Does your dog's feet smell like Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos or any other snack foods you are likely to find in a vending machine?
If so, rest assured, you are not alone. Countless owners have noticed a distinct popcorn-like smell emanating from their dog's feet and have been wondering where that smell comes from.
No, your dog isn't likely stealing that bag of corn chips from your cabinets nor is he emanating that tortilla smell because of something in his diet.
We investigated the secret behind that smell, that's sometimes strong enough to make you almost crave your favorite snack foods.
A Matter of Sweat
We are often told that dogs don't sweat, but this is wrong. Dogs do sweat, only not in the same way we do.
Unlike humans who sweat profusely from sweat glands distributed over much of the body, dogs sweat discreetly only from a few sweat glands, located on the nose and on their paw pads.
Sweaty feet can sometimes be noticed in stressed dogs when they leave humid paw prints on the vet's examination table or on the floor.
According to Muller and Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology, these sweat glands have limited function in cooling dogs down, therefore vaporizing water from their respiratory passages remains their primary way to dissipate heat.
Population of Bacteria
The dog's skin is normally populated by a vast array of bacteria and yeast, but feet are particularly rich in resident flora because the toes are closely together, reducing air circulation and trapping more moisture.
Along with the sweat dogs produce from their feet, which partly may contribute to the smell, consider that feet are also in contact with the ground and are occasionally licked by the dog's tongue.
This contributes to additional microbes giving feet a stronger odor than the rest of the body, explains veterinarian Janet Tobiassen Crosby.
Who's to Blame?
Two strains of Gram negative bacteria known as "pseudomonas" and "proteus "are known for populating a dog's feet and ears, explains, Rob Hilton a veterinarian with a practice restricted to referrals and consultations in Veterinary Dermatology around Melbourne.
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If you're looking for the source of the smell, consider that proteus is what's ultimately held responsible for causing the famous snack food smell, explains Dr. Robert J. Silver, a Colorado-based veterinarian in an article for the Huffington Post.
When Things Get Out of Hand
While the dog's immune system does a good job in keeping bacteria and yeast in the skin under control, sometimes, things can get out of hand.
Bacteria and yeast may act as opportunists, given the opportunity, and the more bacteria on the skin, the more the yeast.
This overgrowth of yeast can create far more problems other than a tortilla-like odor, so it's always good to have the feet checked out by a vet.
Yeast overgrowth can create a rancid, pungent, musty odor, explain Karen Helton Rhodes and Terri Bonenberger, two board-certified veterinary dermatologists.
Why Do Dog Feet Smell More When They Sleep?
After witnessing this lovely snack aroma for many years, I too have witnessed that the corn chip smell intensified significantly when my dogs were sleeping.
The main reason why dogs smell more like corn chips when they sleep, is likely due to their position. At least, that's my theory.
What I assume may be happening is that, when dogs are walking around, the bottom of their feet are in contact with the ground so the smell doesn't spread much.
Things change dramatically though when they sleep on their sides or belly up, exposing their feet soles to the air and releasing their lovely snack-like aroma.
Now That You Know...
Do your dog's feet smell like corn chips? If an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria was found to be the problem, your vet will likely prescribe some medications.
If your vet didn't find any signs of problems, you may have been told that the odor is normal smell. Here are several tips for good foot care.
How to Get Rid of Frito Feet in Dogs
- Boosting the dog's immune system is of course important in keeping bad yeast and bad bacteria in check.
- If your dog is prone to feet problems, keeping the feet dry is also important as bacteria and yeast thrive in warm, moist places especially during the summer months.
- Routinely inspecting your dog's feet for any signs of trouble is always good practice.
- Trimming the hair around the toes may help keep the feet more dry and improve the circulation of air in the area. Dogs suffering from inflammation in the feet benefit from this as the hairs traps sweat and water, explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona.
- Can't stand the smell? Jodi Ziskin, a Certified Pet Nutrition Consultant for Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice, suggests putting some organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle and spraying it daily onto the dog's feet making sure to get in between the toes and paw pads.
Did you know? Those sweaty feet in stressed dogs have a function. According to Sue Gould professional dog groomer and author of the book "The Dog Groomer's Manual," that extra moisture helps improve grip and traction so that the dog can make a safe escape.