The mystery behind 'Frito feet'

Furry dogs with a lot of hair between the pads of their feet may be more susceptible to foot odor.

"Frito feet." Many dog owners are aware of this condition, but few likely know its origins.

Although most people don't go around sniffing a dog's paws, individuals who come in regular contact with dogs might have noticed dog feet sometimes smell like stale popcorn or corn chips. The condition has thusly been dubbed "Frito feet," a reference to the popular brand of corn chip snacks.

Pet owners are often concerned about foul odors coming from their dogs simply because odor can be a signal of an infection. Therefore, veterinarians are often questioned about the corn chip smell on paws.

The consensus behind the Frito feet is that it is largely caused by bacteria and fungi. Dog's feet are in constant contact with the ground, which is full of microorganisms. In addition, dogs cool off by panting and sweating through the pads of their feet. The combination of moisture and bacteria  that builds up in the fur of the feet and between the pads can contribute to the nutty, popcorn-like or corn chip aroma. Essentially it's a form of doggy B.O.

If the minor odor is all that is present, most vets will tell you it's nothing with which to be concerned. If the smell is accompanied by licking or biting at the paws, limping, lumps, blood, or swelling of the feet, there could be a more significant problem that will need to be promptly addressed. There could be a foreign object caught in between the pads, like a pebble or grass burr. There also may be a small cut.

Pet parents who can live with the popcorn smell should not be overly concerned. However, when bathing the dog, spend extra care washing the paws and between the pads to remove extra dirt and sweat. For dogs with long hair that grows between the pads, such as shaggy breeds, consider trimming the fur short on the underside of the paws so less dirt will become trapped.

Feet alone are not the only places on dogs that may become malodorous. Routinely check dogs' ears for buildup or odor, which indicates an infection. Also, bad mouth odor can mean dental decay and disease.

Foot odor may be slightly offensive on dogs, but generally it's nothing to worry about.