Dogs with Webbed Feet: The How and Why of Doggy Paddle Paws

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dogs with webbed feet

Did you know that dogs with webbed feet are not that uncommon?

That’s right, webbed feet!

Breed with a membrane that connects individual toes on their paws, giving a webbed effect.

But why have they evolved, and what do they mean for you pet?

Why Do Dogs Have Webbed Feet?

There are a couple of reasons why there are dogs with webbed feet.

Firstly, it can be the result of a developmental issue known as “syndactyly.” We will talk more about that later in this article.

Otherwise, dogs with webbed feet have been bred that way. Owners who wanted dogs that could swim confidently, or tread over mud with ease, decided to selectively breed dogs with this physical attribute.

Do All Dogs Have Webbed Feet? Webbed Dog Feet vs Non-Webbed

You might be surprised to know that there are, in fact, three basic shapes of dog paw:

Cat’s Feet: Don’t get confused here—the so-called “cat’s feet” is a type, or shape, of dog paw. “Cat’s feet” paws are small and round. They are great for stability and endurance. For this reason, breeds that were traditionally used as working dogs were bred to have this shape of paw.

Hare Feet: Hare feet shaped paws are longer and sleeker in appearance. They feature two longer middle toes that are perfect for springing into action and reaching great speeds.

Next time you meet a greyhound or a whippet, check out their paws to see an example of this paw type.

Webbed Feet: Dogs with webbed paws have usually been bred especially to emphasize this trait.

Most dog breeds with additional webbing between their toes were originally used for hunting or retrieving. This would often involve swimming. The webbing between their toes helped them swim with confidence.

More About Dogs That Have Webbed Feet

Regarding the previously mentioned term “syndactyly,” this is the medical term for toes that are fused together.

If just the dog’s toes are fused together, it is known as “simple syndactyly.”

In more complex cases, it can go hand in hand with more serious issues such as a cleft palate, polydactyly (extra digits), shortened tibia-fibula, brachygnathism (a jawline that doesn’t line up properly) and scoliosis (a crooked spine).

Not much is known about syndactyly in dogs.

However, dog breeds with webbed paws tend not to demonstrate the more serious issues related to syndactyly discussed above.

Rather, they are generally happy, healthy dogs (who love a swim too).

Dogs that present with syndactyly, even in its simple form, may require surgery.

The surgery serves to relieve pain related to skin stretching and tightening when pressure is put on the paws.

In more serious cases, the dog may not be able to walk properly until its toes are separated.

dogs with webbed feet

What Dog Breeds Have Webbed Feet?

If you’re a water lover yourself, you likely feel that a four-legged companion who is bred to swim would be a great match. So, let’s have a look at some common breeds of dogs with webbed feet.

English Setter

Bred to “point” as a bird dog, the English setter is amiable and energetic. As such, they will thrive if given plenty of exercise. Bred to take well to water, swimming could well be the perfect way to keep an English setter healthy and happy.

Labrador Retriever

These are one of America’s most loved dogs. Their adorable, outgoing personality and good looks have a lot to do with this. Labrador retrievers were bred to retrieve and have had a long history working in and around water. In fact, most Labradors will happily spend hours playing in the water (or on land, if no water is available).

Newfoundland

The phrase “gentle giant” is a perfect way to sum up these big softies. Known for their sweet, gentle personalities, these dogs were originally bred to rescue people from the water. So, to say Newfoundlands can swim well is somewhat of an understatement. They also have great endurance due to a significant lung capacity. To accommodate such big lungs, however, you need a big body. Depending on gender, they can weigh anywhere from 100 to 150 pounds, and stand up to 28 inches.

Otterhound

If you were the class clown at school, then you will likely identify with this breed’s personality. Scruffy, boisterous and fun yet even tempered, Otterhounds were bred to hunt otters. Their history as an otter hunting dog spans way back to medieval times. They have a thick, waterproof double coat and are talented swimmers and hunters.

Standard Poodle

  

Sometimes at the butt of jokes due to their extravagant hairstyles, the poodle is a lot more than just a fashionista of the dog world. In France, they were used as waterfowl retrievers. Poodles have not lost their abilities in the water and will enjoy a dip when given the chance. Poodles are otherwise known to be very intelligent dogs and great entertainers. Their hypoallergenic coat also makes them a great companion for those that suffer allergies to animal fur.

Portuguese Water Dog

Bred to herd fish and retrieve broken nets in their native country of Portugal, these adventurous dogs are completely at home in the water. Portuguese water dogs are eager to please and therefore a pleasure to train. They are great athletes and need to be given plenty of exercise. They have never forgotten their nautical roots and are now sometimes used as rescue dogs.

Dogs with webbed feet

The diversity that can be found among domestic dog breeds is truly astounding, and their physical attributes give us fascinating insights into the long relationship dogs and humans have shared.

Do you have dogs with webbed feet? Do they love being in the water? Feel free to share your experiences below.

References and Further Reading:

Hanson, R.R., “Congenital and Inherited Disorders of Bones, Joints, and Muscles in Dogs,” Veterinary Manual

Richardson, E.F., Wey, P.D., and Hoffman, L.A., 1994, “Surgical Management of Syndactyly in a Dog,” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Vol. 205, Issue 8, pgs. 1149-1151

Rodriguez-Alarcon, C.A., et al., “Syndactyly and Concurrent Multiple Pad Agenesis in All Four Limbs with Secondary Deep Digital Flexor Contracture in a Puppy: A Case Report,” Veterinarski ARHIV, Vol. 84, Issue 3, pgs. 319-329

 

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