You may have experienced this unique phenomenon when you turn around and your dog (or furry guest) has your underwear in his mouth! What’s the first thing you do? Laugh or begin the chase (which is always fun for a dog to play “keep away”)?
Either way, they are getting a reaction out of you. So, if it isn’t an attention-getting maneuver, what else may be driving your dog to your socks, shoes and private garments? We know that a dog’s sense of smell is off the charts (compared to us mere mortals). Any smell of a particular object is a science experiment for a dog to perform. Your personal scent may be comforting to him and let’s face it, shoes, socks and other clothing items may be more pungent than we care to admit.
Some dogs may consume non-food items due to a medical condition known as “PICA”.
Pica may promote the digestion of not only fabric items, but also metal, plastic, cloth, garbage, rocks, paper, dirt, and feces*. NOTE: to be classified as PICA, the dog needs to EAT the item (not just chew on it).
*The consumption of feces is a condition called “coprophagia” and more common with puppies until they mature. Nursing female dogs will eat their puppy’s feces after expulsion.
PICA is most notably a compulsive disorder, yet it can also be the result of poor nutrition, extreme hunger or an illness.
Boredom, anxiety and stress will always be a factor in a dog’s unwanted behavior. A dog with high energy that is not exercised enough may resort to destructive chewing for release. Some medications (steroids and anti-seizure) may enhance a dog’s appetite to insatiable levels that those socks might satisfy in a pinch.
Let’s also remember that puppies will chew on anything as they explore their new world once weaned. Every puppy owner expects to lose a shoe, furniture leg, a few rocks, etc. while rearing their young charge. Fortunately, with diligence and extreme oversight, this doesn’t last long!
If you notice abnormalities after ingestion of any foreign matter, immediately seek advice and physical diagnostics with a veterinarian. A complete physical exam, x-rays, fecal and urine analysis, and lab work will be needed.
Other PICA symptoms can include:
- Decreased appetite or anorexia.
- Pawing at the mouth/face
- Gagging or retching
- Bloated stomach
- Straining to launch a BM)
- Dark, black tarry stool
- Excessive drooling
- Blue/purple mucous in the mouth
- Visible distress or abnormal behavior
A professional pet sitter and resolute dog owner will always be hyper aware of a change in their dog’s behavior while keeping a watchful eye on them!
For more information on PICA, read this great article by Barri J. Morrison, DVM for PetMed (4/3/23): https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/behavioral/pica-dogs
Another great source for further information on this subject: https://dogscatspets.org/dogs/dog-ate-sock/my-dog-ate-a-sock-symptoms-will-he-be-okay-and-what-to-do/
Photo attribution (dog eating a sock): dogscatspets.org
Photo of Labrador munching on underwear: actual client