Why Do My Dog’s Paws Smell Like Corn Chips?

A corn chip smell on your dog’s paws might seem like something troublesome, but it’s more common than you think. Let’s uncover why your dog has stinky feet.

Apr 21, 2024By Lisa Szymanski
why do my dogs paws smell like corn chips

The first time I noticed my dog’s odd aroma was when she decided to cuddle me. As she rested her paws close to my head, the strange scent became stronger, and it smelled just like corn chips. This odor was coming from her feet! If you’ve detected a similar scent in your dog, you might be wondering whether this nacho aroma is normal. To understand why your dog’s paws have this unusual smell, I explore the causes of the corn chip odor and when you should be concerned.

What Causes Your Dog’s Feet to Smell Like Corn Chips?

close up of dog paw
All dogs carry bacteria on their feet.

Whether your fur companion is snuggling up or jumping on you with excitement, you might have picked up a passing whiff of Fritos. You haven’t eaten corn chips, and neither has your dog, but this aroma isn’t something you can ignore. You might not have heard about it, but your pooch could have a condition known as ‘Frito feet.” It’s odd but true, and that’s because dogs carry bacteria and fungi on their paws that create this unique “fragrance.”

This weird aroma is caused by Pseudomonas as well as Proteus bacteria. When these types of bacteria mix with the moisture and dirt that dogs pick up as they walk, it produces a yeast-like smell. The corn chip or Fritos fragrance actually comes from the microorganisms living on your pet’s paws.

Is It Normal for a Dog’s Feet to Smell Like Fritos?

small brown dog paw up with tongue out
All dogs can develop a corn-chip smell on their feet.

It’s absolutely normal for dogs to have a corn chip smell on their feet, and it’s made worse by moisture. All canines have merocrine glands in their feet that function similarly to human sweat glands. It’s their way of keeping cool on a hot day, but it’s also why they have Frito feet. As they release moisture through their paw pads, they interact with nasty organisms that release this mysterious aroma.

This condition is not associated with a particular breed, although the odor might be worse in large dogs because they have such big paws. A mild tortilla fragrance emanating from a dog’s paws is nothing to worry about. If you’re thinking about your own health when exposed to this bacteria, the good news is that it cannot be transferred to humans. The only time to be concerned is when you notice symptoms such as excessive paw licking and redness in addition to the odor. These could be signs of an infection.

Signs Your Dog’s Stinky Feet Are a Problem

bernese mountain dog snout and paws lying on sofa
Odors other than corn chips could be a sign of an underlying condition.

There is a big difference between a regular corn chip smell and abnormalities in dogs’ feet. If the bacteria responsible for the nacho odor rapidly increase, it will lead to an infection. A strong odor, inflammation, discharge, small bumps, and reluctance to put weight on the affected foot are signs of a paw infection. Behaviors such as licking and biting worsen the condition because of the additional moisture. Biting can break the skin, allowing the bacteria to migrate and multiply.

There’s always a possibility that a dog can contract an infection in their paws because they come into contact with dirt every day. Add moisture, heat, and excessive licking to this equation, and it creates the ideal environment for bacteria to proliferate. If your pet won’t leave their paws alone and you notice the above-mentioned symptoms, call your local veterinarian for a check-up.

How to Get Rid of Frito Feet

dog feet covered in beach sand
Clean excess sand and dirt off your pooch’s feet.

If the waft of tortillas is too much for you to handle, there are ways to keep this odor to a bare minimum. You can snip the hair sticking out between their toes that you’ll see in dogs, such as German shepherds. By trimming this long hair, it reduces the amount of debris and moisture that cling to their feet. This prevents the overgrowth of bacteria. If you walk your dog or they play outside and their paws are covered in sand or mud, clean their paws with a non-alcoholic wipe. Only wash their feet if they’re very dirty and can be dried quickly. You don’t want them walking around with soaking wet feet, which attracts more dirt to their paws.

If you’re thinking of adding doggy boots or shoes to their feet to protect them from dirt and moisture, it’s not a good idea. Dog shoes create a closed environment around the feet, allowing moisture to accumulate and bacteria to thrive. Boots are suitable for dogs walking in snow and those with injuries, but they should be removed when they’re at home.

Dealing with Your Dog’s Smelly Feet

french bulldog paw touching human hand
A dog’s corn chip smell is completely natural.

Your fur friend’s feet might have a tortilla odor, but it’s a normal part of being a dog. Unless their nacho aroma turns into a smell similar to moldy cheese, there’s nothing to feel uneasy about. Think of it as your dog’s unique eau de toilette. Every pooch has dirt and organisms on their feet, and that’s why you’re smelling Fritos. It’s not related to their diet or hygiene and is best left alone. There’s no need to wash or deodorize their paws when you detect this smell. This will do more harm than good.

Only clean their paws if they’re covered in sand after walking outdoors or frolicking in the mud. Other than that, it’s about accepting the distinct smell rather than trying to remove or mask it. Over time, you might get accustomed to the scent, and you won’t notice it, whether cuddling your canine companion or giving them a high-five. If you have any concerns about the smell of your dog’s paws, speak to a professional veterinarian about it.

Lisa Szymanski
By Lisa Szymanski

Lisa is a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys hiking and gardening and has four years of experience volunteering at pet shelters. She is the proud mom of two dogs, a Pitbull named Ragnar, a Boerboel named Blueberry, and four feisty chickens, or as she calls them, the "queens of the yard," Goldie, Gray, Peaches, and Brownie.