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Animal Skin and Allergy Clinic Blog

Corn Chips, Anyone? Why Your Pet’s Paws Smell Like Fritos

A black and white Boston Terrier holding up its paw

“Why do my pet’s paws smell like Fritos?” This is a surprisingly common question that we get here at Animal Skin and Allergy Clinic. No, you aren’t imagining things and, no, your dog isn’t getting into your stash of salty treats (at least, we hope not!).

We believe strongly in empowering pet owners with as much knowledge as possible about their pets. Whether it helps identify a future health problem or is just a fun bit of party trivia, finding out why your pet’s paws smell like Fritos is worth the effort!

Your Pet’s Paws Smell Like Fritos Because…

That fragrant Frito blast coming from your pet’s paws (some people also describe it as smelling like old popcorn) is actually caused by naturally occurring yeast and bacteria between the paw pads. This is usually perfectly normal. There are a variety of reasons for the buildup, including:

  • Sweat – Dogs sweat through their paw pads. This warm, moist environment is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria such as pseudomonas and proteus, both of which contribute to the yeasty, corn chip-like odor.
  • Proximity to the ground – A pet’s paws are almost always in contact with the ground, and with all of the various surfaces those paws travel across throughout the course of a day, it’s no wonder they pick up a wide assortment of microbes.
  • Hygiene – Pets are always licking their paws, and the additional moisture increases the proliferation of odor-causing bacteria and yeast.

What You Can Do

Just like with people, proper hygiene can significantly reduce any odor that may surround your pet:

  • When bathing your dog, pay special attention to the paws. Spread each pad, and wash and rinse carefully. Be sure to dry each foot thoroughly when bathtime is over.
  • Keeping the fur in between the paw pads trimmed is key to reducing bacterial and yeast buildup. If you’re grooming your dog at home, spread each toe (your thumbs tend to work best), and carefully trim the hair using pet hair clippers.
  • Regularly clip your pet’s nails to reduce the amount of odor-causing dirt and microbes that become trapped underneath.

When to See Us

Although it can be cute when a pet’s paws smell like Fritos, it’s important to remember that not all odors are quite so innocent. A strange or bad smell is often one of the first symptoms of an injury, infection, skin condition, or certain types of tumors, all of which should be treated immediately. Please call us to schedule an appointment if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Foul odor
  • Flaky or crusty skin on the paw pads
  • Redness or swelling on or between the pads
  • Excessive licking of the paws
  • Lumps or bumps on the pads or between the toes
  • Cracked or broken toenails
  • Any injury to the paw, especially if swollen or draining
  • Limping or change in gait

We look forward to seeing you and your pet at your next appointment. In the meantime, keep those paws in great shape with plenty of walks and lots of playtime!