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Oxytocin is a hormone released from anterior pituitary gland in animals as well as human beings. This hormone is protein in nature and it is transported through blood from the site of release to the site of action. Physiologically this hormone is important for milk let down as it causes contraction of smooth muscle cells surrounding the milk producing cells called as alveoli and also helpful in birth as it causes contraction of smooth muscles of uterus to expel the fetus outside the body of the mother.

Misuse of oxytocin by farmers

In Pakistan, unfortunately oxytocin is being used blindly by farmers living in villages for milk let down in their animals without knowing its harmful effects on their animals. Farmers are using oxytocin injection before milking almost twice a day in cattle and buffaloes for this purpose. The purpose of using oxytocin injection in their animals by the farmers is to get more milk and hence, to get more profit after selling more milk to people but they don’t know its harmful effects on animals. The farmers are using oxytocin without the veterinarian’s advice and the purchase of oxytocin does not require any prescription and is easily available even on a general store of villages. It is widely being used in the dairy industry despite there being a ban on its sale, except by a prescription from a registered medical practitioner.

Harmful effects of oxytocin misuse on animals

The use of oxytocin in animals in unethical because the use for milk let down is painful to animlas as the action of hormone causes the uterus of the cattle to contract, causing immense pain. Oxytocin is banned under Section 12 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960), the Food and Consumable Substances Adulteration Act and the Drug Control Laws cannot be sold without a prescription from a registered medical practitioner. The law clearly bans the “introducing (of) any substance into the female organ of a milch animal with the object of drawing off from the animal any secretion of milk.” However, this drug is mostly used on cattle through direct injection.

Not only this drug makes cows barren sooner but also lowers the lifespan of the animal, thus causing economic loss to the owner in the long run. The frequent use of oxytocin in animals also cause decreased birth rate, low quality of milk produced and animals culled earlier. Medical experts have pointed out that use of the sustained use of drug can cause hormonal imbalance in animals and harms the reproductive system of animals, reducing their lifespan. Oxytocin use for milk let down also increases the chances of mastitis (locally called as saroo) because sustained use for milk let down may cause damage to milk synthesizing cells.

Humans are at risk

There are many adverse effects on humans due to consmption of milk obtained from animals subjected to oxytocin injections. Medical experts have pointed out that use of the drug can cause hormonal imbalance in humans. Due to hormonal imbalances created by exogenous source of hormones like oxytocin in milk and dairy products, the age at which girls attain menarche has come down drastically from 16 years of age to 10 years of age. Boys have been diagnosed with gynaecomastia (breast enlargement). It is very harmful for humans who unwittingly are made to consume an artificially created hormone. Humans face all the harmful effects of this drug. Children are most susceptible to its effects and it is known to have caused imbalanced hearing and weak eyesight. Common symptoms are exhaustion and loss of energy pregnant women should avoid milk that may have been adulterated with oxytocin because use of such milk by the pregnant women may lead to abortion and babies may born with deformities and low resistance levels. Use of such milk also increases the risk of haemorrhage in mothers after birth. Individual women may be hypersensitive to oxytocin and it can inhibit breastfeeding. Oxytocin seriously affects the growth of hormones especially in females because of which minor girls attain early puberty. After oxytocin is injected into the cow, and the milk produced is consumed immediately by pregnant women, then there is the likelihood of abortion but if milk is boiled properly prior to use then this can be avoided.


  • Use of oxytocin in dairy animals for milk letdown should be banned in rural as well as in urban and peri urban areas and stringent monitoring policy should be designed and implemented.
  • Oxytocin should not be available without the permission of veterinary practitioner. Farmers should be educated about the adverse effects of oxytocin use and proper platform should be provided to livestock extension departments for this purpose.
  • Strict action should be taken against the illegal sellers and buyers.

 This article is jointly authored by ALI HASSAN, DR. MUGHEES AIZAZ ALVI*, DR. IMAAD RASHID*


Published in: Volume 08 Issue 28

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