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Frito Feet on Dogs: Here's Why Your Dog Smells Like Corn Chips

First published:  September 5, 2022
Last updated: September 5, 2022
Frito Feet on Dogs: Here's Why Your Dog Smells Like Corn Chips

I’m going to say a couple of words that don’t seem to go together. Frito. Feet. No, it’s not a setup for a joke. It’s a smell.

Maybe you’ve noticed it coming from your dog’s paws. Perhaps when you snuggle on the couch together, you smell it. Or maybe you catch a whiff of something corny when you scratch that big belly. But if your dog has it, you can’t miss it.

Does Your Dog Smell…Delicious?

Some people love the smell of Frito feet on dogs. Some don’t. But most owners eventually wonder what the heck it is. 

No, your dog hasn’t gotten into the pantry. Frito feet is just a common condition that affects many - not all - pups around the world. 

But what does Frito feet actually mean - in terms of a dog’s health and wellness? 

Like most things, that depends. Usually, it’s just a funny, harmless feature of living with certain dogs. In other cases, it can be a sign of illness. 

In this blog, we’ll break down the causes of Frito feet. We’ll discuss its health risks and talk about treatment and prevention. 

What Causes Frito Feet on Dogs?

image of dirty dog paws

Most of the smells on your dog are pretty natural. They pop up now and then thanks to all the fungi and bacteria that live on normal, healthy pet skin. Frito feet is no exception. 

Naturally occurring bacteria called Pseudomonas and Proteus are the culprits behind that corny - or sometimes “yeasty”- smell. These microbes can be pretty successful in such a furry environment. In this case, “successful” means that they can reproduce like crazy on your pup’s body.

They get between fuzzy toes and nestle into paw pads. And all this happens while your dog hangs out in nature or walks shoeless around town.  Pseudomonas and protei come from soil, water, and anywhere you might find decaying organic matter. Essentially everywhere your dog puts his paws.

And then there’s the sweat factor. Dogs sweat through their paws. Think about it. You don’t smell like a daisy when you sweat. Your pup doesn’t either. 

The sweat trapped between their toes and fur follicles is a great breeding ground for bacteria, then their tongue and saliva add debris and other microbes to the cocktail. Frito feet can really flourish in this environment. 

To be clear, it’s not the bacteria themselves that smell. It’s that the microbes get trapped. They multiply, then they get busy chomping up the detritus and discarded skin cells like it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. 

The bacteria, then, release the volatile gases as a corny byproduct. And voila! Frito feet. 

Is Frito Feet Dangerous?

Sick dog lying on a pillow

If you have a relatively healthy pup, Frito feet on a dog is nothing to worry about. But for dogs with compromised immune systems or those that are prone to allergies, it can turn into a bigger deal. 

A trip to the vet is a good idea if the smell becomes intense or if you notice other symptoms along for the ride.  

Keep an eye out for signals of secondary infection or serious illness. 

  • Inflammation or redness around an irritated area
  • Smells that turn foul and intense
  • Cuts that don’t seem to heal
  • Discharge from an affected area
  • Biting, chewing, or excessive licking of the feet
  • Frito smell coming from other parts of the body - like ears

Any shift in your dog’s usual smell or any other new symptoms should prompt a closer look by a professional.  “If you have a dog whose feet never smelled and suddenly they start smelling,” says Dr. Brian Bourquin, founder and chief medical officer of Boston Veterinary Clinic, “then that’s a change in normal flora” 

The change could be signs of infection, immunity issues, serious discomfort, or allergies. All of which should be treated by a vet. 

Frito Feet Treatments

Man clipping dog's nails

But the best way to head off Frito feet in dogs is with a little attention to their paws. And I do mean “a little.” Most of the prevention methods are standard in a lot of grooming routines. 

It essentially boils down to - take care of those toes and paw pads. 

Fur can trap a lot of stuff between your dog’s tightly packed digits. Since Frito feet are the result of bacterial overgrowth, the real goal is to keep the area clean and dry. You can lean on your dog’s groomer for a lot of help in this. 

Basic paw maintenance that can keep Frito feet in check includes:

  • Keep It Clean - Bathe your dog’s feet regularly with a gentle, dog-approved shampoo.
  • Really Towel Off - Keep those feet dry. Even if your dog hates it, thoroughly towel down those tootsies after bathing.
  • Tidy The Fur - Trim the fur around your dog’s toes and between their paw pads. Just like bugs like to hide out in untrimmed lawns, microbes love a warm forest of fur.
  • Trim Those Nails -  Keep your dog’s toenails trimmed. As a general rule, it’s just safer and more comfortable for your dog. But a cracked nail is, also, a great place for bacteria to hide and thrive. 
  • It’s More Than Mud - Again, we’re going to say it. Dry those paws. Really get in there after a muddy walk or a splash in the pool. Remember it’s not just about dirt or chlorine, it’s also about moisture. 
  • Consider Extras - Booties can help if your dog has a particular issue with this. Pet-approved medicated wipes can also help to swab away any microscopic hitchhikers. 

The Bottom Line

Look, as dog smells go, Frito feet is pretty inoffensive. If the idea of bacteria growing on your pup’s feet makes you a little queasy, keep in mind that this is totally natural. After all, bacteria are on us and in us, and they outnumber our own body cells by a lot. 

As long as you have an eye on your dog’s health, monitor any changes, and practice some basic paw maintenance you should be good. 

Frito feet on dogs is just a byproduct of their adventurous lives with us - running around, scratching at the dirt, splashing in puddles. You know, all the dog stuff that makes life with them a joy. 

So as long as your dog is healthy, maybe we can just embrace the corny smell. I mean, who doesn’t love Fritos?


References:

  1. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, Novel association of Psychrobacter and Pseudomonas with malodour in bloodhound dogs, and the effects of a topical product composed of essential oils and plant-derived essential fatty acids in a randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled study, Courtney Meason-Smith, Caitlin E Older, Roxanna Ocana, Brandon Dominguez, Sara D Lawhon, Jing Wu, Adam P Patterson, Aline Rodrigues Hoffmann
  2. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, Significance and Roles of Proteus spp. Bacteria in Natural Environments, Dominika Drzewiecka
  3. Reader’s Digest, Here’s Why Your Dog’s Paws Smell Like Corn Chips, Juliana LaBianca
  4. Oxford University Press, Academic Insights for the Thinking World, What’s the secret of bacteria’s success, Sebastian Amyes
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