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Why does my dog smell like Fritos? It’s weird, but there could be an underlying health issue

Why your dog's feet smell like corn chips and what to do

Two dog paws
Engin Akyurt / Pexels

A dog’s nose knows. Dogs’ noses have more than 300,000 olfactory receptors, making them a powerful tool for canines as they explore their world. The nose is also an indicator of health. Yet, what if your nose picks up a smell that seems suspicious? Specifically, you may be wondering, “Why does my dog smell like Fritos?”

If you had some corn chips recently and shared them with your dog (or they helped themselves), there’s your answer. However, perhaps you’re more of a Cheetos kind of person or prefer to get your crunchy fix with something sweet, like fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. The answer is less obvious. You may smell a trip to the vet coming. Are your instincts on track? Maybe. Here’s why your dog’s paws might smell like Fritos and what to do about it.

a golden retriever with paws in sand
Elina Sazonova / Pexels

Why does my dog smell like Fritos?

It’s actually common for your dog’s paws to smell like Fritos. A pup’s paws were made for walking, and they can pick up fungi like pseudomonas and proteus. These bacteria can be found on the skin of many canines and other animals. Proteus produces a compound called putrescine, which can often cause their paw pads to smell like Fritos. The areas between the toes can be the smelliest.

Bacteria thrive in moist environments, and a pet’s paws often fit that bill, and not just if they’ve recently taken a stroll in just-watered grass or the ground as the frost thaws. Dogs use their paw pads to sweat — panting isn’t the only way pups cool off. Breeds with more skin folds and heavy, natural fur coats are bigger moisture magnets and are more likely to have paws that smell like corn chips. These breeds include:

  • Bulldogs
  • Pugs
  • Golden retrievers
  • Saint Bernards

Sometimes, food allergies can exacerbate paw issues, too.

dog paws in grass
Glen Carrie / Unsplash

Should I be concerned if my dog’s feet smell like Fritos?

Not necessarily. While “Bacteria” sounds scary, dogs with paws that smell strangely like a favorite game-day snack like Fritos are often just fine. However, the microorganisms can multiply and cause a variety of issues, including pain and infections. You’ll want to get the vet on the line any time you’re concerned. However, you’ll definitely want to get a call into the vet if your dog’s Frito-smelling paws combine with any of the below symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Signs of pain, such as limping or yelping
  • Licking
  • Bumps on the paws

If you take your pup to the vet, the doctor will test the yeast to determine the cause. If the cause is proteus, the vet might:

  • Run additional tests, such as for food allergies
  • Prescribe medicated topical treatments like sprays, shampoos, or wipes
  • Switch your dog’s diet to a specialized one to eliminate allergens
a dog's paws on hand
Shane / Unsplash

How to care for your dog’s paws

Prevention is the best medicine — cliche but true. Though you can’t control every aspect of your dog’s risk factors for proteus, such as breed, you can take some steps to ensure your pup’s paws are well cared for. Some of these steps will also flag paw issues before they get worse and lead to pain and infections. Unfortunately, pet parents don’t always notice a dog is having paw problems until the pup is in pain or limping. Proper paw care includes:

  • Regular inspection of paws. Take a look at your dog’s paw pads, including the area between the toes, daily as you cuddle to inspect for any issues.
  • Clip nails. Regular clipping can prevent pain and give bacteria less room to grow.
  • Wipe paws. Wipe and dry a dog’s paws after water exposure, including baths. Since bacteria thrive in moist environments, this step can help ward off these pesky microorganisms.
a black labs paws
Victor Grabarczyk / Unsplash


Surprisingly, dogs’ paws can sometimes smell like Fritos. The occurrence is common and typically normal. Frito-smelling paws don’t indicate your dog has a severe health issue. However, occasionally, this scent is a signal to call a vet. Typically, Frito-smelling paw pads are the result of bacteria. Bacteria thrive in moist environments, like paws, which your dog uses to sweat and step on wet grounds.

The smell is most common between toes, with less air circulation. Though not always the case, a dog with paws that smell like Fritos could have an infection. You’ll want to call the vet if you’re concerned, especially if the dog is excessively licking the area, limping, or has bumps or redness on their paws. Regular inspection of a pet’s paws, clipping nails, and wiping wet feet can prevent bacteria from growing and help you get your furry friend the help they need sooner.

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BethAnn Mayer
Beth Ann's work has appeared on and In her spare time, you can find her running (either marathons…
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