When I open a bag of Fritos I get a nice junk food high from the pungent aroma and start craving mango salsa and guacamole dip. But today, I smelled Fritos and thought about white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. You’re probably wondering how I can go from tropical toppings one minute to cleaning fluids the next. Let me explain.
I had just come home from work dead tired. As I walked past Maru my senses were awakened by the tangy smell of Fritos. How could this be? Did she have a secret stash somewhere? I bent down and sure enough it was coming from her. But it wasn't her breath. So I started sniffing her. Somehow this was getting weird but I was determined to find out why. Sure enough, it was her feet that smelled like my favorite snack.
After all these years, why now? I got busy and found out that most all dogs feet smell like corn chips. In fact, even the cleanest dogs have trillions of bacteria living on their skin. But dog’s feet - trampling through the grass and dirt, being licked, with moist folds of skin and fur between the toe pads - are breeding grounds for bacteria and yeast.
Bacteria & Yeast
All these micro-organisms give off their own distinct odors and the popcorn/corn chip smell could be the fault of yeast or the bacterium Proteus, which are both known for their sweet, corn tortilla smell. Or it could be the bacterium Pseudomonas, which smells a little fruitier, but pretty close to popcorn to most noses. The more moisture, usually the more pronounced the odor.
We just had a blizzard and Maru had to walk through mounds of snow for a week. It all makes sense. It’s a medical condition caused by genetics and lifestyle and most all dogs have it.
For those of you who want a little more in-depth explanation, here’s what Dr. Karen Becker, a DVM says about yeast. A dog’s immune system needs to be balanced. An under-active system can lead to yeast overgrowth because it can’t control the balance. With allergies, there is an overactive immune response whereby steroids are prescribed to shut off the immune response. That leads to an increase in yeast levels because your dog can’t balance its normal flora levels. Dogs that have both allergies and secondary skin infections are given antibiotics that destroy not just the bad bacteria but the good - and that makes a bad situation worse. Some dogs even develop an allergic response to its own yeast. In some cases the allergic responses affect the whole body and dogs become red from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail.
A definitive diagnosis of a yeast infection can be done by a vet taking a culture (Petri dish) or by cytology (microscope). But as a pet owner, all you have to do is smell. Another sign a dog is yeasty is scratching. If it’s the paws, they won’t be able to leave them alone. The same goes for ears. A lot of butt scooting can also be a clue. Whatever the signal, your dog needs your help to solve the problem.
Is there a remedy for stinky feet? There are several home remedies and medical treatments but the condition is not curable. Dr. Becker recommends an anti-yeast diet and bath.
Yeast needs sugar as a source of energy. Carbohydrates break down into sugar so getting rid of sugar is a key factor. And, it’s not just the white sugar found in food and treats, but secret sugars like honey, high fructose corn syrup, and even white/sweet potatoes.
Also recommended is adding some natural anti-fungal foods to the diet such as small amounts of garlic or oregano. They will help reduce the yeast levels in your dog’s body.
Yeast thrives in a moist environment and in crevices like between your dog’s foot pads. Disinfecting this area is really important. Just spraying or wiping down its paws won’t get the job done. Yeast lives under the nail beds and in all the creases you can’t get to if the paws aren’t submerged in a foot soak. Recommended is a gallon of water, a cup of hydrogen peroxide, and 1-4 cups of white vinegar. Soak your dog’s feet in the solution. There’s no need to rinse. Just pat the paws dry. Leaving the solution on the paws serves as an anti-fungal and should reduce licking and digging at the paws.
Here are some other remedies people have suggested:
- Put your dog in a bathtub filled with enough water to cover his paws and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Then wash each paw with vinegar. Soak for several minutes and then rinse. This helps eliminate the smell.
- Wash your dog with pet shampoo or Tea Tree Oil shampoo. Try to bathe twice a week.
- Clip the fur around the paw pads using pet trimming clippers. This will help remove sweat accumulation.
- Feed your dog yogurt – a half cup of Activia Brand per day. No junk yogurt. Try this every day for the first two weeks, then just 3 days per week.
- Wash paws with a gentle soap, dry them, and then rub coconut oil on them. Do it twice a day and there should be noticeable improvement within a few days. This remedy was used by someone with a fungal toenail and it worked.