Have you ever been playing with or grooming your pit bull and looked down to discover that there’s skin between your dog’s toes? Like a duck!
However, what is the difference between ‘webbed feet’ and simply having a bit of extra skin? Is this something to be concerned about? What does this mean for your pit bull? Does this make them good swimmers? Do pitbulls have webbed feet?
What Are Webbed Feet?
Webbed feet are what you call feet that have a thin membrane of skin between their toes. This is very useful for swimming, as it helps the dog to be able to pull themselves through the water quickly. You can also see examples of webbed feet on waterfowl, like ducks, geese, or penguins.
A number of popular dog breeds have been bred to have webbed toes, but only a few breeds have ‘true’ webbed feet. These were mostly dogs used for hunting in wetlands, such as Portuguese water dogs, Labrador retrievers, and Dachshunds.
However, there's a difference between having webbed feet and simply having a membrane between your toes.
So, Do Pitbulls Have Webbed Feet?
The short answer is no, they do not.
Pitbulls have some genetics passed down from their ancestors. However, it's pretty rare for pit bulls to have that specific genetic mutation.
Since pitbulls were bred more for blood sports and hunting, it wasn’t really necessary for them to have webbed feet. This means that webbed feet weren't a trait that was bred into the dog breed.
That being said, that's mostly true for ‘purebred’ pitbulls. Pit bulls themselves are not really purebred; they are a classification of dogs that include breeds such as the Staffordshire bull terrier, the American bully, and the American Pitbull terrier.
Pit bulls also tend to have a lot of mixed blood in them. Mixed pitbulls, especially those with some labrador retriever or water dog ancestry, may still have that gene that causes webbed feet.
Obviously, the best way to tell is by looking at your dog’s paws. If you can see distinct lines between their toes, it's most likely just a skin membrane. If the webbing spreads all the way down to the bottom of their toes when splayed - then they may have webbed feet.
Almost all puppies are born with significant webbing on their toes, but in most cases, this skin will slowly shrink as their paws grow. You can also find some webbing at the base of your own human fingers.
This membrane on dog’s paws stops them from over-splaying and provides better grip and traction.
Other Reasons For Webbing…
Another reason your pitbull may have webbed feet is due to a genetic condition.
Some pitbulls can be born with a genetic condition that causes their toes to be fused together while developing in the womb. This can give their toes the appearance of webbed feet, even if they don’t naturally have them.
Most of the time, this is just a genetic quirk. In fact, some humans can be born with the same webbed-fingers mutation, but it can sometimes be associated with some health risks, so it's normally best to show it to a vet the next time you’re there.
Benefits of Webbed Feet
As discussed, one of the biggest benefits of natural webbed feet is allowing dogs to move easily through water and mud.
In fact, webbed feet offer a lot of traction for all types of ground, including sand. Since their toes don't sink into the soft ground, webbed-footed dogs don't need as much energy to keep moving.
Swimming can be a good way to keep your dog active, and if your pit bull has webbed feet, they will probably have a much easier time in the water. However, just because a dog has webbed feet does not necessarily mean they like water or want to go in it.
In fact, while pit bulls can swim, they are not really good swimmers at all. They are rather muscular dogs and carry a bit more fat around their middle. This can weigh them down and make swimming a chore. With their shorter snouts and necks, it is also harder for them to hold their head clear of the water.
Membraned toes also make for good digging tools. A wider surface area means more room to scoop and shovel. Many terriers have mild webbing to help them with this, as chasing animals down burrows or holes was very useful when hunting.
The Downsides to Webbing and Membranes
True Webbed feet and skin membranes don’t have any massive downsides. But they can still pose a risk to your dog.
More surface area, skin folds, and blood vessels mean that it's easier for dirt, thorns, and stones to get tangled up and caught in your pit bull’s foot. Even in urban areas, a lot of junk on the sidewalk can easily get trapped between their toes.
This can be difficult for a dog to remove on their own and can even lead to sores and infections if left untreated.
If your dog has webbed feet or large membranes, you will have to check their feet regularly to ensure they’re staying healthy. Alternatively, you could also help them out by investing in a pair of doggy shoes, these will help prevent dirt and debris from collecting and causing abscesses when you’re not looking.
Parasites like ticks and fleas may also take advantage of the undisturbed spot between your dog's toes. Dogs with webbed feet are far more likely to suffer from parasites or have their parasites remain unseen/untreated.
So it is a good idea to give those webbed feet a proper bath - and not just for the sake of your floors.
Unfortunately, pit bulls with webbed feet due to a genetic disorder, in which the webbed toes are referred to as ‘Syndactyly,’ can also suffer from several other symptoms due to the mutation.
These can include.
- Facial deformities such as cleft lip or cleft palate
- Shortened leg bones that make dogs more prone to limping and bone fractures
- Scoliosis (A condition in which the spine snakes, curves, or is skew)
Some of these dogs also have the bones of their toes joined, and not just the skin. This type of webbed feet can cause a dog to be unstable when running, cause limping, and make a dog more prone to developing arthritis later in life.
If you’re concerned about the cause of your pit bull’s webbed feet, take a look at their genetic ancestry (where possible) and see if they have any proper webbed feet breeds in their line. Otherwise, a vet might be able to diagnose the cause.
Do pitbulls have webbed feet? Well…it depends.
Pitbulls have webbed feet if they have an ancestor that belonged to one of the breeds that were bred to have webbed feet. These dog breeds include Labrador retrievers, Water dogs, and Dachshunds. Otherwise, they may have a genetic condition.
However, the average pit bull does not have proper webbed feet. They’re more likely just to have a small membrane between their toes. All puppies are born with webbed feet, which will normally shrink as they age, as is often the case with ‘purebred’ pit bulls.
Webbed feet are great because they offer dogs much more traction in water and soft terrain such as mud, sand, or snow. They also help dogs to balance more quickly and can be very useful when digging.
Unfortunately, webbed feet can also make a dog more prone to getting injured when walking, developing abscesses between their toes, and susceptible to being preyed upon by parasites such as ticks and fleas.
Webbed feet caused by genetic mutations may be harmless, but it can also mean that a dog is prone to other genetic abnormalities such as cleft lip, shortened leg bones, and scoliosis. If you are concerned that your dog may have any of these conditions - then it's best to seek a vet’s opinion.
Whether your pit bull has regular feet, webbed feet, or joined toes, we are sure you want to keep those feet as safe as possible. A dog’s paws are very important to their overall health and are also the part most often exposed to harsh conditions and parasites.
This is why we at Sparkpaws believe having a pair of Dog Shoes on hand is important. They can help protect your dog’s feet from extreme temperatures, stones, thorns, parasites, and abscess-causing dirt.
Whatever their feet, we hope that your pit bull greatly enjoys their next outing with you!