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Why Your Dog's Paws Smell Like Corn Chips

Many dog owners love to get up close and personal with their canine pets. If you’ve had your dog’s paw in your face, you may notice the faint smell or buttery popcorn or salty tortilla chips. Many people describe this smell as “Frito Feet,” named after the popular snack.

Of all the smells our dogs can accumulate, this smell is very unique and may be unsettling to dog owners who have never noticed it before. The good news is that in most cases, it’s a perfectly natural smell that comes with being a dog. If the smell is extreme and overpowering, it may be a sign your dog needs a trip to the vet.

Here some information to help demystify the origin behind this distinctive aroma.

Where the Odor Comes From

Unlike humans who have eccrine (sweat) glands all over the body, sweat glands are entirely absent on the bodies of animals like dogs, cats, cattle, and sheep—with the exception of the paws pads and lip area. Due to a dog’s inability to sweat elsewhere, their paws pads and mouth work overtime to keep them cool. Paws also secrete small amounts of fluid that keep the paw pads supple.
Proteus and pseudomonas are common bacteria involved in the biodegrading process and are typically found on soil, plants, and feces. These bacteria can give off a yeasty odor, similar to snack chips. Since dogs typically spend most of their time outside with their paws exposed to the bare earth, the bacteria can get trapped between their paw pads. When sweat, paw secretions, and the bacteria interact with the moist skin on your dog’s paws, it’s a perfect environment for bacteria to thrive.

When it Can Become a Problem

No matter how clean your dog is, their paws will likely retain a bit of that corn-chip tang. That’s perfectly normal. If the smell becomes overpowering, you see raw skin around the paws, or you notice your dog starting to chew or lick its paws constantly, it may be a sign of a yeast or fungal infection. The proteus bacteria is also associated with urinary tract infections (UTIs) in dogs, so it’s a good idea to keep their paws as clean as possible to minimize opportunities for bacterial growth.

You can help keep your pet’s paws healthy by trimming their nails at regular intervals, keeping the fur between their nails trimmed, and washing their paws occasionally with a hypoallergenic soap.  Taking regular care of your pet’s paws will ensure their ‘Frito Feet’ doesn’t become more than just a mild pet odor.

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