Why Does My Dog Eat Socks?

Bulldog puppy biting a child's sock.
Socks can be enticing to many dogs.

Carol Yepes / Getty Images

Dogs, especially puppies, may chew on things that aren't meant to be chew toys and occasionally they even eat things they shouldn't. Socks are a popular choice for many dogs to eat but some people don't realize the risks involved with these common underwear items. Knowing why a dog may like to eat socks and what could happen if it does is important for a dog owner to understand.

Why Do Dogs Like Socks?

Dogs love to play with, roll in, and even eat stinky items so dirty socks are no exception. But some dogs even play with and eat clean socks so it leaves many people wondering why. Socks are simply bite sized, easy to pick up and carry around, make a wonderful tug toy, and are fun to chew and rip apart. They are also very often just lying around a house and accessible to a dog. These qualities make them the ideal nonedible treat for a curious or bored dog.

The Dangers of a Dog Eating Socks

Socks may seem harmless but if a dog eats one, it can cause serious harm. Socks are made of fabric that is not able to be digested. This means that when a sock enters the stomach, it may sit in there for some time before causing an issue or it could immediately get stuck and be a problem.

Socks and other items that aren't meant to be eaten are referred to as foreign bodies if they are consumed by a dog. Foreign bodies can then lead to an obstruction and block the normal flow of food going from the stomach through the intestines. Socks can get stuck in the stomach and block food from going into the intestines or get stuck in the intestines if they happen to make it out of the stomach. This sock foreign body then causes vomiting, a decrease in appetite, lethargy, and eventually death if not removed from the dog.

How to Know if Your Dog Ate a Sock

The first indication that your dog ate a sock might be that you are missing a sock but as anyone who wears socks knows, losing a sock isn't unheard of even without a dog being around. Dogs that tend to enjoy carrying around socks should be considered suspects if a sock goes missing but the symptoms of a sock ingestion are usually obvious to a pet owner.

Vomiting, a decrease in appetite, lethargy, and constipation are typically seen in a dog that is obstructed by a sock. These symptoms may not manifest until a few days after the dog has eaten the sock but once symptoms are noticed they should not be ignored. A veterinarian will take an X-ray to look for signs of an obstruction but a sock will not show up on an X-ray. Gas patterns and changes in the stomach or intestines on the X-rays may instead indicate your dog has eaten a sock.

Treating a Dog That Ate a Sock

If it is known or even suspected that your dog ate a sock, your veterinarian may recommend a few different things. If the sock was potentially eaten within the past few hours, inducing vomiting may be beneficial in making the dog spit the sock out. If it is unknown when the sock may have been eaten or it has been over a few hours since ingestion, IV fluids may help hydrate the intestines and help your dog pass the sock naturally. Barium and mineral oil administration has also been known to help socks pass through the intestinal tract and be excreted in the feces. If these methods do not work or if a dog is showing severe symptoms, surgery or endoscopy will be needed.

Endoscopy may be able to be performed if the sock is in the stomach. This requires anesthesia to allow the small endoscopic camera to travel through the mouth and into the stomach to grab and remove the sock. More often than not though, abdominal surgery is needed to retrieve socks that have been eaten. An incision into the stomach or intestines where the sock is stuck will be made and the sock will be removed from the body manually. Occasionally, segments of the intestines will also need to be removed during surgery if any damage is noted from the obstruction due to intussusception or other complications. Finally, a variety of medications will be administered to help alleviate vomiting, pain, and potential infection.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.