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The other day, my friend claimed that their Pitbull was a great swimmer because they had webbed feet.
Puzzled, I casually mentioned to them that Pitbulls do not in fact have webbed feet, which of course led to a heated debate and the phone coming out to show me photographic evidence.
To my surprise, their dog did indeed have webbed feet, but upon closer inspection, I was less sure that I was actually looking at a purebred Pitbull.
Do Pitbulls have webbed feet?
Pitbulls do not have webbed feet unless they have genes from a water dog or other breed that has webbed feet in their background. They may also have an abnormality affecting the growth of their bones or skin, but “purebred” Pitbulls do not have webbing.
But let’s dive a little deeper into this topic with everything you need to know next time your friend claims that their Pittie has webbed feet!
Why Don’t Pitbulls Have Webbed Feet?
First of all, let’s talk about that word “Pitbull.”
In the United States, Pitbulls are in fact not recognized as a distinct breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC), which is still the worldwide standard of dog registries.
Because of this, many Americans end up using the term Pitbull as a catch-all word to describe many different dogs with short legs, big heads, and large mouths.
However, the United Kennel Club, or UKC, does recognize the American Pitbull Terrier as a breed and has established breed standards for it.
According to those standards, Pitbulls should not have webbed feet. This is because, historically, Pitbulls have not been bred to be water dogs.
Webbed feet exist in breeds that were bred to swim through the water very quickly, like Poodles and other water dogs.
Their webbing acts as a paddle, the same as a scuba diver’s flippers helping them move through the water more quickly.
Pitbulls, who were bred for hunting and eventually sport fighting, gained no advantage from webbed feet, so breeders did not work to instill this characteristic in them.
While it is true that some amount of skin does always stretch between the digits of their claws, that does not constitute true “webbing.”
Just look at your own hand with your fingers stretched out and you will see a similar amount of skin stretched between the crevices of your fingers, but that does not mean that you have webbed hands.
Webbing is a very specific, particular characteristic that only a few breeds of dogs have, and Pitbulls are not one of them.
Why Does My Pitbull Have Webbed Feet?
It is possible that you are confusing the slight webbing that all dogs have between their claws with proper webbed feet.
However, if you are sure that your Pitbull has full-blown webbing between their claws, there are a couple of reasons for that.
Reason 1 – Mix Breed
Because there is no breed standard for Pitbulls in the United States, most Pitbulls are a hodgepodge of different genetics.
There are some dedicated breeders in the United States who are working to preserve, adhere to, and gain recognition for Pitbull breeding standards in the United States, but those breeders and dogs represent a much smaller minority of the “Pitbull” population than mixed breeds and rescues.
There is a good chance that the Pitbull you adopted from your local shelter or even if you purchased a puppy from an affordable breeder that your Pitbull has the genes of other breeds of dogs in it.
Many dogs that look like Pitbulls are actually crossbreeds. If a Staffordshire Terrier, for instance, mated with a Labrador, the resulting puppy could end up looking very much like a Pitbull. Because Labradors have webbing and Staffordshire terriers do not, it is possible that all, some, or none of the puppies in the resulting litter could have webbed feet.
It may be worth getting a genetic test done on your Pitbull to find out if they have any genetic predisposition towards webbed feet.
You can even pick up one of these DNA testing kits for your dog off of Amazon these days. The results will give you a breakdown of the breeds that your dog has genetic makeup for.
If your Pitbull is crossed with any of the following breeds, there is a good chance they will still look like a Pitbull but may have webbed feet:
- Labrador Retriever
- Portuguese Water Dog
- American or Irish Water Spaniel
- German Short or Wire Haired Pointer
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Reason 2 – Genetic Abnormality
If you have a Pitbull that has webbed feet, hopefully, it is simply an interesting genetic quirk resulting from your dog’s unique genetic background.
However, it is possible that your Pitbull’s feet are webbed as a result of a genetic disorder that has left their claws fused together, leaving what appears to be webbed feet.
It may be that the extent of the genetic mutation or abnormality begins and ends at your dog’s feet. Having webbed feet is a mutation, one that can crop up even in humans without causing other negative symptoms.
However, sometimes webbing is just the tip of the iceberg.
Many times, this webbing is associated with other formative or developmental issues, commonly scoliosis, cleft palate or lips, or other malformations of the bones.
Your Pitbull may be more prone to degenerative bone issues like hip dysplasia or luxating patellas too.
It is important for you to know that this is not true webbed feet. Webbed feet do not cause these issues.
Instead, the appearance of webbed feet often happens in conjunction with these other issues as a result of a more pervasive disorder.
The next time you are at your vet, point out the webbed feet and ask them what they think about it.
Probably, it’s just a genetic quirk but if it is joined with other symptoms, it may be an indicator that something else is up.
If Your Pitbull Has Webbed Feet…
Take them swimming! Dogs with webbed feet are exceptionally good swimmers, able to go faster and for longer periods of time. It’s all a great way to give your Pittie some extra exercise!
You can pick up one of these ChuckIt! toys and head out to the lake with your web-toed Pitbull.
This webbing between their toes doesn’t just help them when they are submerged in water though. It increases their traction, especially in mud and snow.
The webbing gives them better traction in almost all terrains, including in the sand. The webbing allows them to stay on top of the rugged terrain rather than poke into it like the individual toes of a dog without webbing. It may even help them run a little faster than other dogs, too!
It also makes them exceptional diggers in dirt, sand, and snow. You may be surprised to find that they have made themselves an incredibly deep hole to hang out in over a very surprisingly short amount of time.
However, webbed toes do have downsides.
Because of the thin and excess skin on their paws, which are usually the dirtiest part of them, stuck down in the dirt when they’re outside, they are prone to picking up hitchhikers.
Fleas, ticks, and other parasites and fungi tend to accumulate around the webbing in between the dog’s toes. If your Pitbull has webbed toes, be sure to check them out frequently to make sure that this very thin skin is in good shape and not playing house to any unwanted visitors.
You will also want to make sure that you are particularly careful around grooming time. Most Pitbulls will not need to have the fur around their pads trimmed, but then again, most Pitbulls do not have webbed feet.
Because webbed feet are also commonly found on water dogs, who have hair instead of fur, your Pitbull may have an accumulation of hair in places most Pitties do not, including around their toes.
While it is true that most Pitbulls do not have webbed feet, do not underestimate the colossal power that genes have in the world.
An ancestor from long ago could impart this webbing on to what now appears to just be a Pitbull. They could be 7/8 purebred Pitbull, but that one Poodle grandmother may still have slipped her webbed feet into the mix.
Conversely, it could also be a result of a genetic mutation that’s causing the skin or bones between their claws to fuse together instead of being appropriately separate.
This may cause other parts of the body to fuse or not fuse correctly.
Regardless, it’s safe to say that if your Pitbull has webbed feet, there are definitely some funky influences going on in their genes.