dangers of online pet medications #doghealth

Dangers of Buying Online Dog Medications

dangers of online pet medications #doghealth

Fake prescriptions and ordering medicines for your dog online: Should you or shouldn’t you? According to the 2013-2014 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 68 percent of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 82.5 million homes. In 2013, $55.72 billion was spent on our pets in the United States. In 2014, that number exceeded $58 billion.

Of that over $58 billion, over $22 billion was on food and another nearly $14 billion was on supplies and over-the-counter medicines. Note that is BILLION. That’s a lot of money. We love our pets. Online scammers rely on that love of pets when they target your pocketbook.

From selling counterfeit pet medications to dispensing expired and unapproved drugs, the buyer must beware to ensure the well being of pets. Here’s what to know before you go….online to purchase medications for your pets:

Fake Prescription Packaging: Fake Prescriptions

The Reality: SiteJabber, the NSF-funded consumer protection service, reports that there are some online pet pharmacies that do not use original packaging of prescription drugs. As a result, your dog’s health could be at stake.

The Reaction: Be careful when purchasing pet medications online. Since pet meds can be a large expense, shopping online with a reputable pharmacy can save money in many cases. You can check sites like LegitScript.com to see if they are a legitimate business and see what other pet owners are saying about a given company on SiteJabber.com.

If Sounds Too Good to Be True: It Probably Is

Discount pet drugs—no prescription required: These six words are a red flag to pet parents. Though there are legitimate websites selling pet medications via reputable pharmacies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has discovered companies that sell unapproved pet drugs and counterfeit pet products, make fraudulent claims, dispense prescription drugs without requiring a prescription, and sell expired drugs.

Never make a guess as to what is best for your dog’s well being: Nothing substitutes a veterinarian putting his hands on your dog for an in-person examination and any testing. Unscrupulous online pharmacies prey on pet parents who think they are doing the right thing. Two of the most commonly prescribed pet medications: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and heartworm preventives can be dangerous without professional veterinary involvement.

dog at veterinarian

VIPPS Accreditation

If you must purchase a prescription online, ensure the website is a Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS), which is a voluntary accreditation program of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). The FDA says that pet parents should l”ook for the Vet-VIPPS seal displayed on a pharmacy’s Web site or check with NABP (click on “Accreditation Programs”) to find out if a pharmacy is Vet-VIPPS accredited. Because this is a new program”, begun in 2009, a small number of pharmacies are currently Vet-VIPPS accredited.

VIPPS pharmacy sites display the VIPPS Seal on their websites.

Talk to Your Pet’s Veterinarian

Most veterinarians work with state-licensed Internet pharmacy services that support the veterinarian-client-patient relationship. As your vet if he or she uses an Internet pharmacy service they would be willing to let you order from directly.

Talk to the Online Pharmacist

A licensed pharmacist should always be available to speak with you about the drugs you’re purchasing for your dog. Red flag if there is none.


Cheap Doesn’t Mean Better

When an online pharmacy’s pricing is severely undercut compared to the veterinarian prices, this is reason for concern and a definite red flag. Federal law that bans the sale of prescription drugs without a prescription on pet medications in the same way it does with human medications.

Must Haves:

Legitimate online pet pharmacies require the pet parent to have a prescription from a veterinarian prior to filling any medication order.

Ask if the online pharmacies employs certified, active pharmacists and ask the names.

Check the Better Business Bureau and other reputable websites to determine if any complaints have been filed and to investigate a company’s reputation.

Do not buy medications overseas, and definitely not without a prescription. Federal and state legislation applies to pharmacies within the US and they are bound by those terms.

Ask if the pharmacist(s) are licensed by that state’s Board of Pharmacy: They should be.

Check the medication upon arrival. Does it look like your dog’s medication? Is anything different about it? Pay close attention to details. Never second guess a medication.

vipps sealThe National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has 23 websites listed as of this writing that are VIPPS accredited .

And now the white elephant in the cyber-room: Does a veterinarian have to give a client a written prescription to have the medication filled elsewhere?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “As a veterinarian, when you determine that a medication is needed for a patient, you can discuss with your client the benefits of having the drug dispensed directly from your clinic. If your client still wants the prescription filled elsewhere, you should comply with their wish and provide a written prescription. For more information about this, see Section III of the AVMA’s Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics.

Make sure you are aware of your state’s rules and regulations regarding prescriptions. Some states require veterinarians to write prescriptions for clients to have filled elsewhere if requested by the client, while some are less strict about prescriptions; in addition, specific guidance on ways the prescription can legally be filed (via a written prescription, telephone or fax) might be offered by your state.”

medicine versus mom

Medicine Vs. Mom

Twice a month, we offer our readers a dog mom vs. vet tech perspective on a hot topic, and this installment is no different. Hop over to the My Kid Has Paws blog where Rachel Sheppard provides her take on buying medications online.

Did you ever purchase prescription or non-prescription medications online? Did you have a good or a bad experience? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. I haven’t had to get any medications for my dog other than his heartworm pills, which I get from the vet. Thanks for the tips about buying online – I may need these in the future.

  2. I’ve heard of fake Frontline being sold – a friend of my works at a veterinarian clinic and they had to start taking care where they ordered their Frontline. It has become impossible to search for a good deal, because that’s where you get burned. I had no idea.

    The idea of buying fake medicine shouldn’t surprise me, but it did. My friend’s dog is on medication that costs $300/month – that’s a huge price tag and would encourage many people to price shop and they could end up doing their dog more harm than good. Bummer.

    1. I am so scared of ever getting the wrong med, Kimberly. I know that we order Dexter’s allergy medication in a 90-day supply simply because our vet is a 90 minute ride and he doesn’t carry enough pills to fill 90 days at a clip. We order from one of the 23 pharmacies listed on the link that is VIPPS certified.

      The meds arrived one time and they were blue instead of white. So Dar called the company and asked to speak to a pharmacist and one was available. Apparently the color of the medication is different according to manufacturer. I felt peace of mind, though.

  3. Just like I wouldn’t purchase a prescription for myself online, I wouldn’t for my dogs either. There are too many variables that could go wrong and my dogs health just isn’t worth it! Thanks for the informative article!

  4. I have not purchased on line meds but I can see the appeal. I am in a family where I really watch my spending. I like to save anywhere I can. Plus having it shipped to me is much nicer than having to run into the vet’s office. Especially where I live as my vet’s office is not in my normal drive and it is out of the way for me. I have to admit all I have have heard is not good things so I am a little leary. I am still looking and researching for where to buy. I do feel bad for those good companies out there that get lumped into the bad ones. As with anything there are bad ones out there.

  5. Thank You so much! I will pass on the information to my friends! As always Carol you are the BEST for giving us the information we need to know about stuff for our dogs! You are so right your Heart Beats Dog!

    1. That means a lot to me, Sharon. I just want our furry family members to have the best info possible so their parents can make informed decisions for them. Hugs and woofs!

  6. This is a great post, and as a vet tech, one of the questions I get the most is about ordering medications online. Unfortunately, so many people think vets just want to rip them off and make more money, but when it comes to medications, we just really want to make sure your pet is getting the proper medication that has been properly stored to make sure it is safe for your pet. Great article!

  7. Great post and something people should know. I had a friend ( a human ) that ordered pills because they didn’t have insurance and thought they would get the right thing . It was not and made them very sick. Our pets are like family we need to keep them safe.

  8. Medicines for pop up illnesses like infections, etc, we always get from the vet and our vet does a good job of making things affordable and competitively priced. We do order heart worm meds online but from a reputable company that we checked out first. One can’t trust everything online, so research has to be done before buying stuff.

  9. This is such a timely article, as I’ve been considering options for out monthly maintenance products e.g. flea, tick and heartworm.

  10. Great post, thanks! I have just recently started posting affiliate ads on my blog and had no idea that some of the sites weren’t legit! I have promptly removed and replaced them with vet-approved alternatives! Thanks again! 🙂

  11. I did not even think about buying online. How interesting. Thank you for the tips. I would never have guessed there were so many safety facts to consider when thinking about buying it online.

  12. Goodness I would never try to buy cheap drugs online, mom won’t do it for herself either! Now she has to go check 1800petmeds just to be sure! Thanks for the great advice. Love Dolly

  13. It is so horrible that people are out there taking advantage of pet owners this way. Personally, I’ve never ordered a pet medication online. It’s great to know that there are some things I can look for to make sure the company is legit should I decide to look online.

  14. We have bought pet medication online before, but only from a reputable source. I definitely agree with “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” That applies to so many things.

  15. The accredited place that I have purchased from online – the vet (who is listed on the site) calls my own vet to confirm the medication and dosage. It is not horrible out there (after all, Pet360 offers vet prescribed product and is hopefully pretty reputable!), plus it saved me several hours in traffic and about 300% mark-up. Most vets I have gone to really don’t want to cover this, and I have always gotten the distinct feeling it has everything to do with profit and not to do with safety, as after all I am asking for their involvement in this. Vets also order from a supplier, and I don’t doubt most are online. Do your due diligence – as we should for food, supplements, preventatives (don’t get me started on the dangerous pesticides people give all willy nilly) – and it’s not all that much different with the joint meds and so on. If people and vets were as concerned about the pesticides and immunity as they were about this, we’d really be better off. But that, like self prescription, I feel is a separate discussion. (off the soapbox)

  16. Good advice Carol. I’ve always wondered about flea/heartworm meds from online… so many people order them, but we were always told by drug reps that they don’t supply those companies with the medicine, so they aren’t sure where they get them from. The 2nd clinic where I worked had a policy where they wouldn’t sign prescriptions from online pharmacies. (which was dumb, but hey – poor management) When the first clinic I worked at merged with that one, it was a problem because we had a ton of clients that liked to order online. One smart client found out that it was against the law for the clinic to deny them from ordering online. Thanks for including that here so that people know that they CAN get a prescription elsewhere if they want to.

  17. Ordering things online can be dangerous and misleading. You can never be too safe when it comes to your animals.

  18. Such a great post. I have been buying my dogs prescriptions online for the past year. It is more convenient and cheaper for me. Because I love them so much I am proud to day I use Dr. Foster and Smith pet pharmacy to get the dogs meds. They are amazing! They are accredited by BBB and VET-VIPPS. The pharmacists will call and email you personally. And they of course require a Rx from your vet first but will contact them for you after you have put your information in the online account. The thought of expired or fake meds is scary! Thanks for making everyone aware!

  19. This is the first that I have read of and it saddens me that this is the world we live in where fake prescriptions that could potentially harm our fur babies are being sold.

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