Dr Magdoline Awad: Why dogs eat everything from underwear to socks to tissues

ANYONE who has had a dog will tell you, dogs love to chew.

From table legs and floor rugs to shoes, sticks and plastic bottles – a dog can turn any number of items into a chew toy.

But when the item becomes more than a toy and ends up being ingested, things can quickly go downhill.

Eating items of no nutritional value is a disorder known as pica and strangely quite common in dogs.

A sock-eating german shepherd may be trying to tell you more than they like the smell of your feet. Picture: Supplied
media_cameraA sock-eating german shepherd may be trying to tell you more than they like the smell of your feet. Picture: Supplied

Dr Magdoline Awad, who is the chief veterinary officer at Greencross The Pet Company, addressed this in response to the following reader question.


How do you stop a German Shepherd from eating socks? I seriously have to buy a packet a week because he just keeps finding them. I try and get my kids to keep them in the washing bin but that is a very hard task. We are also worried about his health, is it harmful or do they just go straight through?

Consuming non-food substances is referred to as pica. Items that carry the scent of the owner such as underwear are usually preferred by dogs. Most dogs that are prone to pica do so for behavioural reasons such as boredom, or stress and anxiety. It often develops into a compulsive behaviour and it can be very challenging to modify once started.

Smart Daily's vet columnist Dr Magdoline. Picture: Toby Zerna
media_cameraSmart Daily’s vet columnist Dr Magdoline. Picture: Toby Zerna

Pica can also be due to an underlying illness such as gastrointestinal problem or a dietary deficiency. Your vet may be able to rule out some diseases by running blood and faecal tests.

Your vet may also involve a veterinary behaviourist if there is an underlying mental illness. Some dogs play with socks in their mouth and never chew or swallow them. They think it’s a game.

There are several home strategies you can implement:

– Ensure he is being stimulated by providing plenty of exercise and enrichment.

– Remove all access to socks, choose washing baskets with secure lids. Make sure the family are picking up socks whenever they take them off

– Supervise when inside or if you can’t then ideally create and provide them with a chew toy. Chewing can alleviate stress/anxiety.

While it is possible that your German Shepherd may be able to pass a small sock naturally, there is a very high risk that he may end up with a blockage when the sock becomes lodged.

He will become critically ill rapidly and will often require emergency surgery. Prevention is the only way to ensure he remains happy and healthy.


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