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Why Does My Dog Eat Socks and What Can I Do About It?

Updated on December 03, 2016
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Is Your Dog Eating Socks?

Dogs consume the strangest things therefore it may feel like old news when you hear about dogs who ingest socks.Veterinarians are much acquainted with this scenario as they hear the story quite often: "My dog just swallowed my socks, what would it be advisable for me to do? " The issue with dogs eating socks goes beyond owners going on a treasure hunt wondering about the whereabouts of their favorite footwear.

And there's ultimately nothing funny about dogs eating socks, no matter how comical things may seem: A dog who devours socks may encounter some serious medical issues that could turn out particularly problematic, not to mention expensive veterinary bills, particularly when dealing with "sockaholic" dogs, those repeat offenders out there who have made the practice of swallowing socks their favorite habit. So why are dogs eating socks, and what could possibly happen to dogs that eat socks?

Did you know? A 3-year-old male Great Dane was found to have ingested 43 and 1/2 socks! The exploratory surgery was performed by a DoveLewis veterinarian and the patient was discharged home one day after surgery.

— Source: Veterinary Practice News
Why Does My Dog Eat Socks?
Why Does My Dog Eat Socks? | Source

Why is My Dog Eating Socks?

Why is my dog so interested in eating socks? It's not like socks are that flavorful and they are definitively not part of a dog's diet, so what gives? In order to understand a dog's fetish for socks, one must put himself in the paws of a dog and see things from a canine perspective.

While socks appear to be quite uninteresting items that are found laying around the home, many dogs are savvy enough to discover that, at least from the point of view of their beloved dog owners, socks seem to have some special meaning.

If Rover is the type of dog who enjoys attention and interaction with his owners, or perhaps is a tad bit bored, he may casually or, perhaps more intently, notice how holding a sock and taking off with it will immediately grab the owner's attention. Soon, a game of "keep away" takes place and oh, the game is so rewarding! At some point, as the owner gets closer and is within an arm's reach from gathering the sock, Rover decides to swallow the sock so to safely store it in his stomach.

While many dogs may swallow socks because of boredom, or as part of a game, on a more serious note, some dogs may do so as a form of resource guarding. In this case, the dog perceives the sock as a valuable item, perhaps as valuable as bones, toys and other items they are particularly eager of having. Dogs who guard socks may engage in distance-increasing behaviors (behaviors meant to discourage other dogs or people from coming near) so that they don't feel threatened about losing their "resource." Growling, keeping the head lowered towards the sock, and snapping, are just a few behaviors of dogs who guard items like socks. Swallowing the sock may be part of the display, as the culminating effect once a person or animal gets too close. However, not all dogs follow this pattern, some dogs may decide to just swallow socks straight off the bat upon finding them just to store them out of reach from others.

On the other hand, sometimes swallowing socks may be a sign that a dog is experiencing a condition that's known as pica. Pica is the propensity to eat non-consumable objects. The list may include rocks, socks, leaves, dirt and so forth. The underlying cause for this behavior may not be identified at times, but there's belief that pica may stem from a behavior disorder, or perhaps a digestive or metabolic issue or some other underlying medical condition.

And then there are dogs who eat socks just because it feels rewarding. Perhaps, they like them because they retain the smell of their owners, despite several wash cycles.

Obviously, eating socks is big no-no as cloth has no nutritional value and on top of that, socks may cause a blockage which may end with the dog on the surgical table.

Dog sick from eating socks.
Dog sick from eating socks. | Source

My Dog Ate a Sock, What Should I Do?

Not all sock eating though ends up on the surgical table. In the best case scenario, courtesy of a process known as peristalsis, the normal digestive process would push the the sock through the stomach, then off to the dog's small intestine, then off to the large intestine and finally out. Generally, by the time the sock has made it to the end of the large intestine, it's a pretty smooth ride out.

The most problematic transit areas are the many curvy, narrow areas of the intestinal tract where the sock risks getting really stuck. This is further aggravated by the propensity for the intestine around it swell, explains veterinarian Dr. Rebecca. At this point, there is nothing that can be done other than getting the sock out through surgery.

When caught on time though, there are some options that can save dog owners from an expensive vet trip. When dog owners used to call us at the vet clinic, asking us in a frantic tone of voice: "Help, my dog swallowed a sock, what should I do?" We were trained to ask them certain pertaining details as part of our triage such as "how long ago did your dog swallow the sock?" and "what size of sock was it?

If the dog owner reported that the dog just swallowed the sock in the last hour or two, we immediately reported to our vet for detailed instructions on how they could induce vomiting at home by using the right dosage of three percent hydrogen peroxide based on the dog's weight. We told them they could try a couple of times if it didn't work the first time around and then if that still didn't work, they had to call us as we could have provided a stronger emetic or our vets could try with endoscopy if the sock wasn't too far down.

If the sock was swallowed beyond two hours, then things got a tad bit more complicated. If the dog who swallowed the sock was large, like say an adult Labrador or a great dane, we would give the owner the option to just monitor the dog. This wait-and-see protocol included a detailed list of symptoms of an intestinal blockage to watch for, along with recommendations for careful monitoring that entailed watching if the sock was vomited or made it through the dog's stool in the next couple of days. If the dog was still happy and eating and keeping the food down, there were likely good chances that the sock was moving along without complications. If the dog was not eating, and would start vomiting though, then the owners were to see us at once as this was often indicative of trouble.

However, if the dog was small or say a puppy, and more than a couple of hours had passed from ingestion, things were more critical, considering that it would be more difficult for the sock to pass, even though some ended up at times vomiting it later on. After warning the owners of the dangers of blockages, we would recommend that they bring the dog to the vet clinic for x-rays, possibly barium series (to evaluate where the sock was and its transit) and perhaps an endoscopy depending on the results. Endoscopy is a simple procedure where a tube is inserted down a dog's throat and the sock is grasped and retrieved. Endoscopy is a less invasive procedure than a surgical procedure where the dog is opened up; therefore, an endoscopy is a preferred option depending on which part of the gut the sock is trapped in and how much time had passed.

Disclaimer: the above paragraphs are not meant to be used as substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog swallowed a sock please consult with your vet promptly.

Vet Provides Instructions on How to Induce Vomiting in Dogs

Stop Dog From Swallowing Socks
Stop Dog From Swallowing Socks | Source

Stopping Dogs From Eating Socks

Preventing a dog from swallowing socks is vital so to keep a dog from becoming ill or undergoing surgery. Owners of die-hard "sock-a-holic dogs" must be aware that too many surgeries may cause complications such as the intestines becoming more narrow each time. So what can be done for dogs who can't stop eating socks?

Stopping a dog from eating socks requires a multiple-angle approach. The most important factor is management, thus, keeping those socks out of reach. This may seem easier said than done, especially in households with small children who forget socks around the home. Socks must be treated as if they were jars of chemicals that must be kept stored away from toddlers. Keeping them securely out of reach is therefore paramount, and this means in closed drawers in a closed room. Keeping socks out on a bed, dresser or in a laundry basket is just asking for trouble. A determined dog will do what it takes to get a hold of them.

On the other hand, it's important to make socks less appealing so that the dog isn't tempted as much,should the opportunity to grab socks arises because of poor management. Providing the dog ample of opportunities for exercise, for example, strolls, play and interactive games is important. Placing a lot of fun toys close to the dog making sure such toys are loaded with treats and rewards can help.

Training plays also a big role in the prevention process. Sock-eating dogs must learn a strong leave it and drop it cue, practiced routinely by rehearsing with items that the dog doesn't normally ingest. This way, should the dog manage to see a sock no matter all the effort taken in preventing this from happening, the owner can rapidly intervene by telling the dog to "leave it". And should the dog still manage to get his mouth on the sock, hopefully the drop cue will get him to rapidly spit it out.

Teaching a dog to drop on cue

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    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 months ago from Chicago Area

      When dogs eat fabrics, it can be scary! Been there, done that. One ate underwear. Thanks for sharing the insight into what this kind of behavior might mean. Cheers!

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 months ago from USA

      Yes, it's scary, especially when dogs do this over and over and must undergo risky surgeries! At the vet, we once had a dog that ate 3 pairs of socks and a pair of boxers!

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 2 months ago from Mississauga, ON

      I never had this problem with my buddy and I don't think I ever will, but who knows. It pays to be knowledgeable about any eventuality.

      Very helpful hub, I must say.

      Regards,

      Suhail

    • alexadry profile image
      Author

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 months ago from USA

      Hopefully not! Luckily my dogs are also not interested, but I feel for those who deal with this problem. Having a dog eating socks is no fun!

    • profile image

      Ashley 6 weeks ago

      My dog only eats my socks!she poops them out and throws them up and I was told that she can get hurt or die so I am going to try really hard not to leave them out

    • profile image

      Chad Smiley 4 weeks ago

      We have a 10 month old Giant Schnoodle that eats just about anything: socks, an entire blanket (pieces at a time) and anything left on the floor. So far we have been fortunate and he has passed most of the non-consumable items (evident by the pile of fabric in my back yard :).

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 3 weeks ago from USA

      Chad Smiley, happy to hear your dog has passed all the ingested socks, you are very fortunate!

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