How We Healed Interdigital Furunculosis Naturally
Has your dog ever had boil like, red, bumps between his toes?
Licking them often?
Experiencing visible swelling and inflammation of their toes?
These are some of the signs of interdigital furunculosis. There are two main ways dogs can develop this uncomfortable condition.
1) Short haired dogs, like the bully breeds, have short hair between their toes that punctures the skin and finds its way into the toe. Once the hair is imbedded into the toe an infection can develop. This infection is what the red, hot boil like bumps on their toes manifest as.
2) Food allergies that manifest as an infection between the webs of the dogs toes. These boils are itchy, uncomfortable, red, can sometimes lightly leak.
I'm going to go over what I did for my pup, Leroy, who was suffering with interdigital furunculosis due to the later cause, food allergies. This is only our experience and is not necessarily a recommended treatment for all or any cases. I'm only retelling our story and explaining what worked for Leroy based on his condition, constitution and personality. I'm an herbalist, not a vet.
If you want support helping your dog heal from interdigital cysts while getting to the root issue, digestive intolerances, check out our 1:1 support space where we dive into healing the acute issue, the cysts and tackle the real issue, digestive intolerances together.
I started seeing swelling on one foot and specifically one toe. We have foxtails where we live so that was my first concern. He had also jumped on a porcupine a few months back so there was a concern that maybe there was still a spine stuck in his foot that was causing an infection. I took him to the vet to get a diagnosis. The vet confirmed that it was neither of the two above and that there was nothing actually "stuck" in his toe. The one toe was also not the only toe affected. There were other little "boils" between some of his back toes and some on his other front paw. The one toe that was very inflamed was just the most affected and inflamed. The vet explained that this was interdigital furunculosis and that it was most likely caused by a food allergy that has manifested as an infection in his paws.
He was prescribed antibiotics for 8 weeks, a steroid to be taken for 3 weeks and medicated wipes.
This is when I told her I did not want to go that route, asked for all the details she could give me about his specific situation and thanked her greatly for her understanding and helping to identifying Leroys condition. I was very grateful for our vet. Even though she is a conventional vet and knows that antibiotics will help the situation, she respected my decision, acknowledged that antibiotics are over prescribed and encouraged me to try a more "natural" way and contact her to let her know how I helped Leroy, if I was to find a solution on my own.
When we got home, this is when we hit the ground running.
The infection was pretty intense on one toe so I knew I wanted to use a strong internal antibacterial in the beginning. Since the vet has said clinically, using pharmaceutical antibiotics would help this situation, I knew we were going to start using oil of oregano. Oregano oil is an extremely powerful remedy that I don't use lightly. It can be compared to using pharmaceutical antibiotics because it kills all bacteria, good and bad. In my analogy of the castle wall (see previous blogs about this, here) oregano oil is one of the most powerful "bombs". Whenever oregano oil is used it is important to take probiotics as well, at opposite times of the day and when the oregano oil's course is complete to replenish the beneficial bacteria that it has killed off. When oregano oil is used to kill off bacteria, the body doesn't become resistant to this remedy, like it can with pharmacutical antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance can be a big problem. When pharmaceutical antibiotics are taken too frequently, bacteria and viruses often become resistant to them. When this happens, the next time your dog has a bacterial or viral condition, the pharmacutical antibiotics could not work. Not a great situation to be in. This is why utilizing herbs can be a great alternative. No two plants are exactly alike. Their compounds are always slightly changing from batch to batch depending on where the herb is grown, what time of season it is, how it was harvested, etc. This helps bacteria and viruses to not be able to become resistant to herbal remedies, since it's not always exactly the same. Cool, right?
So back to oregano oil. I used 1 drop 3x daily. I took a small spoonful of raw lamb and placed one drop on the lamb and fed it to Leroy. I chose lamb because it's a cooling meat and it is what we decided on for his protein while we figured out his allergies. More on that to come later. He also gobbles it down without having to chew, so it seemed to be the easiest route to go. Oregano oil has a very strong taste and smell. Covering it up with the taste of something wonderful really helped. He still knew it was on there and gave me a weird look every time I fed it to him but he still ate it no problem. He now knows that when I ask if he wants his "remedies" he gets excited and know's he's going to get a spoonful of funny tasting lamb!
I went with the oil of oregano drops over capsules because most capsules are intended for a 150 lb human. He's a big dog but he still only weighs 70 lbs. This way I could give him less at once and be able to regulate it better.
One thing that is very important to know! Oil of oregano and oregano essential oil are NOT the same thing! DO NOT GIVE YOUR DOG STRAIGHT OREGANO ESSENTIAL OIL. Oil of oregano does use oreganos essential oil but it is diluted with correct amounts of olive oil. Essential oils can be very harmful if taken internally and not formulated correctly. Essential oils are extremely concentrated and can severely damage the mucus membranes from top to bottom of the digestive tract if not taken correctly. This is why I don't use oil of oregano lightly, like stated above. Only purchase an oil of oregano that has been formulated by a qualified herbalist.
Along with oil of oregano, I also utilized colloidal silver. Colloidal silver is a great pathogen fighter that helps kill bacteria and viruses. It can be used for a handful of other conditions including but not limited to, ear infections, yeast infection, rashes, wounds and bacterial eye infections. I split two doses of a 10 ppm (part per million) solution between three meals a day. I added this solution directly to Leroy meals. It's tasteless and odorless so it is very easy to consume. There's a lot of controversy on the difference between 10/100/500/1000 PPM solutions. That conversation is for another day and there's a lot of (differing) research out there that you can look into if you find different dilutions and are curious of the benefits of each. We used 10 ppm because it's what I believe to work best for us from our experiences.
Last but not least, I changed his diet up to a very simple diet to remove any potential allergens. This part is crucial to this two part process. First part, kill the bacterial infection. Second part, remove the allergen that caused the bacterial infection in the first place. I chose to feed Leroy only raw lamb until we received our allergy test results that we sent in. I chose lamb because it is a cooling meat. When an infection is present, you do not want to be adding more "heat" provoking foods. Lamb is also a less common allergen for dogs. I stopped giving him all supplements, treats, fruits and vegetables to let his body just digest one protein while focusing on fighting off the infection and healing.
Pictured here is his paw when we took Leroy to the vet for a diagnosis:
After only one week, there was a dramatic improvement in his paw. Pictured below.
I was very happy with the results so far, even though you can still see some redness and inflammation.
At this point I reduced the amount of oil of oregano I was giving him to 1-2 x daily since it is so strong and the majority of the infection as been killed off. I started using a colloidal silver that also has olive leaf extract and echinacea in it. Olive leaf is another great antibacterial but is not as harsh as oil of oregano. Since the infection is more under control I wanted to bring in a effective but more gentle herb that will continue the healing process but spare his digestive flora.
Echinacea is an immune stimulant (immune activator / soldier in the castle analogy) and will help stimulate his own immune system to help fight off the bacterial infection. Echinacea also helps drain the lymphatic system which is the cellular waste system of the body. When the lymphatic system is backed up and not draining properly, the cells cannot remove cellular waste efficiently. Since there was a decent infection in his body, it is beneficial to help support his cellular waste system release any toxic overload.
Along with these antibacterials, immune system activators and lymphatic system drainage herbs, I started to give him small amounts of liver tonics and medicinal mushrooms. I simmered milk thistle seeds, burdock root, turkey tail mushrooms and Reishi mushroom powder in water and poured over some of his meals. Milk thistle and burdock tea will help his liver process and soften the burden of any toxic material that needs to be released from his body. Turkey Tail and Reishi mushrooms help build his immune system back up strong again so it's not a susceptible host for bacteria and viruses. If you look at my castle analogy, Turkey tail and Reishi are the castle walls.
After receiving his allergy test results, we now know which foods to keep out of his diet for at least eight weeks. This gives the body time to "fast" in a way from foods it has intolerances to. After that we can reintroduce certain foods to see if there is any reaction. There are some foods that he is just simply intolerant to and there's probably not much we can do about it. Knowing which foods to keep out of his diet while he's healing is key.
Here is his paw today, if you look in-between certain toes you can see where the main infection sites were but they are looking 95% better :
I know there are a lot of dogs out there suffering from allergy causing interdigital furunculosis and I hope this story can help some folks think about other ways that they can help their dogs. Western medicine is a powerful tool, especially for acute situations and saves a lot of lives. Yet, there are other ways to handle chronic situations like interdigital furunculosis, yeast infections, ear infections, digestive disturbances, systemic yeast, allergies and more.
Did this help you? Let me know in the comments!
If you want to check out two other great blog posts that explain how your dogs (and your own) immune system works and how different herbs work with it, click and "here" for "10 Ways To Keep Your Dogs Immunity Strong" and "here" for "How To Support Your 3 Stages Of Immunity" for more information.