A dog covering his nose with his paw. Photography by ©kickers | Getty Images.
A dog covering his nose with his paw. Photography by ©kickers | Getty Images.

Frito Feet — Here’s Why Your Dog’s Paws Smell Like a Popular Corn Chip

The weird odor of Frito feet in dogs arises when microscopic organisms proliferate due to diet, environmental conditions and irregular hygiene.
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What is that bizarre, yet strangely comforting, odor emanating from the general direction of your dog? All you’re certain of is that your dog stinks, and it’s been bothering you for a while. When the dog nestles into her dog bed for an evening nap, you decide to conduct an unscientific survey. Moving your nose about and inhaling gently at various points, the source reveals itself powerfully. As you reach the base of your dog’s feet, you find that they reek of … Fritos? You find your fingers insensibly moving toward the dog’s feet, and as they push apart two of the dog’s toes, the scent of corn chips assaults your senses. So, what are Frito feet? What are the causes of this unusual scent that has established itself in your dog’s foot pads? How can you stop Frito feet in dogs? Let’s discover the possible sources and potential remedies of Frito feet — and other foot odors — in your dog.

Frito feet in dogs are neither natural nor endearing

A dog paw.
Are you dreaming … or do your dog’s feet actually smell like Fritos? Photography ©PakHong | Getty Images.

In the “you are what you eat” school of thought, it’s assumed that a dog who has gotten into an open bag of Fritos, tortilla chips, or popcorn may simply be projecting the aromas native to these human food treats. Such conspicuous eating is not the root cause of foot odor in dogs, but it may have a decided part to play. Too many foods rich in carbohydrates or sugars can contribute to the right dietary conditions that foster the true sources of Frito feet or smelly feet. Cutting back on these kinds of treats can help, but will not strike at the real causes.

Others conjecture that Frito feet simply reflect the way a dog’s feet smell. Some refer to the odor as “natural” or even “endearing.” The causes of Frito feet are natural enough, but as in strong or acrid human bodily odors — particularly where the feet are concerned — there is little that’s endearing about them. You may enjoy the scent of corn chips, but among the causes of Frito feet in dogs is a yeast infestation. Admit it, “yeast infestation” has nowhere near the cute factor of “Frito feet.”

Frito feet and smelly dog feet have a number of causes

It might not be as problematic as a yeast infection, but, like the fungi that cause smelly feet in humans, one source of foot odor in dogs is an unchecked proliferation of yeast fungi in and around a dog’s feet. Like the demodex mites that cause mange in dogs, the yeast fungi that underlie the phenomenon of Frito feet are naturally occurring skin-dwellers who have gotten well out of hand. A dog’s immune system typically keeps native surface mites, bacteria, and fungi in check and their population small enough to go unnoticed.

Circumstances and environmental conditions must be right to produce the odors and smells associated with Frito feet. Yeasts and bacteria cannot thrive without warmth and moisture. Times of the year when temperatures are at their most extreme — summer’s humidity outside, and in winter when our heaters are running full blast — provide ideal conditions for fungal growth to outstrip the immune system’s ability to keep them checked. The spaces between a dog’s toes, and the cracks and crevices around a dog’s foot pads, are the perfect spots for fungi to thrive.

Finally, when the grounds you and your dog walk on are wet, you’re both tracking things into your home upon your return. Dog owners instinctively wipe or scrape their shoes on a mat before removing footwear. Our dogs don’t! Together with a lack of regular, programmatic dog foot cleaning all contribute to the explosive growth of microscopic organisms that yield the scent of Frito feet.

How to stop Frito feet and other canine foot odors

The odor associated with Frito feet depends on a confluence of factors, including irregular foot hygiene, warmth and moisture in the environment, and the unchecked accumulation of fungi and bacteria. Don’t forget that, while dogs may not sweat as voluminously or with the coverage of humans, many of a dog’s sweat glands are concentrated around their feet. One option is to carefully trim any excessive fur from the base of your dog’s feet. Where humans have access to topical medications, sprays, and powders to address foot odor, simple hygiene practices may help address a dog’s Frito feet.

The easiest thing to do if your dog is afflicted with Frito feet is to disinfect them with a dog-safe, non-toxic solution. With a tub, basin, or other vessel that your dog can stand in comfortably, common household cleaners such as hydrogen peroxide or vinegar can be combined with warm water to form an effective short-term approach. You only need to pour in enough to immerse your dog’s feet. Encourage her to remain still with soothing words, a favorite toy, or a healthy treat, so that the hydrogen peroxide or vinegar can act on the microbial infestation, then thoroughly dry the feet, including between the toes, with a clean cloth.

Your dog doesn’t have time for a yeast infestation

If your dog is also having difficulties walking, or has been excessively licking or scratching at her feet, ears, or any skin folds, Frito feet may be a symptom of a more serious health problem. When you clean your dog’s feet, check for swelling, abrasions, or other signs of possible infection or injury.

A strange scent is easily dispatched, but recurrent issues with canine foot odor may warrant a visit to the veterinarian.

Tell us: Do your dog’s feet reek of corn chips? How have you addressed the problem in your home? Share your experiences with Frito feet in the comments!

Thumbnail: Photography by ©kickers | Getty Images.

This piece was originally published in 2015.

Learn more about dog feet with Dogster:

21 thoughts on “Frito Feet — Here’s Why Your Dog’s Paws Smell Like a Popular Corn Chip”

  1. I bought a small home during the winter and come summer the carpeting wreaked of dog paw (Frito, french fry smell). The former owners had a poodle that they didn’t groom frequently. The smell has become overwhelming due to the rising humidity and heat of the summer. I have had a professional cleaner use enzymes twice and steam cleaning. The smell does not leave the carpet except to linger in the air. It’s awful. It causes my eyes to tear and my nose to run/sneeze. What can I do other than replace the carpet? I’ve owned dogs and never had this issue before.
    I also tried baking soda, and vinegar water.

  2. Michele Braa-Heidner

    My little Maltese dog has been suffering with a chronic yeast infection in her paws and private area for probably a year. It’s just gotten steadily worse over time. She licks her paws, specifically her right paw around the nail bed on the side of the paw. she licks and pulls on the nail. She has no teeth so she isn’t able to injure herself. She can get really obsessed and lick for 20 minutes. Over the year, I have done everything I can think of to get rid of it. I changed her diet to Hills Prescription ZD wet food and only give her the dry ZD as treats (no sugar, anti-allergy food). I did this to rule out food allergies and wanted to starve the yeast. This has not helped. I added Digestive Enzynes to her food. I give her CBD daily. I added “Aller Immune” treats with probiotics/prebiotics, omega oils, apple cider vinegar and more. I bathe her every 7 days with a shampoo that is for yeast (I have purchased 7 types so far). I have put peroxide, vinegar and coconut oil on her paws, and a anti yeast spray. Recently, I started just bathing her paws every day and this seems to have made it worse. I heard from my vet that moisture is a big culprit so I try to keep her paws dry so I have been blow drying them whenever she gets them wet or after I bathe her. I wonder if the heat of the blow dryer makes the yeast worst? My vet recommended an anti yeast medication and or Apoquel, but both can be very harmful to dogs so I am trying to do the natural thing. I have an appointment with a vet dermatologist but it isn’t until January 2021. I will try the oregonal oil and coconut oil. I really need help with this!!

  3. Pingback: Revisiting Frito feet

    1. you are the only one that made a comment that made sense. It is logical that if sweat glands are in paws, yes they will smell which is good. Living in Florida heat all the time sweat! I do notice when we do get cooler weather feet are less smelly.

      1. Yes but if your dogs feet smell like Frito’s and are discolored due to the dog licking and gnawing at the nails and foot pads, there is an overgrowth of yeast.

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  5. The problem is only my pitbulls have this problem, my other dogs never had this smell, yet it is in the same environment.

  6. Renee Maltsberger

    My Boxer’s feet plus areas of her body smell of fritos. What can I give her, feed her, bathe her in to get rid of internal yeast. She is always scratching her ears and licking her feet. I would prefer to fight the yeast from internally.

    1. TRY to change the food grain free maybe she have allergy I have two dogs both licking and I change the food and they much better now. Ask to your vet his opinion

    2. It won’t work believe me. Recommendations are coconut oil and garlic on the dogs food. Tried it for a long time No relief. Soaking feet in diluted vinegar or H2O2 doesn’t work. Go to the vet and get cytopoint allergy shots. You and your dog will be much happier and no more scratching or odor. Shots have to be given once a month. No sooner but I can hold off for a while and when he gets itchy he goes. The cost varies according to the dogs weight. I pay 68$ in Illinois. My dog weighs 23 pounds. It’s life changing. Your dog deserves to be itch free. You’ll waste a lot of time, energy and money trying to control this naturally.

      1. Michele Braa-Heidner

        Unfortunately, cytopoint shots don’t work for all dogs. My do had one and it worked about 50% and then the next one didn’t work at all.

  7. My dog (a rescue), was abused as a pup. Now he’s two and will not let anyone touch his feet. He’s very anxious about it, pulls them away and tucks them underneath himself. I don’t want to force him, but how can I get him to let me deal with his feet? He is not food motivated, and is quite anxious about the whole thing.

    1. My pup freaks out when anyone tries to look in his mouth. I wait until he’s on his back looking for belly rubs, mouth slack, and I started by gently placing my finger on a tooth ( which was really 5 teeth because he weighs 3 pounds, so my finger is the same width as his mouth). Then I moved on to rubbing my finger on his teeth, eventually putting my finger farther into his mouth to get the back teeth too. He’s 10 months old and we’ve gotten as far as he’ll let me pull his lip down or up a teeny bit to check some teeth, and if I get my finger in his mouth he’ll stay still for 5 seconds and let me look. It’s hard and has taken so much time. Having said all that, he lets me do what i want with his paws, but that wasn’t the case when i first got him. Always when we were lying down at rest or snuggling, I would first just put my hand so it was touching his paw. Then I moved in closer and would cover his paw or I would lift his leg and place his paw on my hand. Now we hold hands all the time 🙂 Sorry this was so long but i hope it was a little helpful. Best of luck with your pup. Hopefully with patience, love and time he will get to trust you with his paws <3

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