Dogs eat weird stuff. Some chew shoes, others go for your furniture, and some eat underwear.
Why can’t they stick to those expensive chew toys, right? I mean, come on!
It’s right there, dog-friendly, and generally doesn’t cause any permanent damage.
Okay, so the reasoning might not always make sense because, well, dog logic.
But, what happens after Rover devours those new briefs? What could go wrong? And, what should you do?
Do you wait for it to work through his system or rush straight to the emergency vet? We asked some experts, so you don’t have to.
Why Do Dogs Eat Underwear?
The potential reasons for your fur kid being an underwear connoisseur are legion. Here are some common causes:
If he’s still a puppy, he’s likely teething. Itching teeth will drive anyone up the wall and round the bend, so he’ll chew just about anything that looks like it might soothe those burning gums.
Sometimes, dogs get bored or feel neglected. We know you’re not neglecting your pooch. Still, some dogs are sensitive, and something as seemingly insignificant as you getting up later than usual could send him over the edge. This often leads to chewing – anything and everything that might get your attention.
Pica is a disorder that leads dogs and humans to chew on things that have no nutritional value. If this is the case, your fur kid needs to see the vet ASAP. Pica could have medical, psychological, or nutritional causes, leading to various gastrointestinal complications if not treated quickly.
Dogs are bred from wolves, and wolves hunt. While most dogs don’t actually hunt for real, they like to play-act with things around them, such as your underwear. Sorry. They’re also strongly attracted to smell, and our underwear and socks have the most potent smell. If your pup gets a whiff of your pheromones, he’s likely to make a beeline for it. He’ll protect that item for all its worth because it represents you. I mean, come on, he likes you and will probably lay down his life for you. Can you blame him for being a bit weird around stuff that smells like you?
What Could Go Wrong?
Many, many things, or he might be fine. It depends. It’s always a bad idea to eat anything that’s not actually food. Still, we know that dogs (and cats) are notorious for eating the weirdest things.
Suppose your pup chows down on your dirty underwear. In that case, he’s likely to get a good helping of elastic components and other fabrics. These could block his digestive tract by getting stuck in his intestines. In most cases, he’ll probably pass this after a while with minor complications. If it’s a big chunk, or if you have a small dog, things might get a bit hairy. If it doesn’t pass quickly, it’s best to take your furkid to the vet ASAP.
In severe cases, your pup could start vomiting after ingesting your underwear. If this happens, get to the vet as fast as possible since the situation is potentially life-threatening. The same goes for he develops diarrhea.
Whatever happens, make sure that you pay close attention to your pup’s symptoms since these could help the vet figure out what the best course of action is.
Sometimes, your pup swallows more than just soft cotton underwear. He could get some clips, hooks, or other sharp stuff lying around into his tummy. If this happens, he’s in for a hard time. Those objects could cause severe damage to his internal organs, and he’ll need medical attention as soon as possible.
What Do I Do?
Find the Root
Figure out why your pup is chewing your underwear. If you treat the symptom without uncovering the root cause, your pup will likely act out in some other way. This will guide you in treating the symptoms as well.
If your pup is chewing your underwear because of teething, give him something more appropriate to chew, like a teething toy. It just might work. If he’s chewing because he wants attention, he’ll start on your socks or furniture if you remove the underwear. Or, he could deflect further and start peeing on everything. That sucks.
Discourage the Behavior
If replacement tactics don’t work and your pup still goes for your underwear instead of the new chew toys, it’s time to up your game. Dogs watch their human parents’ reactions to figure out whether they’ve been good or bad. If you make a fuss about whatever he did, he’ll do it again because it garners a reaction. Any reaction is usually welcomed, even if it’s you yelling at him to not do it again.
So, if you want to discourage your pup from chewing your undies, don’t react to it. Instead, give him healthy alternatives to play with, such as food-dispensing toys, and pack away those tempting boxers. If he can’t get to them, he can’t chew them, right?
Visit the Vet
If your pup ate your underwear and he’s not passing it, you should take him to the vet. In extreme cases, he might require surgery to remove the unwelcome obstruction. Luckily, this isn’t usually necessary.
The vet will thoroughly examine your pup to determine the best course of action. This starts with a physical exam, where he’ll check your pup’s abdomen, physically feeling for obstructions. He’ll also check heart rate, temperature, gums (this is how they check for dehydration) and listen to the heart and lungs. This will show whether your pup is in pain, suffering from shock or dehydration and whether further investigation is needed.
If further investigation is needed, the vet could request blood tests and take some X-rays. This will show whether there is an infection in your pup’s body, whether the foreign material is causing a blockage, and where it is. After this, the vet could administer an electrolyte solution to your pup, either orally or intravenously. He could also decide to perform surgery if the situation looks dire.
If the material is only in your pup’s stomach, the vet could suggest an endoscopy. This is less invasive than surgery and is similar to those claw machines at the fair where you try to grab the toy. You know, those cute teddies that your girlfriend asks for, and your ego tells you that you’re better than the machine that’s rigged against you? I digress. An endoscopy is a good option if all the foreign material is in one place, in the stomach, and in one piece. If this is not the case, your pup might still need surgery.
This one should preferably be done by the vet and as quickly as possible. Depending on your dog’s size and metabolism, it takes between one and four hours for food (or foreign objects) to move through the stomach and into the small intestine. While the object is in the stomach, inducing vomiting could force it out of your pup’s body, and the whole ordeal can be put behind you. If you miss that window and the object is already in the small intestine, vomiting won’t help. In fact, it will just make your pup feel more ill and weaken his system.
Then, there’s the safety factor. What did Rover swallow, exactly? If it’s just soft fabric, it could be fine. But, if your pup swallowed anything sharp, hard, corrosive, or large, it could cause more damage coming out than it already did. So, before you consider inducing vomiting, chat to your vet first.
Vomiting has the added risk of aspiration, where the stuff they bring up goes into the airways and lungs instead of out and away. This is also a severe complication, which could lead to severe illness and pneumonia. Not a fun thought.
While dogs eating underwear is a common occurrence, it is also a potentially severe medical emergency waiting to happen. Your pup could be chewing on your undies for many reasons, but he shouldn’t. For his own safety, it’s best to discourage the behavior and keep those undies safely out of his way. He can’t chew what he can’t reach, right?
If your pup gets his paws on your underwear and swallows some of it, get him to the vet immediately. With immediate intervention, you could avoid potentially life-threatening complications and help your fur kid back to health in no time.