Why Do Dogs' Feet Smell Like Fritos?

·4 min read
woman holding a happy dog who smells like fritos in her arms with what the fluff logo
woman holding a happy dog who smells like fritos in her arms with what the fluff logo

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If you regularly snuggle with your dog, there's a good chance you've gotten a friendly paw to the face more than once. And if you've ever gotten a whiff of a certain savory smell that's weirdly similar to corn chips coming from that paw, you're not imagining things.

Frito feet is a common complaint among dog owners (once they get over the embarrassment of admitting that they know what their pup's paws smell like, of course). And while Frito feet can be a benign bother, it can also be a sign of infection.

Why Do My Dog's Paws Smell Like Corn Chips?

There are a lot of smells that could waft from your dog's paws without catching your attention, but corn chips probably isn't one of them. And unless your dog has recently raided your pantry looking for chili toppings, Fritos have nothing to do with Frito feet. According to Bonnie Bragdon, DVM, MS, cofounder of the Independent Veterinary Practitioners Association, the culprit for the corn chip-like smell coming from your dog's feet may be as harmless as your pup's natural oil production (i.e. bothersome but benign B.O.). However, Frito feet can also be a sign of something more problematic: a bacterial or yeast infection.

So how can you tell if your dog's smelly paws are normal or in need of closer inspection? Use your nose and your eyes. If you can faintly detect the scent of corn chips while sniffing your dog's paws at close range, you probably don't need to be concerned. However, if you can smell those Frito feet from across the room, that isn't normal, says Bragdon. And if you get a strong whiff of corn chips coming from your dog's ears or his body as a whole, these are also signs that it's time to call your veterinarian.

According to Bragdon, from a visual standpoint, healthy paws will be dry and will have pink skin that isn't broken. Conversely, if you see signs that your dog is in pain or see red skin and open sores on his paws, immediate veterinary attention is warranted. "Reddish staining of the hair and skin can be a sign of excessive licking due to itching and discomfort," Bragdon continues. "And blackish discharge can be a sign of infection."

And after all of that, we still come back to the main question: Why do your dog's paws smell like Fritos? Determining the primary cause is critical to treating your dog's condition before it gets worse. For example, it may not be enough to learn that your dog has a yeast infection and treat it with antifungal medication. That's because yeast infections are often secondary to an underlying allergy that needs to be managed.

Bragdon also notes that you should take your dog to the veterinary clinic if you see open sores or wounds, bleeding, foreign bodies, lumps, or bumps on your pup's paws. "What appears to be infectious or allergic in nature could be a wound or cut that needs immediate care," she explains.

Frito Feet Cure: How to Get Your Dog Smelling Better Again

As always, the diagnosis determines the treatment. If your dog's Frito feet are caused by an infection, he may require medication (e.g. antifungal or antibiotic pills) or a topical treatment (e.g. shampoo, ointment) to get rid of the problem. And, as mentioned above, an infection may be a sign that there are deeper problems to investigate.

But if your dog simply has smelly feet caused by natural oils, there are steps you can take to keep that corn chip smell (and its underlying culprits) at bay. Bragdon recommends wiping or washing your dog's paws after walks to ensure they're free from debris and to help cleanse them from allergens—a step that's especially important if your dog has allergies. She also says it's important to keep your dog's nails appropriately trimmed to prevent snags, breaks, and ingrown nails. "Paws should be relatively low maintenance," Bragdon explains. "So if your dog's aren't, it's time to take him to the vet."