What do you do if your dog ate birth control?
It’s not uncommon for curious pups to be attracted to medications such as birth control, Nyquil and Xanax. The sound of pills rattling around is enough for many dogs to mistake a medication packet for a chew toy.
Pets metabolize medications differently than us, which means that they can experience unique and possibly dangerous side effects from seemingly innocuous medications. Smaller animals are especially at risk.
However, if your dog’s managed to chew into your birth control pack, don’t fret.
While some human medications can cause serious harm to pets, birth control pills most often have mild side effects, if any. Even forms of birth control such as weekly patches or the NuvaRing rarely cause serious issues when accidentally ingested.
As with any medication your dog eats, you should know what’s in each pill and how it might affect your four-legged friend.
Birth control pills typically contain estrogen, estradiol, or progesterone, while some contain a mixture of the three.
Most packs contain three week’s worth of hormone pills, or 21 pills total. The final week of the package is composed of seven sugar pills.
Most birth control pills contain very low levels of hormones.
Estrogen is the most likely to cause issues in both humans and animals, and high doses can lead to estrogen toxicity.
Estradiol can also cause issues, particularly for dogs with weak bones. Progesterone rarely causes serious problems, though it may lead to some unpleasant side effects.
If your dog ate birth control such as a weekly hormone patch or a NuvaRing, you’re more likely to see issues arise. These methods contain a higher concentration of hormones than daily pills- though still well below toxic levels.
While it’s rare for dogs to suffer side effects from human birth control, it isn’t unheard of.
Birth control pills can be dangerous for pets if consumed in large doses, especially if they contain high levels of estrogen or estradiol. An overdose of these hormones can lead to bone damage, including bone marrow suppression and anemia.
Human birth control pills may also have a more severe impact on pets that aren’t spayed.
Female dogs are sensitive to many of the same hormones as human women, especially when they’re in heat.
Consuming even just a monthly pack of birth control pills can end up throwing off a female dog’s reproductive cycle and may even lead to estrogen poisoning.
Common signs of estrogen toxicity include lethargy, fever, and swelling or bleeding around the reproductive organs. Over time, it can lead to issues such as alopecia and infertility.
In males, estrogen toxicity may manifest through decreased libido, swelling in the sex organs, and even the development of female characteristics.
If you use a progesterone-based pill, your dog is less at risk of poisoning if they ingest high doses of medication. However, excess progesterone can still lead to unwanted side effects such as digestive issues and weight gain in both humans and dogs.
Hormones aren’t the only thing you have to worry about if your dog ate birth control, unfortunately.
Often, it’s the packaging that causes the most problems in these instances.
If your pup chews up the plastic casing around a pack of pills, it can cause internal obstructions and possibly bleeding. Consuming a whole hormone patch or NuvaRing can also cause intestinal blockage.
Just like when your dog eats household objects such as candles, the most common signs to look out for with blockage include vomiting and loss of appetite, straining during bowel movements, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
If left untreated, bowel obstructions in dogs can lead to fluid loss, internal bleeding, and even death.
In most cases, a dog will be perfectly fine after ingesting a few birth control pills.
If you don’t notice anything is amiss and all packaging is intact, you likely have nothing to worry about. You should still keep an eye on your pet over the next few days, but a trip to the vet is probably unnecessary.
However, if you think that your dog ate more pills than is safe or notice the packaging is missing, you may want to schedule a trip to your local vet or emergency animal hospital.
Emergency poison control treatments such as intravenous fluids, activated charcoal, or emetics can help to mitigate the effects of toxins in medications.
Your vet can also check via palpitations or X-rays to see if there’s any intestinal blockage that may be cause for concern.
If there’s anything there, it’s best to remove the blockage as soon as possible. It may be as simple as easing the obstruction loose, or you may have to schedule emergency surgery for your pooch.
When in doubt, it’s always best to check with your vet.
You can also call services such as the Pet Poison Hotline or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for advice. An expert will talk you through how to treat your pet, the risks that you face, and if necessary, where to find treatment nearby.
If your dog ate birth control, the best way to keep it safe going forward is to keep medications hidden and out of sight.
While many of us don’t think twice about leaving our meds out on the counter, the sight of shiny foil packaging can be irresistible to a bored dog.
What’s more, once it learns how much fun the packaging is to rip apart, there’s a good chance it won’t be the first time your pup rips into a pack of birth control.
You should always make sure to keep your medications where your dog can’t reach them, including birth control pills, eye drops, NuvaRings, and more.
If your pup is used to rooting through your purse or opening drawers, make sure that you keep your medications somewhere with a lock or a latch to keep rooting noses out.
You can also switch to dog-proof packaging so that you don’t have to worry about your pup ingesting something dangerous.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be overly concerned when your dog accidentally eats a few human birth control pills.
Most birth control pills contain estrogen, estradiol, or progesterone- or some combination of the three. The actual amount of hormones in the pills are too low to be toxic to canines in small quantities, and at most will only result in mild side effects.
Generally speaking, female dogs that haven’t been spayed will experience the most severe impact. When large amounts have been consumed, birth control pills can have adverse effects on the bone, blood and reproductive system of the og.
In order to prevent poisoning, always keep your pills off the bedside table and in a secure location, such as on a high shelf or in a locked drawer. Just by doing that, you will be able to save yourself a potentially expensive trip to the vet.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.