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Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fritos? The Cause & Possible Solutions


Jun 26, 2023
male dog owner covering his nose because his dog smells bad

Dr. Athena Gaffud Photo

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you own a dog, you know that they can be stinky for various reasons. Their oily coats serve a useful purpose, even if we don’t want wet dogs in our homes or cars. Another unusual olfactory issue, however, is the so-called Frito feet.

The ingredients in Fritos are short and straightforward. The original flavor only contains corn, corn oil, and salt 1. There’s not a lot to dislike. Yet, some people find the smell unpleasant and even offensive. Unusual odors are often a red flag when it comes to pets, however, which may make you wonder whether it’s normal or a sign of an underlying problem when your dog smells like Fritos.


Ripe for Trouble

A dog’s coat protects them and works like an extra layer of skin. It prevents parasites, burrs, and other things from getting to the animal’s skin. It keeps harmful UV radiation from giving your pup a sunburn or worse. However, it’s also a problem waiting to happen. Your pet’s fur can also harbor bacteria and fungi, which can cause serious skin infections. That’s especially true for water-loving dogs with thick coats.

That’s where the answer to this question lies—with bacteria called Pseudomonas and Proteus poop. Some dogs are more likely to smell like corn chips than others. Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are two classic examples because of the nature of their coats and their love of swimming. Excess moisture sets the stage for the bacteria to develop.

Other breeds prone to this condition include those with skin folds, like Shar Peis and Pugs. The same thing happens even though their coats are relatively short. Likewise, Proteus can also frequently occur on a dog’s paws. With nothing covering their feet, it’s hard to avoid it. The bacteria exist in the soil 2. Add a pup’s tendency to lick its paws, and you have the perfect storm.

White and brown dog paws Just finished taking a shower Lying on the wet wooden floor
Image Credit: SingjaiStocker, Shutterstock

divider-dog paw

When to Worry

Getting used to dog odors is part of being a pet owner—usually. It can be a harbinger of something worse. After all, we’re talking about bacteria and yeast, which can also be bad things. If you notice a change in the strength or muskiness of the smell, that warrants a visit to the vet. Other signs of an issue include the following:

  • Excessive licking
  • Limping
  • Redness
  • Hair loss
  • Build-up around the animal’s paws

Skin Infections

Excessive licking is a red flag that means something is wrong. Your pup may have broken a nail or hurt its paw. It becomes a problem if it jump-starts the immune system. Swelling, redness, itching, and a warm sensation are signs that your dog’s body is responding to an infection.

Wound healing is a three-stage process 3. These initial signs represent inflammation as your dog’s body starts to repair the damage and fend off pathogens or disease-causing organisms like bacteria. This is followed by proliferation and remodeling. Treatment and bandaging of the wound are essential for preventing secondary infections that can prolong healing.

a golden retriever dog licking its paw inside the house
Image Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

Food Allergies

Food allergies are often a tough nut to crack because of the symptoms they cause. You’d probably be more inclined to think your dog has fleas with their constant scratching. However, food allergies can also lead to itchy skin and paws. That can make your pet more susceptible to bacterial infections if the skin is broken. Of course, licking their feet will aggravate an existing Proteus condition, making them smell even worse.

Contrary to popular belief, a gold-standard allergy test doesn’t exist. The best way to diagnose an issue is with an elimination diet. Dogs are most likely to be allergic to animal-based proteins, like chicken and beef. Grain allergies are extremely rare and virtually non-existent in cats. While food allergies are uncommon, excessive licking is a classic sign.

Urinary Tract Infections

Research has shown that roughly 14% of dogs will come down with a urinary tract infection (UTI) sometime during their lives. One of the most common causes is Proteus spp. bacteria. Senior animals, female dogs, and pets with weakened immune systems are most susceptible. Some Signs of a UTI include the following:

  • Inappropriate elimination
  • Frequent urination
  • Blood in urine
  • Straining to urinate

Fortunately, this condition responds well to antibiotics. Your vet may also prescribe painkillers or other supportive care. Keeping your dog’s food and water bowls clean can help prevent a recurrence. Animals with chronic UTIs may need to go on a food formulated to encourage good urinary tract health.

Sad tired beagle dog on sofa. Sick dog.
Image Credit: ALEX_UGALEK, Shutterstock

Controlling the Odor

Eliminating the bacteria might be next to impossible, given a dog’s lifestyle. However, we don’t recommend trying to cover up the odor. Canines have a much keener sense of smell than humans have, with over 17 times the number of sensory receptor sites than we have. Using a scented product on your pup will likely overwhelm them. Instead, you can use unscented wipes made for pets.

We also suggest wiping your dog’s feet and coat when you come home after a walk or letting them in from the backyard. It won’t get rid of the smell entirely, but it may make things more pleasant for you.


Final Thoughts

Dogs live in a world of scents, some good and some bad. It also applies to their coats and feet. Bacteria development is usually a normal part of being a canine. It’s virtually impossible to avoid. However, an especially stinky pup may have a bigger bacteria colony for several reasons. If you notice changes in how your dog smells, you should make an appointment with your vet to investigate it further.

Featured Image Credit: san4ezz, Shutterstock

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