The corn chip canine conundrum
Dogs have a knack for getting dirty. No matter how often you break out the grooming supplies, dog shampoo and nail clippers, Fido will get messy again in a matter of minutes. But dirt and mud aren’t the only concerns. Have you ever found yourself wondering, “Why does my dog smell like corn chips?” If so, you’re not alone. In fact, the scent is so common, it’s even been given an adorable moniker: Frito feet.
In most cases, Frito feet are perfectly harmless. And no, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need an expert course on how to groom your dog… though you’re probably not going to be thrilled by what causes this phenomenon either. “The scent is caused by two different types of bacteria,” says veterinarian Brian Bourquin. “One is called proteus, and the other is pseudomonas, which is kind of like a yeast. The bacteria can frequent the foot, and when mixed with saliva from licking their paws, which adds moisture, it provides a great little odour trap.”
Here’s everything you need to know about Frito feet, including when you should contact your vet.
What causes Frito feet?
As mentioned, the smell is caused by two bacteria: proteus and pseudomonas. These bacteria are normal and are picked up as your dog walks around throughout the day. “We have what’s called commensal bacteria, which lives on our skin and is supposed to be there,” says Dr Bourquin. Proteus and pseudomonas fall into that category. Translation: In and of themselves, these bacteria are not dangerous – to your dog or to you.
Another reason for the smell is that the environment on your dog’s feet allows ample opportunity for these bacteria to multiply and become smelly. “There are crevices and hairs, and so there’s a lot of stuff to hold the odour in,” says Dr Bourquin. That means some breeds – in particular, fluffy dogs with more fur on their feet – are more prone to this problem than others. Dogs who love to lick their feet can also exacerbate the issue by adding bacteria-fuelling moisture to the area.
However, Frito feet can occur on any dog and are usually completely harmless. Consider it an extension of your dog’s natural B.O. – one that just so happens to smell like corn chips.
When do I need to see a vet?
Sometimes, the reason your dog smells like corn chips is more concerning. A severely smelly paw could be caused by an injury that has become infected. “If you have a dog whose feet never smelled and suddenly they start smelling, then that’s a change in normal flora,” says Dr Bourquin. In other words, it’s time to head to the vet to get it checked out. Other indications of infection include redness, swelling, itching and limping.
The paw area could also become smelly due to increased licking, which is another issue you’ll want to run by your vet. Intense licking can be caused by a range of issues including allergies, cuts, scratches, ticks, rocks, infection and other irritants. In that case, your vet can help you identify the cause of your dog’s issue and make sure it’s treated properly.