Every morning, my beagle, Archie, swims up from the foot of the bed to get as close to my face as possible. This is when I conduct my daily Beagle Inspection, which usually involves counting his toes and announcing that he smells like a little corn chip. Man, this dog smells like a corn chip. It’s not an unpleasant smell: it’s not that vaguely yeasty smell some dogs get when they have food allergies, nor is it the farty smell Archie emits when he eats too many dehydrated duck necks. It’s a lightly earthy, Frito-adjacent smell, and my parents’ dogs have it, too. Turns out, it’s coming from their feet—and it’s a very real canine phenomenon known as Frito Feet.
The Spruce explains that Frito Feet can result from two perfectly healthy factors. The first factor is the naturally occurring bacteria and fungi that live on your dog’s paw pads; the Frito smell likely comes from pseudomonas and proteus bacteria. The second factor is a bit more surprising: per The Spruce, dogs actually sweat through their paws, releasing sweat from glands in the feet and creating a bit of moisture between the paw pads and toes. This can also lend a vaguely Frito-like smell to your dog’s paws, especially if your dog is prone to licking them, which can add even more bacteria to the mix.
Frito Feet are very common and typically not anything to worry about. The only exception would be a bacteria or yeast overgrowth, which can be more common in dogs that spend a lot of time playing in water or exploring rugged terrain. Dogs with an unsavory overgrowth will exhibit a strong, foul odor distinct from Eau de Frito Feet. Odor can also be a sign of infection, as can paw inflammation or the presence of a wound that doesn’t heal. To stave off more serious foot issues, just do your best to keep your buddy’s paws clean and dry, and reach out to your vet if you notice any signs of declining foot health. Otherwise, you’re free to enjoy your furry friend’s snack-like scent.