Why Do My Dog’s Paws Smell Like Fritos?

Do your dog's paws smell like corn chips? Find out why and what you can do about it.

Why Do My Dog’s Paws Smell Like Fritos?
Reasons why your dog's paws smell like corn chips.

Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash

Why Do My Dog's Paws Smell?

As a pet parent, you may have recently noticed that your dog’s paws smell like Fritos (a type of popular corn chip). The smell might be subtle or obvious, but regardless, you are probably wondering why they smell that way and what causes it. You might also be wondering how to get rid of that smell. While it is always advised to take your dog to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis, dog paws that smell like corn chips often have a few common causes. Factors that contribute to smelly paws include:

  • Diet: What they are eating
  • Behaviors: Where they walk or play, and in what environment
  • Hygiene: Whether they are bathed regularly and dried properly or not
  • Breed type: Dogs with webbed paws can experience more yeast or bacteria proliferation
  • Health status: Dogs with underlying medical issues may experience more odor
  • Age: Older dogs can experience yeast overgrowth due to lack of grooming or declining health
  • Allergies: Food and environmental allergies can contribute to yeast proliferation
Some dog paw odor is normal, but excessive odor is not.

Photo by Kristine Tanne on Unsplash

What Causes the Corn Chip Smell?

Smelly paws are often caused by a combination of bacteria and yeast. Yeast and bacteria are a natural occurrence on our pets, especially in areas rich with moisture, such as the paws, ears, and regions on the muzzle or in the folds of the skin.

When moisture gathers on your dog’s body (from trapped heat), it can feed into the proliferation or growth of bacteria and yeast colonies. Dogs actually have glands on their paws that secret proteins and fats, which can further break down in the presence of bacteria and yeast to produce a subtle or strong odor—much like the smell of Frito chips (due to an overgrowth).

Are Smelly Paws a Sign of Infection?

Dog paws harbor different types of bacteria, such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Pseudomonas, among others. These bacteria are technically normal and regularly found on dog skin, but if the balance becomes disrupted, things can quickly develop into a health issue and infection. Bacteria love to grow in sweat because the moist environment feeds it fat and proteins, which can further increase moisture and heat in a sort of snowball effect. Dogs with webbed paws are even more prone to this (think Labrador Retrievers and other swimmers).

As mentioned, a little bit of yeast and bacteria is a natural occurrence on dog paws, but strong recurring odor or even noticeable discomfort and grooming (a change in your dog’s behavior) can indicate that the yeast or bacteria have over-proliferated. This situation can quickly worsen and lead to fungal infections and secondary infections with identifiable symptoms such as:

  • redness
  • warmth
  • oozing
  • pus
  • lethargy
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • discomfort
  • other systemic issues

Yeast Infections

In addition to bacteria, fungal infections can occur from different types of yeast. Yeast infections often cause itching, redness, swelling, and foul odor. Yeast infections can be very uncomfortable for your pet and require diligent treatment and diagnosis. Your dog may be prescribed a topical treatment or oral medication by your veterinarian.

Skin Allergies

Similarly, skin allergies can cause very similar symptoms to yeast infections. You might notice that your dog is experiencing itching, redness, swelling, and inflammation.

It’s important to note that if your dog is not on a regular flea preventive, flea allergy can also create similar symptoms and cause hot spots, wounds, and excessive chewing. Your vet might prescribe topical treatments (that which you apply) and antihistamines to address skin allergies, as well as regular flea prevention. Allergies can also be triggered by environment and diet.

Hormonal Issues

Hormone imbalances can also trigger smelly paws. When hormones become imbalanced, body odor can be a common side effect. This is because the composition of the dog’s sweat and bacteria that naturally resides on their skin changes. You might also notice changes in behavior or activity levels and hair loss in certain areas. Hormonal imbalances do require veterinary diagnosis and treatment, as some conditions can be serious.

Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to skin problems.

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Breeds That Are Prone to Skin Issues

Certain breeds are more prone to skin problems. These breeds include:

  • Bulldogs: They have wrinkled skin, which can cause them to develop yeast infections or other bacteria issues. Bulldogs might require special diets or regular bathing with medicated shampoo.
  • Labrador Retrievers: Labs often experience skin allergies and infections. They have coats that are made for water, but this can also cause moisture and debris to become trapped. Labs are also prone to food allergies.
  • Boxers: Boxers are sensitive to environmental and dietary irritation. They are also prone to masses and tumors.
  • Shar-Peis: Shar-Peis are notorious for having skin issues, especially considering all of their skin folds. They require diligent grooming routines to protect them from yeast and bacterial issues.
Make sure to keep your dog's paws clean if they are regularly outside and in the elements.

Photo by Ayla Verschueren on Unsplash

What to Do for Paws That Smell Like Fritos

Always consult a veterinarian for advice when addressing paw issues with your dog. In the meantime, you can use some mild approaches to help your dog’s paws to be less irritated and to offer more hygienic care:

  • Try pet-approved paw wipes to regularly clean and remove debris from their paws; some wipes offer soothing properties.
  • Dry the paws thoroughly with towels or give them a “warm” or “cool” blow dry (if your pet will let you).
  • Purchase an over-the-counter, gentle antibacterial solution or medicated shampoo from your veterinary office for regular rinsing or bathing.
  • Rinse or wipe the paws with saline solution and dry them with cotton swabs (can be found at many drug stores). Be careful with the cotton swabs so your dog doesn't try to inhale or ingest them.
  • Use a diluted Epson salt soak per your veterinarian's discretion.
  • Try a paw balm. Paw balms can help soothe your pet’s paws and may help to heal irritated paws or mask light odors.
  • Keep their feet clipped by trimming back any extra irritated or matted paw hair/fur.

Can I Use Essential Oils to Help With My Dog's Smelly Paws?

Some essential oils (EOs), especially when not diluted properly, can be extremely dangerous for dogs and animals. Even an EO that is deemed “pet safe” can lead to chemical burns or accidental ingestion and poisoning.

Simply put, never use anything on your pet that isn’t approved by your or a veterinarian. Doing your “own research” also doesn’t count as safe. You need to talk to a professional before you proceed. Dogs have especially sensitive nares and mucous membranes. Inhalation or contact exposure can be extremely dangerous.

Maria Ionova

Daily Ways to Prevent Smelly Dog Paws

  • Keep your pet’s paws dry. Wipe them off after walks or going outside. Dry them completely after time in the water or baths.
  • Soak your dog’s paws to help soothe them and reduce inflammation. Talk to your vet about safe soaking solutions.
  • Apply a topical treatment. Some vets might recommend coconut oil and other soothing salves to keep your dog’s skin barrier intact and healthy.
  • Feed your dog a healthy diet. Sometimes low-quality or junky diets can contribute to yeast overgrowth (as is the same case with humans). Consider offering your dog a regular probiotic for good gut health and cut out the human treats.
  • Reduce stress in their environment. Happy dogs are healthy dogs. Make sure your dog’s living environment is low-stress and that they are getting plenty of exercise, love, and socialization.

For the most part, a little “Frito” smell is natural and not technically harmful unless you notice a lot of heat around your dog’s paws and discomfort. This is just a natural occurrence with the combination of bacteria, sweat, and yeast. Do note that even mild situations can quickly get out of hand, especially if this is uncommon for your dog.

Watch your dog's paws carefully, take them to the vet for their annual visits or when issues arise, and do your best to maintain your dog's daily health and wellness at home.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2023 Laynie H

(Excluding for the Headline, this article ("story") has not been edited by MiBiz News and is published from a web feed or sourced from the Internet.)