Popcorn Paws and Frito Feet

Terra enjoys a kiss!Do your dog’s paws smell like popcorn or corn chips? No it’s not your imagination. Some people do think they detect the scent of a late night snack when they whiff their furry friend’s feet. I wrote about this in my first book, Dog Show Confidential – Sneaking in the Back Door of Westminster. My dogs’ paws remind me of popcorn – AND I LOVE IT!

For the most part, a case of the popcorn paws or frito feet is nothing to worry about. According to The Daily Mail, “the cause of the odor is a bacteria called Proteus, which can produce a lightly sweet, corn like smell. It lives in animal feces and soil, which are in turn picked up on the dog’s paws. Another bacteria called Pseudomonas is also known to give off a slightly yeast-like fragrance.”

Dr. Patty Khuly, a vet based at the Sunset Animal Clinic in south Miami, notes that ‘owners have somehow confused the aroma of corn chips with that of the yeast that’s growing inside a pup’s ears and in between his toes. For some reason, lots of people think they smell alike.” Another vet based in Oregon, Janet Tobiassen Crosby, wrote that “Bacteria and fungi live on the skin of healthy animals, including dogs and cats.”

The online chatter about doggie paw smells was recently spurred on when animal behavioral consultant Steve Dale collected more than 100 personal anecdotes from his readers about their own experiences. Comments from his readers included:

  • “I was surprised to hear anyone else say it, but I always joked that my lovely dog’s feet smelled like Fritos!”
  • “Or maybe Frito’s (has) engineered their chips to smell like dog paws.”
  • “Yes, they DO smell like Fritos! Perhaps we can turn it into a diet thing. When you get hungry and want to snack, just smell your dog’s feet!”
  • “I’ve always thought (dogs’ paws smell like) tortilla chips.”
  • “I always thought dogs’ paws smell like caramel corn!! Their mouths smell like parmesan cheese.”
  • “Lisa smells like Italian pillow cookies… Maggie’s feet smell like popcorn, but the rest of her smells like a nice expensive cheese. My gals are totally delicious.”

Though not everyone was so enamoured with the smell… “I wonder what my feet would smell like if I walked around with no socks, never washing them and walking on all sorts of terrain. I think Fritos would NOT come to mind.”

Certain pet smells can be due to bodily changes and necessitate extra precaution. For instance, persistent bad breath or foul odors around the mouth might be indicative of gum disease, or problems with respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, or internal organs.

If foul odors specifically in your dog’s paws become a constant problem, then other serious conditions might be at play including a toe nail injury or nail bed infection, a skin tumor like foot melanoma, or an infected sore. Here are some signs to look for that definitely would warrant a trip to your vet according to Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM:

  • Flaky/crusty skin or foot pads
  • Redness, licking, hair loss
  • Lumps, bumps, swellings between or on toes
  • Cracked, flaky or broken toenails
  • Moistness or drainage (from skin surface or from wound)
  • Limping or change in gait

In the meantime though, acknowledge the fact that a dog will just smell like, well a dog sometimes. They get dirty. They get wet. They lick themselves. And sometimes, they even roll around in stuff they are not supposed to. All the rest is a bonus. Of course, if you are a passionate lover of pets, you probably already know that. Thank you for reading!

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