Birth control pills are among the top 10 drugs accidentally ingested by pets. If you suspect that your pet has accidentally ingested your medication, try to determine how many pills they ate and if they also ingested the packaging. With this information, call the vet or the Pet Poison Helpline.
Fortunately, birth control pill poisoning in dogs is not considered serious. Even if the pills contain hormones, they are in too small quantities to be considered extremely toxic.
What to Do If Your Dog Ate Your Birth Control Pills
If your dog ate your birth control pills, first determine how many pills they ate and if your pet also ate the packaging. Check if the birth control also contains iron supplements (for 7 days). Contact the veterinarian with the packaging in front of you.
Depending on the type of tablets and how many your dog ingested, the vet will tell you if it is necessary to take your pet to the clinic. Also, the veterinarian may suggest that you induce vomiting. Do not try it yourself unless your vet has recommended it.
If your dog is small, a puppy, or pregnant, it is safer to call your veterinarian or a veterinary poison control center right away.
Are Birth Control Pills Toxic to Dogs?
Most birth control pills contain small amounts of hormones (estrogen and progestin) but are considered not that toxic for dogs. Certain types of contraceptive pills may also contain iron, which can be somewhat more problematic for dogs. Specifically, they contain ferrous fumarate, a form of iron that can result in toxicity.
In general, when it comes to birth control pills, the biggest concern of veterinarians is the packaging because it can lead to intestinal blockage and even complications and death.
Therefore, if your dog swallowed a few of your birth control pills, there shouldn’t be any problems. However, high concentrations may increase the risk of estrogen poisoning, especially in intact female dogs.
When you go to the veterinarian, always have the pills packaging with you to give them the necessary information.
How Many Birth Control Pills Does It Take to Poison a Dog?
A birth control pill contains 10–35 micrograms (0.010–0.035 mg) of ethinyl estradiol (a kind of estrogen) and variable concentrations of progestin. However, if an intoxication occurs, the estrogen in the pills is most likely the culprit.
For example, for a 25-pound dog to become poisoned with birth control pills, they would have to ingest around 150 tablets with 0.035 mg of estrogen per pill. Therefore, if your dog ate one pill, there is usually no need to worry. Moreover, birth control pills come in packages of 21, 28, or even 84 tablets per package. Therefore, a 25-pound dog will have to ingest two packages of 84 pills to become intoxicated.
However, some birth control brands include in the packaging a 7-day supplementation with iron (as ferrous fumarate). Birth control brands that also include iron in the packaging can be problematic to dogs. One pill can contain 10–25 mg of elemental iron (with most brands containing around 25 mg). In dogs, iron toxicity can be seen from doses of 9 mg/lb. (20 mg/kg). For example, one pill that contains 10 mg of iron can intoxicate a 1-pound dog.
Not all brands of birth control pills contain iron, so for this reason, it is best to check the packaging in case of an accident.
What Are the Clinical Signs of Birth Control Pill Poisoning in Dogs?
If your dog has ingested a small number of birth control pills, you should not worry about poisoning, but you may still notice mild gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting and diarrhea.
Also, in extreme cases, estrogen-induced bone marrow suppression may occur (i.e., decreased production of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets). However, this adverse reaction is more common in birds.
If your dog has ingested the iron supplements from your birth control pill package, you can observe the clinical signs of iron poisoning.
In general, the most common and frequent clinical signs that occur after ingesting birth control pills (with or without iron) are vomiting and diarrhea. In any case, it is recommended to contact the veterinarian as soon as possible.
How Is Birth Control Pill Poisoning Treated?
If your dog has ingested your birth control pills, it is best to contact the veterinarian. If no more than 2 hours have passed since your dog ate the pills, the veterinarian can induce vomiting so the substances are not completely absorbed into the blood. If more than 2 hours have passed, the vet can give your dog activated charcoal to absorb the toxins and intravenous fluids.
Most dogs that go through such an episode recover without complications. Also, most cases are mild and no treatment will be needed.
If your dog also ate the packaging, the veterinarian will recommend an exploratory laparotomy to remove the foreign body. This type of surgery uses general anesthesia, and there may be risks. If it comes to this point, make sure the veterinarian explains this procedure in detail.
What Can I Give My Dog to Prevent Pregnancy?
The safest method to prevent unwanted pregnancies in pets is ovariohysterectomy (i.e., the surgical removal of the reproductive system, including the ovaries and uterus). There are also medication treatments, but unlike spaying, these can have severe side effects. Two of these treatments are the administration of injectable or oral estrogens. Both variants can lead to infection of the uterus (pyometra) or other complications. Also, oral estrogens may not be that effective.
While cases of poisoning due to ingestion of birth control pills are rare, it is advisable to keep your dog under observation if they have eaten your pills and to call the veterinarian at the slightest doubt. Also, try to determine the type and how many pills they ingested to give the vet as many details as possible. In most cases, veterinarians will want to make sure that the pills do not contain iron and that your dog did not eat the packaging. If your pet also ate the packaging, it may get stuck in the intestine and lead to complications. Depending on how many and the type of pills that your dog ate (and whether they also ingested the packaging), the vet will prescribe a treatment.
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