What Does It Mean When a Dog Eats Clothes?

by Naomi Millburn, Demand Media
    Boredom sometimes leads to strange eating habits in canines.

    Boredom sometimes leads to strange eating habits in canines.

    As much as you may dote on your doggie, he may sometimes engage in behavior that is completely baffling. Although some dogs are indeed a little gluttonous, others take it even further by eating and chewing on inedible items, from wool sweaters to plastic bags and beyond -- yikes.

    Pica

    If you notice that your precious pet has developed a liking for eating clothing, then he is exhibiting classic "pica" behavior. Pica is a compulsive disorder that involves eating things that simply just aren't edible, whether grass, blankets, wrapping paper, stones, electrical cords or wood. To put it mildly, dogs with pica aren't exactly too picky about what they put into their mouths.
    Apart from the canine species, the condition is also found in both humans and felines. Dogs are definitely not alone in this wacky behavior!

    Causes

    Pica has a variety of potential causes. Your dog may resort to eating pieces of your favorite jacket as a way to seek attention from you, even if that attention isn't necessarily positive. Perhaps your fluff ball is feeling lonely and neglected in his day-to-day life. Boredom and anxiety both could be the root cause of your dog's pica.
    In certain cases, dogs display compulsive patterns as a sort of relic from the curious and inquisitive puppy period. Although the majority of puppies eventually lose interest in eating and chewing on random things throughout the household, the behavior soldiers on in some of them.
    Not to mention, your pet's strange dining preference could also be a symptom of various medical conditions, including parasites, food poisoning and even dietary deficiencies.

    Management at Home

    If you suspect that your cutie's pica issue is somehow an emotional issue, whether stress, frustration, anxiety or boredom, curb the behavior by making some key changes in his lifestyle. Spend quality time with your doggie every day, whether you simply pet him and give him some much-needed TLC, play fetch or go on long walks outside with him. Attention and physical activity can go a long way in reducing these types of compulsive, undesirable actions, so make the effort.

    Veterinary Help

    In cases of medically-induced pica, lifestyle changes will probably be ineffective. Take your dog to the veterinarian to figure out what condition may be leading to his desire to eat clothes, whether a gastrointestinal disease or nutritional issues.
    If your pet's pica isn't caused by any health ailments but you still can't manage to eliminate or reduce the behavior on your own, consult your vet regarding referrals to any qualified pet behavioral experts in your area. An expert may be able to give you useful advice on how to stop your dog from ruining all of your finest work outfits -- think spraying yucky flavor deterrents on your closet doorknob, for example.

    About the Author

    Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images