When to Call the Vet When Your Dog Eats a Sock

Time Is a Factor on How to Handle a Swallowed Sock

Bulldog biting child's socks
Carol Yepes/Moment Open/Getty Images

Has your dog gotten into the bad habit of eating socks? Or, is this something new? Do you have a little puppy who gets into everything? Whether you have a teething puppy, a bored dog, a hungry hound, or your scent is just too good to pass up—socks can be like candy to a baby.

Why the Sock Fetish?

It is not entirely known why dogs go after certain inanimate objects—underwear is another favorite item—but something must be done to curb this behavior, which can be very expensive and dangerous for your dog. Socks (and other assorted items) pose a serious danger when ingested. 

Some dogs just want something to do. Others may have a behavioral issue like resource guarding or displaying possessive behaviors toward the item, much like they would a valuable bone. Your approach may even prompt the dog to gobble up the sock on the spot. If you notice resource guarding, you will want to mention this behavior to your vet.

Calling the Vet

Time is a determinant about what to do about the sock. It is a good idea to call the vet as soon as you find out it has happened. Within two hours, the vet might suggest a solution to make your dog vomit up the sock. If too much time has passed, usually more than two hours, the vet may take a wait and see approach or might do an x-ray. If too much time has passed or the dog is showing signs of distress, like no longer eating or drinking, then one of the biggest potential worries is an intestinal obstruction.

It is urgent that you call your vet if your dog is lethargic, experiencing pain in its abdomen, vomiting, having difficulty defecating, or any other signs of illness—the sooner the better. Your dog may need an endoscopy to retrieve the item through the mouth or surgery. 

Undergarments, in general, seem to be very enticing to dogs. In addition to worrying about the mechanical obstruction caused by an indigestible piece of clothing, some undergarments are toxic like the gel inserts in some bras.

In some cases, depending on the size of the dog and the size of the sock, it might be ok to let the dog pass the sock. But, your vet should be apprised of the situation.

Prevention

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," Benjamin Franklin might of said those words in regards to fire safety, but those words are sage advice for preventing your dog from being in this situation or needing emergency surgery. Diligently pick up all socks and other items of clothing and keep them out of your dog's reach. This applies to feminine hygiene products that might be discarded in dog level wastebaskets and disposable bra pads used by nursing mothers. These items are just as obstructive when swallowed.

You can also make sure your dog is getting enough food for his age, weight, and lifestyle. Keep your dog active—like going for regular walks, play ball, or enroll in an obedience class. There are many creative dog toys such as the Buster Cube or Kong, to keep your dog puzzled and engaged to help fight boredom and hopefully divert his attention from a sock-searching and sock-eating mission.

Juicy's Story

Veterinarian Richard Young posted photos on his clinic's Facebook page about "Juicy," a dog whose owner feared he had eaten a sock. The owner was not sure, but she had her suspicions. The dog was brought to the clinic because he stopped eating and drinking. His pre-surgery radiographs showed a gas buildup in his intestines. Juicy went to surgery, where this sock was found obstructing the intestinal tract. Juicy was fortunate to be brought in quickly to Dr. Young's hospital. The surgery was a success, and Juicy recovered well.