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What can we do about our sock-eating dog?

A viewer asks if a change in food will help their dog to stop eating socks

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Toddler sock by WonderMike on Flickr

Toddler sock

by WonderMike on Flickr

VetMed forum member BosleysMom writes: "My 3 year old Golden-Doodle has begun eating my children's dirty socks. He did this a few months ago and we switched his dog food to Purina Dog Chow and it stopped. Been 3 months and he's started again. The end result is vomiting of the socks or difficult bowel movements. I'm terrified he's going to choke to death on a sock and as diligent as we are about keeping them picked up - he still seems to find one. If this is a food issue, can anyone recommend a good dog food?"

Pets eat odd and icky things because...
Sometimes we know, sometimes we don't. The choice of food may be debated, but one should consider other potential factors such as boredom, tempting socks, or possibly hunger. There have been over 200 submissions to the Tell us the icky things your pet has eaten section of this site, and lots of interesting items consumed. In some cases, the item smells/tastes "good" to the pet, sometimes it is out of curiosity or boredom, and some will remain a mystery.

What to watch for
Dirty socks potentially have lots of good-smelling scents for dogs. I know that despite my frequent "pick up your socks" warnings to my kids, socks seem to multiply around the house. (I am glad that I don't have any sock-eating dogs, but you never know.) In addition to vomiting and difficult bowel movements, another potential worry is intestinal obstruction. Call your vet if your dog is lethargic, painful abdomen, vomiting, having difficulty defecating or any other signs of illness. The sooner the better.

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, as in the case of the dog who ate gel inserts from a bra.

What can we do?
The first thing to do is diligently pick up all socks and other items of clothing and keep them out of your dog's reach. Make sure your dog is getting enough food for his age, weight and lifestyle. Keep him active - go on a walk, play ball, 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 away from the sock-eating missions.

Let's take a closer look
Interestingly, as I was answering this viewer question, Richard Young DVM, ABVP was posting photos on his clinic Facebook page (click on the "turn off this Top Frame" link to view these images) of "Juicy," a dog who his owner feared had eaten a sock. She wasn't sure, but had her suspicions.

He was brought into the clinic because he stopped eating and drinking. Here are his pre-surgery radiographs, showing gas buildup in the intestines. Juicy went to surgery, where this sock was found obstructing the intestinal tract. Socks (and other items of clothing) pose a serious danger when ingested. If you suspect your pet has eaten something he or she shouldn't, even before clinical signs appear (vomiting, painful abdomen, trying to defecate, not eating), call your veterinarian for advice.

Juicy was fortunate to be brought in quickly to Dr. Young's hospital. The surgery was a success, and Juicy is doing very well. Thanks, Dr. Young!

Share your pet safety tips
While eating socks or other icky things is interesting, it is also a very real pet safety hazard. Do you have tips to share to help alert people and keep pets safe? Please share them here.

Photo: Toddler sock by WonderMike on Flickr

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