As much as we try to prevent it, sometimes our pups get their paws on things that aren't meant for their consumption. And in some cases, it can be dangerous.
If your dog ate a birth control pill, you might be wondering if this is something that will easily pass or if you should be worried. We chatted with Dr. Yui Shapard, BVM&S, MRCVS and Medical Director at Pawp to understand what a pet parent should do in this scenario.
My dog ate a birth control pill, could it make them sick?
The first thing on your mind once you've confirmed your pet ate a birth control pill is whether or not this can make them sick.
The good news is, most birth control pills have a low concentration of hormones (estrogens and progesterone hormones), so unless they got into hundreds of these pills, it's very unlikely that this would cause any significant problem.
And while the ingredients in the birth control pills can vary (e.g. estrogen and progestin combination pills vs. progestin only pills), again, the hormones in these birth control pills are a very low dose to start, so regardless of which pill it is, it's very unlikely that it will cause any significant harm other than some mild GI upset.
"At most, a mild stomach upset is all that would be seen," explains Dr. Shapard. "If somehow a dog managed to get into hundreds of these, this situation can certainly be a cause for concern and there is a risk of toxicity signs, such as a decrease in white blood cell count, and a decrease in red blood cell count causing anemia, lethargy, and unsteady or weak gait."
What's potentially more concerning than the pills themselves is the plastic containers that they may come in. Depending on the size of the dog and the amount ingested, the plastic container could lodge into the dog's gastrointestinal tract and cause an obstruction.
If you notice that your dog is lethargic, vomiting, unable to pass stool or is straining to defecate, has a decreased appetite, or if there is blood in the stool, these are signs of an obstruction and this is a veterinary emergency.
If my dog ate a birth control pill, should I take them to the vet?
Unless they got into a large quantity of pills, you can generally monitor safely at home, ensuring that you're aware of any possible plastic they may have ingested. With that being said, there's a higher chance that a small breed dog would be more at risk than a large breed dog if they got into a large amount of pills or chewed into the plastic container, so the safest bet would be to contact ASPCA Poison Control where you will have access to a huge database and board certified toxicologists available to put your mind at ease or recommend care when appropriate.
"We use the ASPCA Poison Control service often in the veterinary space as well, so if you rush you dog to your usual vet, chances are they may still ask you to call poison control anyways," says Dr. Shapard.
Keep in mind that a $95 consultation fee may apply when you speak to poison control, but it is well worth it if you want to be as safe as possible.
What will the vet do if my dog ate a birth control pill?
If your dog got into a toxic amount of birth control pills (and again, this generally takes hundreds of these pills to be ingested), and if this occurred within a short time frame of your arrival at the vet, they may perform a gastric lavage to try and get the contents out of the stomach, monitor for signs of bone marrow suppression—which is done by monitoring the blood cells counts—and provide supportive therapy as needed.
The good news is that pet parents will likely only see mild GI upset at most if their dog ate a birth control pill. However, if your pup is showing any signs of toxicity or obstruction, it's best to reach out to a vet for help.