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Why Do My Dog’s Paws Smell Bad? [Stinky Paw Care Tips]

dog paw care

People do think I’m crazy when we call Dolly’s paws ‘dorito paws’ but I’m sure you know as a dog owner that familiar yeasty smell of your doggy’s feet. Is this normal you ask?

The naturally occurring bacteria on your dog’s paws is what causes them to smell. This bacteria’s real names are Proteus or Pseudomonas and they grow everywhere including plants, soil, water, and even in humans.

Dogs have a natural smell to them, but sometimes their paws and feet can get funky. Why does my dog’s paw smell bad? What do I do about it? This faint whiff of ‘frito paws’ from the ever present bacteria in paws is no cause for concern. However if your dog’s paws are a bit stinkier than usual then there could be a problem and you should consult your vet.

Paw injuries can also cause these microorganisms to develop and if they aren’t treated, infections can occur like pododermatitis (a type of skin infection on dog paws). Dogs can damage their feet in a number of ways, including burns from hot pavements, puncture wounds and broken dew claws.

We’ll cover all the reasons that dogs’ paws might stink and ways of getting rid of the odor.

Can You Smell Frito, Dorito or Corn Chips?

Whether you think it’s a Frito, Dorito or Corn Chip scent on the paws and feet of your dog, it can be concerning.

As living things, we all share the world with trillions of microbes. There are many different types, including bacteria and fungi. Some of these bacteria, like those that help break down our food, provide a beneficial service to us. However, others are simply benign or worse, potentially dangerous. 

Microbes exist on the skin in all dogs, yet are benign and do not typically cause any health problems. But dog paws can also have natural bacteria living in the spaces between the paw pads.

Dogs don’t sweat the way we do to cool themselves down, so they rely on their paws for that task. Sweat released from the glands in a dog’s feet causes moisture between the paw pads and toes. It can leave paws and feet susceptible to bacterial or yeast invasion if they are not clean and dried properly.

Since hair also grows in between your dog’s paws, it is a great place for bacteria to grow – especially when they get wet. This moisture combined with heat provides an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive and create a distinctive odor.

Often referred to as ‘Frito feet’ or ‘popcorn paws’, this smell is similar to junk food snacks.

In fact this smell is coming from bacteria called Pseudomonas and Proteus that live in your dog’s paws and is usually nothing to worry about. Most bacteria and fungi that live on the skin are in balance and is healthy for most people.

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Why Do Bacteria and Yeast Smell?

As bacteria or yeast invade the paws and feet, it will cause some skin tissue to die off. Odours are released from this decaying tissue and other chemicals produced by the bacteria that live under the paws and feet which cause the smells.

Treatments for Stinky Dog Paws

If you’re anything like me, your pup’s paws can get a little stinky and gross. Luckily for us, there are a few natural treatments that will help keep your dogs paws smelling fresh and clean. 

How to take care of dog paws at home
Groom hairy toes to prevent bacteria

9 Good Paw Hygiene Tips To Reduce Smelly Paws

  1. Trim excess fur around your dog’s paws to help prevent them from collecting dirt and debris.
  2. To cut down on the bacteria that causes that yeasty smell, keep the hair between the toes shortly groomed to lessen the surface area that the bacteria can linger on and to promote good air circulation.
  3. Use a damp cloth and warm water to wipe your pet’s paws and feet clean after a walk or playing outside.
  4. Wash your pet’s feet after a walk through mud, debris, grass, and other dirty environments.
  5. Dry between the paws properly by pulsing the area in between the paw pads with your fingers.
  6. Olive oil, coconut oil, tea tree oil can be rubbed into the paw pads to help kill bacteria and relieve itchiness from paw pad yeast infection called pododermatitis (or Dorito smell).
  7. Use paw balm to protect paws all year round. In summer from dry and cracking and in winter from harmful antifreeze and salt on the ground.
  8. In winter, use dog booties to protect paws from dirt, salt and burns from frozen ground.
  9. Prepare a paw wash for when you return from a walk using the home made recipe below.
How to take care of dog paws at home
Clean and dry paws thoroughly

How To Make a Homemade Paw Wash for Your Dog

Before you take your dog out, place a small bowl filled with soapy water outside your door with a clean towel or paper towel. Upon returning from your walk, dip each paw into the bowl, then clean and dry between the toes.

By preparing the bowl before you leave, it will be ready for use without needing to traipse your dog and the germs or chemicals all over your house. Don’t reuse this water since you’d just be redistributing the same chemicals. Throw it away and always start clean.

You can use this all year round, but especially when you’ve been for a winter walk and the pavements have been covered with salt and chemicals to thaw ice.

Prepare a dog wash for clean paws
A homemade paw wash is simple and effective way of keeping paws clean.

When To See The Vet For Smelly Dog Feet

Normally all dog paws smell a bit. Generally, the bacteria that exist on the surface of a dog’s paws do not cause any problems. Yet any open wound or injury on the pad can provide an avenue for bacteria, resulting in infection; This can also ooccur if the pads are continually wet due to excessive licking.

The veterinarian may run a test to see if the pododermatitis is due to bacteria, yeast, or both. These factors will help determine what type of treatment the paws might need.

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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 may also contribute to pododermatitis.

Whilst smelly feet are normal, if the frito smell is strong or never seems to go away, it may be worth going checking your dog’s body, face wrinkles and ears to see if they smell bad elsewhere too and not just in their paws and feet.

If you are worried about how your dog’s feet smell, then it is a good idea to speak with your veterinarian for advice. For many, the best treatment for pets with smelly paws is to apply a cream, powder or medication to their skin.

In summary

Here are my top tips for good paw care, which is really important all year round, but particularly during winter and when we have outbreaks of Alabama Rot and as it is not known what causes it, good paw hygiene is essential. ( Click here to see reported outbreaks )

  • Keep your dogs paws clean and dry
  • Make sure you cut the hair on their feet
  • Use a paw balm to protect pads
  • Prepare a paw wash for when you return from a walk

Homemade Paw Soak for treating stinky paws

Home made Paw Soak for Dogs

This quick and easy recipe for paw soak can be part of your paw hygiene routine after washing.
Prep Time5 mins
Active Time20 mins
Course: Beauty
Cuisine: English
Keyword: dog feet, hygiene, paw soak
Yield: 1 bowl
Author: Sarah at Ruffle Snuffle

Equipment

  • Flat bottomed bowl

Materials

  • 250ml Organic apple cider vinegar
  • 1 juice Lemon Lemon is an anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral ingredient
  • 20 drops Peppermint oil

Instructions

  • Mix all the ingredients in a flat bottomed dish ( we use a stainless dog bowl.
  • Pop each clean paw in the bowl for 30 seconds and then let them air dry.

Here is Sir Fidget Smelly-Bottom and his man servant (Tom) demonstrating a good paw wash after a muddy walk:

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