In this article we take a look at why dogs eat socks and what to do when it happens, including the warning signs to watch out for. We will let you know when to call the veterinarian for assistance, and help you to reduce the chances of it happening again in future.
My Dog At A Sock!
We’ve all been there. We all know the feeling. The dread that moment when your dog eats something so unusual that you have no idea what to do. When our dogs eat a food that they shouldn’t, or something poisonous, information is usually easy to find. But there are some things so inedible that we can be left completely lost for ideas.
Socks, if you are anything like me, can periodically be found all over your house. Whether they’re hanging up to dry or kicked off after a long day, they can be pretty accessible.
It’s no surprise, then, that a large proportion of people who are concerned about what their dogs have eaten are talking about socks. So, what happens if a dog eats a sock? And why do dogs eat socks in the first place?
Impossible To Digest…
The word vets use for when a dog eats something like a sock is ‘foreign body ingestion’. This is the blanket term for a dog eating something that isn’t food, but isn’t technically toxic either. This type of incident is so common that it can even appear innocuous or funny. Sadly sometimes the results are far from comedic.
Any unusual, indigestible item that makes it’s way into your dogs digestive system has the risk of becoming stuck. A huge amount of vets’ time is used up dealing with dogs that have done just this.
But at least this means that when you run in shouting ‘my dog ate a sock!’ they know just what to do. And sometimes, the situation resolves itself on its own.
My dog ate a sock – and it came out the other end!
Socks are, for the most part, indigestible. If they make it out the other side they’ll do so largely unharmed, and unabsorbed. But this doesn’t mean you should leave your dog’s digestive system to it when it happens.
In fact, this indigestible quality is why socks are so dangerous in the first place. Digestive systems, our own or our dogs, dissolve everything into a malleable paste so it can pass freely through the intestines, and nutrients can be easily absorbed. The intestines are therefore not equipped to manage anything that holds its shape such as an item of clothing.
This is bad news for a dog, as a sock might become lodged in this area. The health implications of this occurrence are disastrous, and we’ll go into this a little later. First, for anyone asking ‘my dog ate a sock what do i do?’ lets look at what course of action you should take if your dog swallows a sock.
What to do if your dog swallowed a sock
As with any case of a dog swallowing a foreign body, there are a few distinct stages involved here. If you find yourself in the ‘my dog swallowed a sock’ situation, and you know about it, this is the time for action. You have a relatively narrow window of opportunity to minimize the risk of surgery being necessary.
The absolute best thing you can possibly do in this situation is take your dog straight to a vet. A vet may decide to pump the stomach, or induce vomiting. This is the first line defense in preventing a foreign object from making it into the intestines, making it come back up the way it went in.
Dogs will sometimes do this themselves. Finding yourself in the position of saying to your vet ‘my dog ate a sock and threw it up’ is actually among the best case scenarios. Your dog’s stomach recognized he sock shouldn’t be there and got rid of it.
In a lot of cases, though, we have to take matters into our own hands.
My dog ate a sock – should I make him sick?
You can, if your dog ate a sock, induce vomiting at home — but there are risks. If the sock is particularly large, or the dog particularly small, it may become lodged in the throat on it’s way out. This is of course a choking hazard, a much better situation to be in when you’re in a vet’s office.
If you’re unable to make it to a vet straight away, call them, they will be able to give you advice over the phone. If your vet advises inducing vomiting, they will likely give you instructions. In lieu of that, there are still resources we can draw from.
You can use 3% ( do not use higher strength solutions ) hydrogen peroxide in line with London Vet Clinics dosing guidelines to induce vomiting.
The full list of doses for different sizes of dog can be found through that link. For example a dog between 45 and 55 pounds will need 30ml of hydrogen peroxide. This solution fizzes in the stomach and causes vomiting, hopefully removing the sock.
There are risks to this method, so take advice from your vet before using this as a treatment. Anyone looking up how to make a dog throw up a sock should keep in mind this is always better done by a vet.
My dog ate a sock earlier today
So, what if the sock was eaten hours ago? Call the vet right now! In as short a time as an hour the sock may have made it into the intestine.
This changes our strategy slightly, and brings a whole new level of risk into play. If the sock moves into the intestine, then inducing vomiting will have no chance of getting it out.
This is also where the sock can pose the most risk to your dog, the narrow coiled path it will have to take makes getting stuck much more likely. We can’t assume that it will make it out, as an intestinal blockage can very quickly become life threatening. A study of 208 cases of ‘foreign body gastrointestinal blockage’ shows quite keenly that time is of the essence. There’s a direct correlation between how quickly the dogs received treatment, and how favorable the outcome was.
Vets have a few different options when they know a sock is somewhere in a dogs intestine. They can use a barium slug to make the intestines show clearly on an X-ray. The vet can then identify if the sock has become an obstruction or not. One of the most obvious symptoms of a blocked intestine is vomiting.
If your dog has recently swallowed a sock and begins to vomit (without any sign of the sock reappearing) this is now a veterinary emergency. Your dog will need pretty much immediate surgery to remove the sock. This is because the obstructed bowel can go necrotic, effectively die, within a matter of minutes. If this occurs the resultant infections and ailments can kill a dog very quickly.
These complicating factors from a bowel obstruction are what makes this situation so serious. So no matter how harmless it seems, a swallowed sock is a good enough reason to go the vet. If this is a regular occurrence for you you’ll rightly be asking why.
Why does my dog take my socks and eat them? Let’s take a look at what to do if your dog keeps eating socks. Why do dogs eat socks?
My dog keeps eating socks
Sometimes, dogs get a bit of a fixation about eating something that definitely isn’t food. Most of the time sock eating will be a one time occurrence. Dogs like eating new things, and this can lead them to gulp down all sorts of strange objects.
If your dog, though, is consistently eating the same obscure item, it could be an indication that something else is going on. So, why does my dog eat socks?
Dogs have, after all, spent tens of thousands of years subsisting on our table scraps. For most of history we’ve used dogs as a sort of mobile dustbin, feeding them on the stuff we leave on the plate. This behavior has helped dogs to evolve to tolerate foods their wolf ancestors couldn’t.
Unfortunately it’s probably also developed dogs who are not picky at all, and who will eat pretty much anything (food or otherwise). But sometimes there is something more complex at play.
Possible reasons why dogs eat socks
There are several possible reasons why dogs eat socks. If a dog is consistently seeking out and devouring socks, he could be suffering from a disorder called PICA. Pica is when dogs, for whatever reason, gain an appetite for an item that isn’t food.
This isn’t restrained to socks, but they’re one of the more likely things a dog will come across in abundance in any given house. There are multiple theories as to why this happens. One is to do with attention.
If a dog rarely experiences deliberate human contact, he might continue in his sock eating ways just because it makes you interact with him. This is one of the more easily solved situations, but one that many owners find themselves in. We need to remember that dogs are social animals, and give them the stimulation and attention they crave.
Dogs get lonely quite easily, and dedicating a small amount of time just to hanging out with them each day can make a world of difference. Another likely theory is that it’s down to anxiety. A 2008 study looked at dogs with and without anxiety related disorders.
PICA was exceptionally common in the anxious dogs, with about half displaying these behaviors. Interestingly there seemed to be a difference in brain chemistry between anxious and non anxious dogs, suggesting a possible deeper root cause of this state of being. Regardless of the root cause, PICA should always be taken seriously and measures must be taken against it.
My dog ate a sock AGAIN!
We’ve already been through the potential danger of eating one sock. When this is a regular occurrence, the odds start to pile up against our dogs. It’s just not safe to have a dog constantly undergoing gastric surgery. It’s unhealthy and dangerous for him, not to mention really expensive for you.
If you’re worried your dog is displaying signs of PICA, it’s important to act quickly. One of the major stumbling blocks of treating this condition is that dogs can be quite secretive about what they’re eating. Talking to a vet, seeing what they suggest, and possibly being referred to an animal behaviorist are all steps in the right direction.
These professionals will give their best advice on how to get your dog to stop eating socks. The inclination may be to find this sort of funny, but the reality is far removed from that. Some dogs have real trouble with this urge and need a lot of help cutting it out.
It’s not that they’re being naughty or misbehaving, they might really be genuinely suffering.
My dog ate my sock
When an otherwise well-behaved dog does something as weird as eating a sock, it might throw you for a bit of a spin. You should keep in mind that, while dangerous, this is normal. Dogs are experimental in terms of what they’ll try to eat, and hopefully this will be a one-time occurrence.
The potential danger shouldn’t be underestimated, though. A ‘better safe than sorry’ approach is usually advisable in this sort of situation. Don’t leave it up to chance, take your dog to a vet.
Has your dog ever eaten a sock? How did you deal with this, or does your dog eat socks still? Let us know in the comments below
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website