Dogs are known to eat some of the strangest things, things we often find disgusting. Do you have a dog obsessed with socks? Does he chew them or worse, swallow socks? There are many pet parents who can relate and have been through the sock-eating stage. Not that this is a particular stage; it’s not that uncommon for dogs to chew, eat or even swallow socks. But why? What’s the draw? While it may seem funny, it can become serious medical issue, especially in dogs who swallow socks on a regular basis.
Why do Dogs Eat Socks?
There are many reasons your fur baby may eat socks, and when your dog has a habit like this you want to find out the root cause. However, sometimes it’s difficult to discern why your canine companion is eating socks. Here are a few of the most common reasons for dogs eating socks:
1. Steals sock to play & attention: socks may be boring to us, but to your dog, socks are endless sources of enchantment, fun and getting attention. Stealing your socks is also a great way to get you to play. Not only does he grab your attention, he may also be signaling that he wants to play with you! He gets you to chase him, which is exactly what he wants. Some dogs steal socks out of boredom, too. It’s a challenge to get and keep your attention. When you get close, your fur baby is off like a flash, trying to get you to chase him. Some dogs will even go so far as to swallow the sock to keep it form you.
2. Your dog is guarding socks: if your dog views socks as a high value item, something that’s very valuable to him, he may swallow it to keep the sock away from you and other pets. Dogs have a tendency to guard what is important to them. Be glad your pup can’t swallow you! There are signs your fur baby is guarding the sock—he may show signs of distress if you seem close enough to take it away. He may also lower his head and growl, giving you the warning to stay away. Some dogs will even try to bite if you try to take the sock or other valuable item away. As a last resort, your pup may swallow the sock as a way to lock it up and keep it safe from you, other family members and other pets.
3. Pica: this is a condition where dogs (and even humans) eat non-food items. It may be dirt, plastic, rocks, paper…or you guessed it…socks. The root cause of pica is not understood, but it could be a sign that your dog’s suffering from a medical disorder, behavior disorder or some other type of medical condition. Dogs with pica are usually fixated on specific things, such as rocks, socks, etc. If your dog’s showing these signs and going after socks on a regular basis, he may have pica.
4. Scents & odors: many animals love the smell of things we find awful, including dirty socks. Your pup may really love your sweaty gym socks, the dirtier and smellier, the better. He may love the smell of your socks so much that he eats them. Back in 2014, there was a news story on Veterinary Practice News that talked about a Great Dane who ate 43 ½ socks! We kid you not. The dog was a boy about 3 years old. He was taken to the vet for vomiting and retching. After radiographs were done, they showed the dog had eaten a lot of “foreign material,” and had a distended stomach. The vet performed exploratory surgery only to find all those socks. The socks were removed, after which the dog recovered and was able to go home. So, if you regularly notice you have only one sock from a pair, and you can’t find the mate anywhere, it may be your pup is eating socks. Well, either that or your dryer is eating them. These are some of the main reasons dogs eat socks. If your dog is eating socks or showing obsessive behavior, it may be time to call the vet.
Your Dog Ate a Sock, Now What Happens?
There’s a lot that can happen if your dog swallows a sock, some of which depend on his size. If he’s a bigger dog and he ate a sock, chances are he will vomit it back. This may happen right away or even a couple of days later. If he doesn’t vomit the sock, then it may go directly through his digestive system, and come out in his pooh. Again, this may take a few days. If your dog seems constipated, though, it could be a sign he needs to see the vet.
The danger is increased if your small dog ate a sock. He doesn’t have as much room in his stomach or digestive system to accommodate a sock. In a small dog, a sock can quickly and easily cause an intestinal blockage, which is an emergency medical problem. Another issue is the sock becoming stuck in his digestive system, usually his stomach. The sock may stay there for days and can cause the dog to vomit his food when he tries to eat. Your fur baby may also retch, as if he’s trying to vomit, but nothing comes up. Your dog may vomit regularly, or could have a distended belly, etc. It’s also very uncomfortable for him.
Dog Ate a Sock But is Acting Normal
If your large dog ate a sock and is acting normal, it’s a good idea to check with your vet on how to handle the situation. Try to remember when your dog swallowed the sock, etc. Be sure to keep an eye on your fur baby, and at the first sign he’s vomiting, retching, constipated, has a distended belly, etc. call the vet. Your vet will need all of this information in order to decide how best to proceed. The vet may decide it’s OK to monitor your dog to see if he vomits it up or expels it with pooh. It depends on your dog’s overall health.
However, if your dog is small, it’s a good idea to call the vet as soon as possible. Socks can easily cause a bowel obstruction in smaller dogs. The vet may tell you to give your fur baby an emetic (something that makes him vomit) to see if the sock comes out. If that doesn’t work, then your pup will need to go in to see the vet.
Dog Ate Sock Keeps Throwing Up
If your dog has swallowed a sock and keeps throwing up after this, then it’s time to call the vet right away. Don’t hesitate to seek treatment for your fur baby as soon as possible.
General Cost of Sock Removal Surgery in Dogs
A dog ate sock surgery cost varies depending on where you live; however, the costs generally depends on the type of anesthesia and the exact procedure your dog will need. Endoscopic procedures can cost anywhere from $800 to $2,000. The surgery will generally run from $500 to $2,500.
My Dog Chews Socks
If your dog only chews socks, but doesn’t eat the fabric, then he’s probably OK. Just watch to make sure he doesn’t swallow any part of the sock.
Sock Eating Prevention in Dogs
It’s important to get your fur baby to stop eating/swallowing costs. As we’ve just seen, it can be very expensive to have procedures and surgeries done, so prevention is the best policy.
You can try these tips to keep your canine companion from eating socks:
- Spray socks: dogs don’t like citrus or bitter apple scents, so spraying your socks might work.
- More play time: if your dog is swallowing socks due to boredom, then giving him more enriching activities may help. You can try taking him on longer walks and other forms of exercise to wear off excess energy, provide a remedy for boredom and wanting attention.
- Give him healthy treats: another option is to give him treats through enrichment toys, such as puzzles, that make him work for the treat. The Kong Extreme is a great toy for large dogs, though they also make a similar toy for small dogs. You just put the treat inside the toy, and your fur baby has to work hard to get the treat out. Make sure the treat is high value in order to keep your pup’s attention. Not only will he use up energy working for the treat, but he’ll also get to chew on something satisfying.
- Leave it & Drop it training: training your dog to “leave it” and “drop it” can be helpful. This helps your dog learn not to take the socks and swallow them. Instead, he receives positive reinforcement for complying. Be sure to work in short sessions and always reward your fur baby when he leaves or drops the sock.
- Keeping socks away from your dog: this is probably one of the best preventative measure you can take. Make sure all the family’s socks are locked away from your dog at all times. It’s tempting to just drop our socks where we leave them each day; however, these create tempting targets for your dog. This might be as easy as keeping all dirty clothes in a hamper; however, a smart dog will know where you’re putting the socks and may be able to easily knock a hamper over and find his treasured socks.
If you have a determined pup who can access the hamper, then you might consider using a locked, dog-proof wastebasket such as the Simplehuman 58 Liter Stainless Dual Compartment Rectangular Kitchen Trash Can or something similar to keep your pup away from the socks. As you can see, some dogs just enjoy getting you to chase them. They want the attention and just want to have some fun. That’s OK, unless it’s a behavioral problem. However, if your pup swallows a sock, be sure to call the vet as soon as possible.
Get their advice on how to treat the problem. You want to avoid expensive surgeries or a life-threatening issue such as a bowel obstruction. And if your pup just chews on socks, but doesn’t eat them, it’s probably still a good idea to put the socks where he can’t get them!