It's no surprise that dogs are likely to walk or dig into some smelly things resulting in smelly feet. But some dogs also may have visibly clean feet that chronically smell like corn chips. This unique scent may be an indication of an infection so it's wise for pet parents to know what to look, or smell, for with their dog's feet.
Smelly Problems with Dog Feet
Dogs can cut their paws, break nails or toes, get puncture wounds in their feet, burn their paw pads on hot pavement and other foot problems. But when feet smell it is because there is bacteria or a yeast growing in or on them or the dog stepped into something stinky. Injuries can cause these microorganisms to develop and if they aren't treated, infections can occur. Some smells are simply normal odors of a dog, though, so not every smell indicates an issue.
Why Do Bacteria and Yeast Smell?
As bacteria or yeast invade a part of the body, they cause tissue to die off. This die off releases chemicals that cause the odor we smell but the microorganisms also produce some chemicals themselves that create odors. This means that the odor that people smell from a wound or dirty surface is actually due to chemicals that are a direct result of the infectious organisms and some types of bacteria and yeast have very distinct smells.
What Causes a Corn Chip Smell in Dog Feet?
Most people know that dogs sweat by panting but the primary way they cool down is actually through their feet. Sweat is released from glands that then obviously causes moisture between the paw pads and toes. When moisture combines with heat without being allowed to dry out regularly, bacteria or yeast can invade. This is very common in dogs since they have fur that likes to stay moist and in addition to sweating, it may also occur in a dog that regularly licks its feet or spends time in water. Certain types of bacteria and yeast will then cause a corn chip smell in the feet of dogs.
Is a Corn Chip Smell a Problem For Your Dog's Feet?
While many people may think that feet that smell like corn chips are an indication of a problem, this isn't usually the case. Most dogs that have feet that smell like corn chips have no infections in their paws. The small amounts of bacteria that are causing this distinct smell are very normal for dogs to harbor. Some dogs, though, do develop an overgrowth of bacteria or develop a combination of yeast and bacteria. If this occurs in your dog's feet, it is a problem and is called pododermatitis.
If there is an abundance of bacteria and yeast in a dog's feet it will cause inflammation and irritation. Dogs will often lick or chew on their feet because of this irritation so if your dog is doing this and its feet smell like corn chips it is a good sign that it has a problem and not just a normal, small amount of bacteria present. If this is the case, you should bring your dog in to see a veterinarian for treatment of the infection.
Treating Feet That Smell Like Corn Chips
If your dog has feet that smell like corn chips due to an infection, your veterinarian may run a test to see if the pododermatitis is due to bacteria, yeast, or both. This will determine how the corn chip smell is treated. Medicated wipes, sprays, shampoos, mousse, and other topical treatments may be recommended but if the problem is reoccurring your veterinarian may recommend changing your dog's diet. Food allergies or sensitivities can contribute to pododermatitis so special diets may be needed to prevent future issues.
When the Feet Aren't The Problem
Occasionally, when people think their dog smells like corn chips it isn't actually the feet but the rest of their dog's body, face, or ears instead. Bacterial and yeast infections can occur anywhere a dog has skin, especially if there are wrinkles and places for microorganisms to hide. If that corn chip smell never seems to go away or just keeps getting stronger, make sure you get your dog checked out for a bigger issue.
Paws, Summer. Summer Heat Can Be Murder On Your Dog’s Paws. Banfield Pet Hospital, 2020
Smelly Paws? The True Story About Canine “Frito Feet". New Haven Pet Hospital, 2020
Bajwa, Jangi. Canine Pododermatitis. The Canadian Veterinary Journal, vol. 57,9 (2016): 991-3