Sometimes dogs pick up things with their mouth and they might even eat things that should not be eaten, like clothing items, small objects, paper towels, etc. This type of behaviour is called pica and it might have several underlying reasons that need to be understood before it can be solved.
In order to need to understand why dogs might be eating socks or other inedible items, we need to first consider the age of the dog. Puppies are very curious and playful, and it is completely normal for a dog their age to explore the environment using their mouth. Puppies pick up things with their mouth the same way infant and young babies bring every object to their mouth. This is normal puppy behaviour. As they keep picking up things it might happen that they ingest something accidentally.
As dogs grow older, however, this behaviour might continue. Sometimes the dog does not quite eat the objects, they rather chew on it or destroy it. In these cases, it is important to understand whether the behaviour is a sign of stress or it is part of the normal canine need for chewing. We need to provide dogs with safe and natural items for chewing, such as vegetable dog chews. Chewing is in fact a normal behaviour for dogs. If they have no chances to chew on appropriate items, they will end up doing so on things they should not.
In other cases, dogs might actually be eating the objects they chew or pick up. If this is the case it is important to investigate whether there are any medical causes for this behaviour, such as gastrointestinal or metabolic pathologies. Therefore, it is necessary that, whenever your dog has a habit to eat inedible materials or object, you take him to a veterinary gastroenterologist first, in order to check for any pathologies.
Federica Pirrone, Mariangela Albertini, Patrizia Piotti researchers at UNIMI Veterinaria