Dogs can amuse us in so many ways, sometimes just by their purposeful actions, other times at no fault of their own. Among all the curious questions asked about our canine friends, it’s no surprise to hear or read something like, “Why does my dog smell like Doritos?”
A dog may smell like Doritos ~ or any type of corn chip, or even popcorn ~ because a bacteria concentration has occurred. Most often, it occurs in the paws, but sometimes in other areas like the ears. The most common culprit is a yeast infection.
In fact, just like with humans, the feet are usually the source of the strongest or most pungent odors emanating from a dog’s body. For pooches, the cause most likely is the above-mentioned yeast infection, but regular sweat on their paws also can contribute.
Almost always these odors, whether Doritos, popcorn, or whatever other human food item you think it smells like, are natural and common occurrences with canines. However, sometimes a lingering odor can be a sign of something more significant. Let’s explore the details.
Yeast Infections in Dog Paws
Development of what is commonly known as “Doritos feet” or “Fritos feet” is usually caused by types of bacteria on canine paws, called Pseudomonas, and Proteus. Canine enthusiasts say the Proteus bacteria can smell like corn tortillas or corn chips, while Pseudomonas can cause a popcorn-like odor.
These build-ups of bacteria occur usually due to sweat. Dog bodies are cooled by either panting or sweating through the paws. Think of the corn chip smell as his or her version of body odor. Ours smells pretty bad, theirs just smells like … chips or popcorn.
Why is ‘Doritos Feet’ Worse in the Morning?
Many dog owners report that they mostly or only notice the Doritos smell in the morning, basically, once the dog awakens and begins to get active. This is because your pet has been totally inactive for several hours. Whatever bacteria were there when the sleep began has remained on the paws uncleaned, and possibly expanded, and then add to that sweat during the sleep.
Over time, the batch of bacteria grows, ultimately emitting an odor. If you notice, when you let your dog out to relieve itself first thing in the morning, upon return the corn-chip smell is probably gone. It’s because the bacteria was wiped off in the grass or dew. (See below for quick and easy paw-cleaning tips).
On top of the bacteria concentrations accumulated on dog paws during their daily routines, remember that dogs sweat in their sleep just like we do, especially if it’s very humid or not cool enough at night. If you have a continuous problem with corn chip or popcorn smells with your dog, try keeping the pet cooler for a spell and see if the odors go away or at least become less noticeable.
Hot and/or humid months are the time to keep an eye out for odors on pets because just like us they too sweat more ~ and then become prone to the unwanted accumulation of bacteria.
Other Possible Causes of Doritos Odors with Dogs
While a concentration of bacteria is the most common reason, it’s not the only possible cause.
Some dog owners insist that feeding their pets cheap dog food contributes to the smell, namely because corn is a common major ingredient in low-quality pet food. Dog experts will refute this claim, as diet rarely causes odors to emit from the body strong enough to notice. (Unless a bad diet causes gastrointestinal gas, of course, which can be much worse than Doritos feet!).
Even if cheap dog food does not cause the corn chip smell, it’s still wise to consider improving your pet’s health with better food selection (see Healthy Dog Food). Eating healthier can only help protect your pet from any number of ailments, among them malnutrition, obesity, or even diabetes or cancer.
It also can be important to review ingredients in the dog food you use and avoid sugar as much as possible as it is needed for yeast to grow. Also if you can, avoid rice, wheat, corn, or other high-carbohydrate ingredients; as well as sugar replacements like honey or syrup. Too much sugar or salt is very bad for us. That’s also true for our canine friends.
Finally, think about where your dog treaded last. Perhaps he or she stepped on something? Even if initially you thought you wiped it all away, remember the gaps between the paw pads.
Is a Doritos Smell a Problem for Your Dog’s Feet?
Smelling Doritos (or corn chips in general) from your dog’s feet is not problematic ~ most of the time. Just pay attention in case the odor seems to be getting stronger, or changes to something else, maybe something even worse.
If it seems like the same smell, only stronger, consider the information above, and try cleaning the dog’s paws more consistently, or more thoroughly, or think about whether something in its environment might be making it sweat more than usual. Sweat build-up in dog paws can cause odors ~ just like on our own feet.
Again, with any pet, it’s important to always be cognizant of bacteria and yeast, which cause not-always-pleasant odors in any animal.
But if a dog’s odor seems to switch, from corn chips or popcorn to, say, sulphuric, or anything nauseous, do a thorough inspection of his or her entire body and pay attention to your pet’s behavior. You might find an open or infected sore, or notice that your pooch is lethargic or otherwise clearly not the same. If that’s the case, set up a vet visit.
About Those Dog Paws
It’s wise to keep a pretty good eye on your dog’s paws always, certainly for cleanliness, but also for potential injuries, signs of infections, or even to at least check on the length of their nails.
Remember that dog paws are not like human feet or hands. They are comprised of pads, kind of their own long-developed toe-tips better for roaming around on natural terrain including over rocks. The pads on the feet of dogs and cats also help absorb shocks when jumping.
In between these pads lie places tough to reach for the dog’s tongue to keep clean, hence the bacteria that can hide among the paw spaces.
There is little opportunity for air ventilation between those pads, so bacteria and yeast can more easily find perfect locations to multiply. That dogs lick bodily areas to clean doesn’t always help the paws; that saliva contains microbes also and left between the pads can exacerbate the problem.
Adding to the challenge for some dogs is hair around and between the paw pads, which can grip grime, prevent crevasses from drying out to prevent bacteria build-up, or cause other troubles.
Like us, the dog depends on healthy feet. Always keep this in mind for a healthier and happier pooch. You have nothing to lose from giving your dog a little love for his or her feet now and again. Just like with humans, they’ll appreciate it!
How to Prevent Fritos Feet on Dogs
Don’t like smelling Doritos or Fritos all the time? Just focus on keeping dogs’ feet and paws clean. Here are easy and usually effective ways to do it:
- Bathe dogs regularly
- When bathing dogs, pay special attention to the feet, paws, pads, and spaces between them
- Try to keep a dog’s feet dry.
- Keep fur on the feet and paws trimmed
- Pay attention after walks through grass, mud, debris, or other unclean environments
- Consider a soak of the paws:
- Start with a gallon of water;
- Then add a cup of hydrogen peroxide; and
- 3 cups of white vinegar.
- Submerging the paws is more effective than wiping. When done, don’t wipe off excess soak; let the soaking solution remain on the paws to continue combating bacteria and yeast even in a dry state.
- For persistent problems, consider using pet booties
- Consider a portable dog paw cleaner (see Amazon), or a dog-specific shampoo (see Amazon)
When to Contact a Veterinarian for Dog Odors
Sometimes it’s not just dirt and grime causing paw troubles. Perhaps a paw pad is cut or injured, or somehow your dog’s immune system is compromised. If unusual smells seem to linger or get stronger, look for these signs:
- The odor that’s fouler, or more prominent, than previously
- Inflammation of any kind
- A cut or abrasion that fails to heal
- Injury to the paws, feet, or legs
If your dog shows one or more of these symptoms, set up a visit with a veterinarian. Left untreated, an infection can result in permanent injury.
Summary of Doritos Smells in Dogs
All mammals have microscopic living organisms on them, whether yeast, bacteria, or other things we cannot see. Dogs are no different. And just like they say that too much of anything is bad for you, well, too much yeast or bacteria hanging out in one place on an animal’s body can produce odors.
Most of the time it’s a natural thing for a corn chip smell to come from a dog’s paws ~ remember, it’s the canine version of our B.O. It’s a situation that can be remedied or prevented with consistent paw cleanings or soaks, or even trimming away excess hair around and in between the paws. Other times a lingering odor could be a sign of a health problem or physical distress, and should be monitored closely just in case.
Question: Are there easy or fast ways to detect a yeast infection in a dog?
Answer: Yes, pretty much. Among them, look for excessive scratching, licking, rubbing, chewing, or biting of any particular part of the body; then, also accompanied by stronger-than-usual odors. A cheese-like odor, or loss of hair, or a raw red rash, are pretty clear signs of a yeast infection.
Q.: Are yeast infections dangerous?
A.: Not really, but any detected infection should be dealt with, lest the situation worsen. Yeast infections when started aren’t overly troublesome, but in advanced stages, your dog can become pretty miserable. If they don’t eat, or appear sluggish or even kind of grumpy, it’s probably time to visit the veterinarian.
Family Dog Expert Author
Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.