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

Probably normal, but see a vet just in case.

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Questions about pet odors are common. Often a bad smell indicates a problem or a disease, but not always. What should you do if you notice that your dog's feet have an odor that's often described as resembling the smell of corn chips or old popcorn? Should you worry about it?

The short answer is probably not. It may be normal. But, just in case, have your vet check it out. 

Bacteria and fungi live on the skin of healthy animals, including dogs and cats.

Animal feet, being what they are, are always in touch with microbes as dogs walk on the ground and in stuff full of bacteria, and as they occasionally lick their feet with tongues full of additional microbes. As a result, dogs' feet 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.

What Causes the Corn Chips Smell?

The corn chips smell is usually caused by bacteria that are completely natural yet give off a kind of yeasty odor, particularly the bacteria Proteus or Pseudomonas. Or that corn chips smell could just be your dog’s natural odor. In either case, relax; it's normal.

Sweaty doggie feet could also be an offender: "Dogs sweat through their foot pads. Just as people’s feet sweat, so do canine paws. The sweat becomes trapped in the coat between the foot pads and can smell bad, but probably worse than corn chips," says Roseann Lahey of petful.com.

"Trimming the fur between the foot pads is important for keeping the stench down. Without trimming, the sweat goes into the fur and permeates it. Spread the pads apart. This is best done by putting your thumb between them. Using pet hair clippers, carefully trim the fur from around the pads. This will eliminate the buildup of all sweat and stink coming from the pads.

After trimming, your pet must be bathed thoroughly," she says.

Give Your Dog a Paw Bath

Whatever the problem, if minor, a good doggie bath will help. "Use pet shampoo on each paw, lathering it up and then rinsing it completely. All four paws must be shampooed well to remove sweat and debris. This should get rid of the dog paw odor," Lahey writes.

What If This Odor Is a Problem?

If the paw odor is extremely foul, other conditions could be at work. Here are a few:

  • There's a bacterial or fungal infection, meaning an overgrowth of normal or pathologic microbes causing disease.
  • Grass awn or another foreign body is causing an irritation or abscess.
  • A skin tumor such as foot melanoma or a sore has become ulcerated or infected after licking.
  • A toenail was injured or there's an infection in a nail bed.

Signs That Indicate a Possible Problem

  • Flaky or crusty skin on 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 a change in gait

If owners notice any of the above signs, a visit to your veterinarian is in order to rule out something more serious than "Frito feet" or sweaty paws.

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.