Have you ever been playing with your dog, and she pushes her paws into your face? Have you noticed that they smell like corn chips? Weird huh!?! (Oh wait, do your feet smell like Fritos too?) What’s going on here? Is my puppy the new Frito Bandito? No, she isn’t cheating on you behind your back. There is a logical explanation for it, really. And contrary to yet another urban legend, it is not because there is too much corn in your dog’s diet (although cornmeal is really bad for your pup – but we’ll talk about that another time).
sc Just think of her feet like your under-arms; though that probably isn’t a very attractive thought the next time she pushes her feet into your face while playing. Getting rubbed in the dirt, with folds of skin and hair and lots of sweat, your pup’s paws are the perfect place for a full-blown conflagration of bacteria. But don’t be grossed out, the skin of all land mammals hosts billions of bacteria – even you. As Bill Bryson puts it in A Short History of Nearly Everything, "If you are in good health and averagely diligent about hygiene, you will have a herd of about one trillion bacteria grazing on your fleshy plains—about a hundred thousand of them on every square centimeter of skin.". That bacteria needs moisture to really thrive, and while you sweat all over your body a dog only sweats where there is no fur, on its nose and paw pads. The most common bacteria on your pup are Proteus or Pseudomonas, and both give off a yeasty type smell like popcorn or corn chips (which probably smells better than your own BO). If the odor is really strong, there may be an infection and your vet should check it out. Otherwise, trimming the hair around the pads and shampooing between the toes should remove most of the odor.