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Close up of dog paws

The essentials

  • Blame it on the bacteria — The smell is a result of bacteria or yeast healthily and harmoniously living in your dog’s skin microbiome.
  • Frito feet are completely normal — Don’t fret if your dog’s paws reek of corn chips; it’s unlikely it’s a sign of illness.
  • Seek veterinary help if you notice changes in behavior along with the smell — If your pup is suddenly itching or chewing at its Frito feet, or if you notice redness and inflammation around the paws, consult your vet immediately.

So your puppy’s paws reek of corn chips. This phenomenon, colloquially known as Frito feet, can be alarming to new pet parents and maddening for the ultra scent-sensitive among us. But Frito feet are completely normal for the most part. Here’s what you need to know about preventing, masking and caring for your puppy’s smelly Frito paws.

Why does my dog smell like Fritos?

That distinctive corn chip odor emanating from your dog’s paws can be a normal byproduct of harmless bacteria or yeast living on your dog’s skin.

The science behind dog Frito feet

The reason your dog’s feet smell like corn chips comes down to bacteria.

Due to the lack of air circulation and the crevices of warmth and moisture in your puppy’s paws, the area is a prime breeding ground for microbial growth. Bacteria, yeast and fungi thrive among the paw fur, the foot folds, and within your pup’s active sweat glands. Though dogs mostly control their body temperature not by sweating but by panting, these active paw pad sweat glands — called merocrine glands — help keep them nice and cool in hot temperatures.

The bacteria living on dog paws, typically Proteus and Pseudomonas, are microorganisms known for having a corn tortilla-like smell on their own. Malassezia yeast may also cohabit with the bacteria, adding a yeasty odor. When mixed with your dog’s natural, sweaty odors — plus Fido’s paw-licking habit locking even more moisture in — that Frito smell is amplified.

Though the smells are harmless, bacterial or yeast infections can be serious signs of infection.

Should I be worried if my dog smells like Fritos?

For the most part, you don’t have to worry if your dog smells like Fritos. The odor is perfectly normal unless it becomes too overwhelming, if you notice your dog is excessively licking their paws or if there are sudden physical changes to the area.

When the smell is normal

Frito feet are a natural phenomena and something all dog parents should expect to witness, corn chip connoisseurs or not. Your pups naturally produce such secretions around the footpads, near the ears and near the anus.

In addition to Frito feet, you may notice other common, naturally occurring dog odors such as a yeasty smell from Fido’s ears or an unpleasant, fishy stench coming from your dog’s breath.

Signs there’s a problem

Though the scent of Frito feet can be off-putting to some, it’s typically normal and natural. However, there are certain instances when a call to your vet is absolutely warranted and recommended.

  • Excessive odor. Look out for intensified or altered odor changes, such as a more musty, foul stench around the footpads, as this can be a sign of bacterial/yeast overgrowth and lead to infection.
  • Excessive licking and chewing around paws. Though paw-licking is normal canine behavior, excessive licking and chewing may indicate infection complicated by increased moisture.
  • Inflammation and swelling. Swollen, red paws may indicate food allergies, contact dermatitis, parasites, fleas or secondary infections. If your vet suspects inflamed paws, they will likely diagnose yeast infection or demodicosis, a common parasitic skin disease caused by mites.
  • Limping or other changes in how they handle their feet. If your pup is showing signs of limping (pain) or is uncharacteristically grasping at or avoiding a Frito-smelling foot, make an appointment with your vet to rule out common injuries, including osteoarthritis and hip dysplasia. Your puppy may exhibit limping as a pain response to a pad injury, broken toenail, or infection of the soft tissue of the toe bone or ligament.
  • Discharge. Increased moisture in the form of yellow or green discharge near the paws may be an indication of an underlying medical issue.
  • Hair loss. Patches of hair loss on your dog’s body, including around their paws, can be a result of environmental allergies, fleas, mites, bacterial or yeast infections, ringworm and other conditions. If you suspect mites, your dog will likely also experience inflammation and itchiness.
  • Toenail issues. See any broken or cracked toenails on your puppy’s Frito feet? Damage to your dog’s quick — the part of the nail that’s attached to the bone — has the potential to result in serious infection. If you don’t feel comfortable trimming away any damage, leave the task to your veterinarian.

Caring for your dog’s Frito feet

Other than looking out for potential signs of infection, you can be proactive about caring for your dog’s Frito feet with grooming maintenance and routine vet check-ups.

Inspect and protect those paws

Make it a habit to inspect your dog’s paws, Frito-smelling or not, for foreign objects, swelling, tenderness or discoloration, as these may be a sign of injury or infection. To inspect the feet, gently spread your dog’s toes and graze their paw pads as you feel for changes in texture or abnormal responses to tenderness.

When it comes to paw protection beyond grooming maintenance, pay special attention to your dog’s feet in the hotter months. The hot pavement is not only painful for your dog, but it can also increase the chances of bacteria and yeast overgrowth. To protect your dog’s paws from the hot ground, consider doggy shoes or vet-approved paw balms and don’t skimp on wiping their feet after a long walk in the sun.

Make grooming a routine practice

The first rule of grooming is to start early and get your puppy used to touch. Regular maintenance throughout their life will help keep your dog — and you — happy, healthy and as clean-smelling as possible. Though different breeds and coat types have different requirements, a good rule of thumb is to bathe your dog no more than once a month and trim your dog’s nails at least once a month.

Grooming tips to minimize Frito feet

Bathe with a mild, dog-safe shampoo —Though your dog’s Frito feet odor is likely completely normal and natural, bathing your pup with a mild, antiseptic, made-for-dogs shampoo without harsh chemicals in lukewarm water can help remove some of the yeast and bacteria contributing to the corn chip stench.

Trim excess paw fur — The fur between your dog’s toes can trap moisture, bacteria and dirt. Trimming the fur around the paw pads, including excess fur between the toes, may help minimize bacteria and odor.

Dry those paws — Limiting excess moisture can only help avoid smelly bacterial growth, so don’t forget to gently dry your pet’s paws after a bath, a swim — or after a walk in the rain or snow.

Visit the vet regularly

Being a responsible pet owner means committing to regularly scheduled vet appointments. If you suspect your dog’s Frito feet odor has become excessive or if there are aforementioned signs indicating potential health issues, consult your vet immediately.

Puppies should visit the vet every few weeks from the age of six weeks to four months. After around one year, most healthy dogs will only need to visit the clinic once or twice  a year for their annual physical.

Stick to a healthy diet

An unhealthy diet of low-quality dog food and over snacking can contribute to yeast overgrowth. Speak to your vet to ensure your dog’s current regimen is up to par. Your vet may recommend improving your puppy’s diet for better gut health.

Embrace your dog’s stink

At the end of the day, Frito feet are to be expected if you’re bringing a canine family member into your life. As long as you keep an eye on changes in odor, pet behavior or other previously listed causes for concern, your corn-chip smelling pooch is probably doing just fine.

As for your own intolerance, you can try masking the Frito odor by using a vet-approved paw balm or soothing coconut oil, but never use anything — including fragrant essential oils — on your pet unless approved. Even essential oils deemed safe for pets may cause chemical burns or poisoning.

Frequently asked questions

Is it normal for my dog to smell like Fritos?

Yes, it is normal for your dog, specifically your dog’s paws, to smell like Fritos or other corn chips, but the smell should not be overwhelming or fill a room with a stench.

How can I prevent my dog from smelling like corn chips?

The corn chip smell is typically normal and expected. To prevent excessive odor with the potential for underlying infection, don’t skimp on regular vet visits and grooming maintenance, stick to a healthy diet and keep your puppy’s paws nice and dry.

How do I get rid of my dog’s Frito smell?

The Frito smell emanating from your dog is likely not harmful, but if you’ve grown intolerant or if the stench has become so excessive that you’re concerned, consult a vet immediately.  You can minimize the corn chips odor by bathing your dog in lukewarm water with a mild, antiseptic, made-for-dogs shampoo without harsh chemicals or speak to a vet about a topical or salve to help mask the smell.

Are there any home remedies for smelly dog paws?

A mixture of equal parts baking soda and water may help reduce inflammation in your dogs’ paws and in turn mask that excessive Frito feet odor. However, you should consult your vet before using anything on your pet.

Does every dog have Frito feet?

The bacteria Proteus and Pseudomonas, along with Malassezia yeast,  naturally have a corn chip smell or yeasty odor. These organisms are typically found on all dog paws, but not every dog smells the same. Dogs with excess fur, moisture or dogs living in certain climates may just emanate a little more Frito-like odor than others.