A boxer holding its paw up

Dog owners know their pups produce a variety of odors, many of them less-than-pleasant. If you’ve ever noticed a distinct, corn chip-like aroma wafting up from your dog’s paws, you aren’t crazy. Many pet owners report their dog’s paws smell like Fritos, popcorn, tortillas, or other corn-based products – but why?

Here at Hampton Veterinary Hospital, we never shy away from life’s important questions, and we welcome the opportunity to help our readers figure out why their dog’s paws smell like Fritos!

Why Dog Paws Smell Like Fritos

Even the cleanest, healthiest pooch has trillions of bacteria and fungi living on their skin. That yeasty, corn chip smell is actually a normal byproduct of harmless bacteria, usually Proteus or Pseudomonas, both of which are naturally present in our environment.

Unless your dog wears shoes all day (we certainly hope this isn’t the case!), their paws are going to come into contact with many microbes as they walk through a variety of substances and occasionally lick their paws with tongues full of additional microbes. Dogs also sweat through their paws, and this warm, moist environment is the perfect breeding ground for the bacteria and fungus that causes that Frito-like odor.

Happy Feet

Although many pet owners don’t mind (or even enjoy) this corn chip aroma, keeping your pet’s feet properly groomed, either professionally or at home, eliminates the buildup of sweat and debris, which cuts down on bacterial growth.

Start by washing your dog’s paws with pet shampoo and making sure they’re rinsed and thoroughly dried. Use your thumb to gently spread the paw pads apart, and use pet hair clippers to carefully trim the hair between the pads.  

Beyond the Chip

Although your dog’s Frito paws are probably normal, a very strong, foul odor can indicate an underlying medical issue, such as a bacterial or fungal infection, an untreated injury, or a tumor or other abnormal growth.

Other indications that your dog may be having paw problems include:

  • Flaky or crusty skin on the pads
  • Excessive paw licking
  • Hair loss around the feet/pads
  • Lumps, bumps, redness, or swelling around the toes and feet
  • Pus or drainage from a wound
  • Broken, cracked, or flaky toenails
  • Limping or change in gait

Please contact us if your dog displays any signs of paw issues. The sooner we can develop an effective treatment plan, the happier and more comfortable your pet will be.