My Dog Ate a Sock! Here’s What to Do (Our Vet Answers)

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Dogs are very good at eating things that they shouldn’t! Unfortunately, some of the more common items to be left lying around, played with, and swallowed are socks. In this article, we will talk through the potential problems caused by socks and how to fix them in the best possible way for your dog.Divider 8

What happens when my dog eats a sock?

Socks are impossible for the gut to digest so, once swallowed, they need to come back out again! Items like this that cannot be digested are referred to as ‘foreign bodies’ or ‘foreign objects’ by veterinarians. In the stomach, foreign objects will irritate the lining of the stomach and cause nausea, loss of appetite, and retching or vomiting. These symptoms will usually appear within 24 hours but can take longer. If the foreign object manages to leave the stomach, it will also irritate the lining of the intestines and can cause pain and diarrhea as it moves through the guts.

  • Blockage may occur

At any point, foreign objects may become stuck and are unable to be moved onwards towards the bottom. A blockage, or ‘bowel obstruction’, can rapidly become life-threatening. Not only can severe vomiting and diarrhea cause dehydration, but bowel obstructions can also cause the gut to become damaged, lose its blood supply, or even tear, leading to an often-fatal infection.

  • The dog may vomit or pass the sock

In some very lucky cases, foreign objects may be vomited back up again immediately, or be passed through the gut successfully and exit at the other end (after about two to five days), but there is always a risk of complications. Larger dogs are more likely to pass objects, and smaller objects are more likely to be passed – but there is never a guarantee that things will go smoothly!

  • Don’t panic!

The consequences of a foreign object like a sock can be extreme, but don’t panic – there are lots of ways you can help your dog. It is vital to involve your veterinarian at the earliest opportunity, to ensure you get the best advice for your situation. The longer this problem is left, the more extreme the consequences are likely to be.

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What should I do if my dog eats a sock (or any other foreign object)?

1. Prevent any further objects from being eaten.

It is important to ensure that if your dog is trying to eat further objects, you prevent this from happening. Offer your dog a reward for dropping the sock and, if it’s safe, check their mouth for any caught bits of fabric. If there are more socks, consider shutting your dog away and cleaning up the offending items!

2. Determine the size of the object eaten and when it was likely eaten.

Knowing these facts, alongside the size of your dog, will help you and your veterinarian make the best treatment decision moving forwards. Did your dog eat a pop sock? Or a football sock? Or are several socks torn up? How long was your dog left unattended? Could he have eaten it hours ago or was he only alone for five minutes?

3. Contact your veterinarian.

It is vital to get veterinary advice as soon as possible to ensure the best outcome for your dog. They’ll ask you for more information about your dog’s current behavior as well as some information about what they’ve eaten and when.

4. Follow your veterinarian’s advice.

This may be to come down to the clinic for an assessment and treatment, or your veterinarian may be happy to monitor the situation at home under close supervision. It’s very important that you don’t try to manage the situation yourself, as this can lead to a worse outcome for your dog.

Related Read: My Dog Ate an Ant Trap! – Here’s What to Do (Our Vet Answers)

How do I make my dog throw up with a sock?

If the sock was eaten within the last 4 hours, then your veterinarian may be able to give an injection to induce strong, reliable vomiting, and remove the sock from the stomach that way. This will prevent the sock from causing irritation to the stomach or going any further down into the digestive system.

WARNING! Do not try to make your dog vomit a sock at home unless recommended to do so by your vet. These home remedies are not reliable, and the chemicals used to induce vomiting in dogs at home can be extremely dangerous for your dog – some dogs can have more trouble due to the home remedy than the original problem! They are also not very reliable – and if your home remedy doesn’t make your dog vomit, it reduces the number of options for your dog later down the line.

What happens if my dog doesn’t vomit a sock?

If the sock was eaten over 4 hours ago, or vomiting fails to produce the sock, your veterinarian may recommend monitoring the situation. This is only a decision a veterinarian can make safely, and they will weigh up the risks. In some cases, it may be helpful to feed bulky food such as pasta to wrap around the sock and help guide it through the digestive tract. Your dog may need some help with it at the other end! It is possible for a dog to pass a sock on his own – but it takes a small sock, a large dog, and a fair bit of luck.Divider 4

How do I know if my dog has something stuck in his stomach?

If your veterinarian is worried about the relative sizes of the sock and your dog, or if your dog is showing any symptoms of tummy upset (especially vomiting and pain), then further investigation of the problem is likely to be needed. This might include X-rays, which may show the sock itself or suspicious patterns of gut that suggest a blockage – not all objects show up on an x-ray so this can be hard to interpret.

playing Chihuahua_kamilpetran_shutterstock
Credit: kamilpetran, Shutterstock

Veterinarians may also use ultrasound of the tummy to look for problems, which gives a smaller picture but can be more accurate in detecting objects. If your vet is unsure, they may suggest monitoring, giving fluids and pain relief, and repeating the x-rays in 24 hours to see if everything is moving properly.

How do you unblock a dog’s intestines?

If the veterinarian feels that the foreign body is unlikely to get through, or is currently stuck, then urgent surgery to remove the sock may be required. This is the only reliable way to unblock a dog’s intestines, and it’s important to do quickly before the gut loses blood supply or the sock rips the intestines.

Surgery is done under general anesthetic and involves opening the abdomen, finding the sock, and removing it safely. The rest of the tummy can then be checked for any damage to the gut (and any other foreign objects – we’re looking at you, Labradors!). If the gut is heavily damaged, a part may need to be removed.

Will my dog be ok after eating a sock?

Most dogs will recover within two weeks and do extremely well, although they may need a night or two at the clinic to recover with extra pain relief. More intensive surgeries, such as removing a section of bowel, carry a risk of a worse outcome. Some dogs may still die from complications of bowel obstruction and damage despite good treatment. The sooner the problem is identified and veterinary help is sought, the sooner the sock can be retrieved, and the easier the surgery and recovery will be for your dog and your veterinarian!

It is also worth noting that an easier outcome is usually the cheaper outcome  – major bowel obstruction surgery can cost thousands of dollars, and a longer recovery time can add more to that. If the problem can be treated using a quick vomiting injection, or a simple surgery, it will also be kinder to your wallet!

Related Read: My Dog Ate Rat Poison! – Here’s What to Do (Our Vet Answers)
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To sum it up for you…

Dogs are often tempted to eat foreign objects like socks, and if not treated properly and promptly this can have life-threatening complications if the sock gets stuck and causes an obstruction. It is important to seek professional veterinary advice from your local clinic at the earliest possible stage to give your dog, your veterinarian, and your wallet the best chance of success!


Featured image credit: bane.m, Shutterstock