Why Do My Dog's Paws Smell Like Fritos? A Vet Shares the Answer and How it Affects a Pet's Health

dog paw, fritos
dog paw, fritos

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Dog owners across TikTok and beyond are wondering, "Why do my dog's paws sometimes smell like corn chips?"

To veterinarians, the unusual canine odor has a reasonable explanation. With National Corn Chip Day right around the corner on January 29 and an increased online interest in what causes "Frito feet" in dogs, Dr. Audrey Wystrach, the founder and CEO of Petfolk, shared the answer many pet parents are seeking out.

"A common phenomenon among dog owners is noticing a strange smell coming from their dog's paws, specifically their toes, that resembles the smell of corn chips. This smell is caused by a bacteria called Proteus, which is commonly found on the skin of dogs and other animals. This bacteria produces a compound called putrescine, which is responsible for the corn chip smell," Dr. Wystrach told PEOPLE.

The veterinarian also explained how Proteus, and its corn chip aroma, can end up on your pet's paws, sharing that the bacteria seek out moist environments.

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"Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to this smell than others. For example, breeds with excessive skin folds, such as bulldogs, pugs, and Shar Peis, are more likely to develop this smell as the bacteria thrive in warm and moist environments. Additionally, breeds with heavy coats, such as golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and Saint Bernards, are also more likely to develop this smell as the fur can trap moisture and bacteria," she added.

Unfortunately, a corn chip smell isn't the only issue linked to Proteus.

"While the smell itself may not be harmful to your dog, it can be a sign of underlying skin issues such as fungal or yeast infections. It can also be a sign of allergies or other underlying health conditions. If your dog's paws are red, irritated, or have any discharge, it is important to consult a veterinarian as they may have a more serious condition," Dr. Wystrach said.

The veterinarian recommends keeping your canine's feet clean and dry to prevent the smell and protect a pet's paws from infection.

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"Regularly wiping your dog's paws down with a damp cloth after walks or outdoor activities can help remove dirt and bacteria. It's also important to dry your dog's paws thoroughly after they get wet," she said. "Another way to prevent this smell is to keep your dog's nails trimmed. Long nails can cause your dog's paws to come into contact with the ground more often, which can lead to bacteria build-up. Regularly trimming your dog's nails can help reduce this."

If you notice a corn chip-like smell on your dog's paws, Dr. Wystrach advises working with a veterinarian to discover the cause of the odor, which can be linked to infections, allergies, or other underlying health issues. With a diagnosis, a veterinarian can provide the correct treatment, like antibiotics or a medicated shampoo.