Spirit’s Forbidden Snack 

I would like to introduce you all to my Doberman, Spirit. I rescued Spirit from a backyard breeder in Pennsylvania when she was just a puppy. 


Spirits first minutes in a loving home. 


Spirit cuddling my daughter on the way home immediately following her rescue. 

Spirit is a very special girl, in fact I would even call her a miracle dog as she survived a very serious surgery at the age of 1 to remove something stuck in her intestines due to her swallowing it.

She had suddenly become very ill, and we had no idea what the problem was. We took her to the vet where a foreign object showed up on an X-ray of her intestines. She was immediately rushed to emergency surgery, and it was very scary for my family. This was a major operation. She ended up having to have part of her intestines removed because the lodged obstruction caused them to start to rot. Upon receiving the call from the Veterinarian that she was out of surgery and in recovery, we were told the item in question was a piece of clothing. 

Spirit spent a few days at the Veterinary hospital and I went to see her every day during the allowed visiting hours. Upon our arrival to see her the first day, the Vet Tech that brought her into the room asked if we wanted to see what clothing was removed from her intestines, pulling out a ziplock bag containing a pair of my daughter’s turquoise blue leopard lace panties! I kept staring at the bag in disbelief. 

This is the short version of what happened it was a long ordeal I NEVER want to go through again, so I decided to discuss this issue with a Veterinary Behaviorist and do some research in order to avoid this from reoccurring.

Sometimes dogs consume the strangest things like socks, underwear even one of their own toys. Veterinarians are well acquainted with this scenario. Why is my dog so interested in eating these non edible things? It’s not like they are flavorful and they are definitely not part of a dog’s diet, so what gives? In order to understand a dog’s fetish for these things, you need to put yourself in the paws of a dog and see things from the canine perspective. 

It seems that from the dog’s point of view these items have special meaning. While many dogs may swallow things because of boredom, or as part of a game, on a more serious note, some dogs may do this as form of resource guarding. Let’s use the leopard underwear Spirit swallowed as an example: Spirit perceived the underwear as a valuable item, perhaps as valuable as a bone, toy, or other item she was eager of having. 

Dogs who guard items like this may engage in distance increasing behaviors (behaviors meant to discourage other dogs or people from coming near) so that they don’t feel threatened about losing their “resource.” Growling, keeping the head lowered towards the item, and snapping, are just a few of these behaviors dogs who guard items exhibit. 

Swallowing the underwear in Spirits case, may have been part of the display, as the culminating effect once a person or animal gets too close. However, not all dogs follow this pattern, some dogs decide to just swallow items right away upon finding them just to store them out of reach from others. 

Sometimes swallowing objects may be a sign that your dog is experiencing a condition known as pica, the propensity to eat non-consumable objects. The list may include rocks, socks, leaves, dirt and so forth. The underlying cause of this behavior may not be identified at times. There is a belief that pica may stem from a behavior disorder, or perhaps a digestive or metabolic issue or some other underlying medical condition. 

Then there are dogs who eat leopard underwear for example just because it feels rewarding. Perhaps, they like them because they retain the smell of their owners, despite several wash cycles. I believe this is why Spirit ate my daughter’s underwear. She is very bonded to my daughter who lives away at College. Upon attempting to pinpoint the time she could have swallowed the panties we realized it must have been over Spring Break when my daughter came home for a visit. 

Obviously, eating any non edible item such as a piece of clothing is big no-no as cloth has no nutritional value and it may cause a blockage which may end with the dog on the surgical table. This is what happened to Spirit, and believe me you do not want to end up in this position.

In Spirit’s case, we had no idea she even ate anything until she was very sick. But if you SEE or KNOW for sure your dog ate something they shouldn’t you should seek Veterinary attention immediately, because it can become very serious. If you aren’t sure but suspect they may have eaten an article of clothing, the best thing to do is monitor them and hope it comes out of one of their doggie ends. 

How do you prevent your dog from eating foreign objects? The best way to keep your dog from eating things like your underwear or socks is to take preventative measures. If you know your dog is prone to eating certain items, eliminate access. Put your clothes away and don’t leave things lying around. 

If you suspect your dog has pica which can be caused by loneliness or boredom, try increasing their physical activity and mental stimulation. If your dog has suddenly developed a taste for something odd, take it with you when you see your Veterinarian there may be a metabolic issue that needs addressing.

Today Spirit is a very spoiled, happy, healthy 4 year old, living her life to the fullest with her fur siblings in her forever family! Please help me to save more lives, support rescue, adopt, don’t shop! 

Sources and further reading:

http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-12/pica-why-dogs-eat-foreign-objects-and-what-you-can-do/8433730

http://www.petful.com/behaviors/why-does-my-dog-eat-my-underwear/