Interdigital dermatitis in Cats (Felis) | Vetlexicon
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Interdigital dermatitis

ISSN 2398-2950

Contributor(s) :


  • Inflammatory dermatitis of the interdigital spaces.
  • This is not a specific diagnosis since many underlying diseases can cause this dermatitis.

Presenting signs

  • Erythema and pruritus of the paws.
  • Paronychia may be present in some cases.

Age predisposition

  • It depends on the underlying disease causing the interdigital dermatitis.

Breed/Species predisposition

  • No breed predilection.

Public health considerations

  • None, unless the dermatitis is caused by fungal infections such dermatophytosis Dermatophytosis  (M. canis Microsporum canis ) or sporotrichosis Sporotrichosis. In this case, cautionary measures should be taken to decrease contamination of the environment and infection of people/animal coming in contact with affected animals.

Cost considerations

  • Depending on the underlying cause interdigital dermatitis can be an expensive disease to treat.



Predisposing factors


  • Trauma.
  • Immunosuppression.
  • Underlying allergic disease


  • Most cases present with secondary bacterial and yeast infections regardless of the underlying disease.
  • The infections are caused by the local immunesuppression caused by the skin inflammation.


  • It depends on the underlying disease.


Presenting problems

  • Depending on the underlying disease and the chronicity of the disease clinical signs include:
    • Erythema.
    • Alopecia.
    • Nodules.
    • Draining tracts and purulent exudate.
    • Crusts.
    • Ulcerations.
    • Pain, reluctance to walk.
    • Pruritus.
    • Swelling of the interdigital spaces.
    • Swelling of the nail folds (paronychia).

Client history

  • It depends on the underlying disease.

Clinical signs

  • See presenting problems.

Diagnostic investigation

  • Cytology from interdigital space or nail fold: examination for bacterial or fungal (dermatophyte or yeast) pathogens  Malassezia dermatitis: cytology   Pemphigus foliaceus: cytology 01   Pemphigus foliaceus: cytology 02 .

Confirmation of diagnosis

Discriminatory diagnostic features

  • It depends on the underlying cause.
  • History regarding the progression of the disease, age of onset and initial sign will help ranking differential diagnoses.
  • Skin biopsy Biopsy: skin will help ruling in and out diseases.
  • Cytology may provide helpful information regarding superficial infections and sporotrichosis (feline exudates is usually rich in organisms).


Initial symptomatic treatment

  • It depends on the underlying disease. Empirical treatment is aimed at addressing secondary bacterial and fungal infections while searching for underlying disease.
  • Elizabethan collar to prevent further self-trauma.

Standard treatment

  • Treatment depends upon diagnosis of underlying cause: initial treatment may clear secondary infection allowing accurate diagnosis.
  • Most cats will receive broad spectrum antibiotic (eg Clavamox).
  • Topical therapy to decrease infection and or pruritus is usually prescribed.
  • Lime sulfur is usually prescribed to decrease pruritus, especially in cases where the use of glucocorticoids is not recommended or in cases where the exact underlying cause is not known.
  • Glucocorticoids are contraindicated if allergy testing is likely.



  • It depends on the underlying disease.



  • Infectious disease diagnosed in the early stages usually responds well to treatment.

Reasons for treatment failure

  • Lack of proper identification of underlying cause.
  • Resistant organisms.

Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Foil C S (1995) Facial, pedal, and other regional dermatoses. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 25 (4), 923-944 PubMed.