Q:I noticed my dog’s feet smell like Fritos. Why do dogs’ feet smell like Fritos? Is this normal?
A: Frito feet, aka dogs’ paws that smell like corn chips, is caused by bacteria and generally is normal unless you notice signs of infection along with the stinky feet.
You’re sitting on your couch with your four-legged space heater dog curled up beside you and suddenly your living room smells like someone just tore into a fresh bag of Fritos. You look around the room, briefly wondering if your house is haunted by a corn chip-loving ghost, when you realize that the Eau de Frito is coming straight from your dog’s feet.
You know for a fact that your dog hasn’t walked through a Frito-Lay factory and they’re too short to reach the vending machine in your office, so what gives? We reached out to Colorado-based veterinarian Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, to find out what’s up.
Why Do Some Dogs’ Feet Smell Like Fritos?
“The odor is caused by harmless bacteria that live on some dogs’ feet,” Dr. Wooten says. “Proteus and pseudomonas [bacteria] are considered ‘normal flora’ for dogs’ skin [but they] can cause the odor.”
She adds that it’s normal for some dogs’ feet to have that yeasty “corn chip” smell, but it’s also normal if your dog’s feet don’t have that kind of odor. “Unless your dog is showing signs of a skin problem, it is not a cause for concern,” she says.
What Would Make Stinky Dog Feet a Cause for Concern?
You’d just need to be on the lookout for other symptoms in addition to the Frito-ish smell, for changes in the appearance of your dog’s feet, or if they start to display noticeably different behaviors, like licking or chewing their feet excessively, limping, or holding one of their feet off the ground. Dr. Wooten adds that swelling and redness can be signs of an infection or “bacterial or yeast overgrowth,” as can hair loss on the paws, broken or cracked toenails or an odor that smells less like corn chips and more like “stinky cheese.”
What Can I Do About Dog Frito Feet?
Wiping your dog’s feet with an unscented pet wipe—especially after they’ve been playing outside, splashing in the water, or doing anything that would make them work up a sweat—can help reduce the smell, as well as regularly washing their feet with a pet shampoo. Dr. Wooten also recommends keeping the hair between and under their toes trimmed so that it doesn’t trap any bacteria that could intensify the odor.
With a tiny bit of foot maintenance, the next time you’re sitting on the couch and catch a whiff of corn chips, it could be coming from the snack bowl. Just the snack bowl.
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