'Frito Feet' - Why Dog Paws Smell Like Corn Chips, Nuts, or Popcorn

Close-up of dog paw
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Questions about pet odors are common. Often a bad smell indicates a problem or disease process, but not always. What should you do if you notice that your dog's feet have an odor, often described as smelling like corn chips or old popcorn? Is this something to worry about?

Bacteria and fungi live on the skin of healthy animals, including dogs and cats. The feet, being what they are - on the ground, walking in stuff, and occasionally licked by the dog's tongue (containing additional microbes) - may have more of an odor than the rest of the body.

And thankfully, this faintly-food-related smell is, in most cases, just a curiosity.

But what if this odor is a problem?

There are many possible conditions that could cause a foul odor of feet. Here are a few:

  • Bacterial or fungal infection (overgrowth of normal or pathologic microbes causing disease).
  • Grass awn or other foreign body causing an irritation or abscess.
  • Skin tumor (e.g. foot melanoma) or lick sore that has become ulcerated or infected.
  • Toe nail injury or nail bed infection.

Signs that indicate a possible problem

  • Flaky/crusty skin or foot pads.
  • Redness, licking, hair loss.
  • Lumps, bumps, swellings between or on toes.
  • Cracked, flaky or broken toenails.
  • Moistness or drainage (from the skin surface or from a wound).
  • Limping or change in gait.

If any of the above signs are noted, a check in with your veterinarian is in order to rule out something more serious than "Frito Feet."

Please note: this article has been provided for informational purposes only. If your pet is showing any signs of illness, please consult a veterinarian as quickly as possible.