A cone shaped Elizabethan collar will work wonders.
An antihistamine such as Benadryl can help relieve the itching while the sores heal. The liquid form of Benadryl usually comes in a dose of 12.5mg per teaspoon and pills are 25mg each. Pets will need 1mg per pound of body weight (up to your veterinarians approved maximum) every 6 - 8 hours.
Soak the paw 2 - 3 times every day in warm water with an antiseptic or antibacterial solution. Diluted Betadine Solution or a 5% benzoyl peroxide solution works well.
Toe cysts almost always require long-term prescription antibiotics like penicillin (Oxacillin) or cephalexin (keflex), which you can get from your veterinarian. Your dog may have to take the medicine for up to 8 weeks before the sores heal.
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