Seven Dog Scams to Avoid Online

online dog scams

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.

Of that nearly $56 billion, nearly $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. And unscrupulous online scammers rely on that love of pets when they target your pocketbook.

Take one part rising pet ownership, one part rising prices on pet medications and food, a growing demand for products thanks to the “pets are family” mindset (which we love), and defenseless pet parents are being taken over the coals every day. Until now. Here are seven dog scams to avoid online, thus saving your pocketbook, dog’s health, and possibly even his or her life.

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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 to see if they are a legitimate business and see what other pet owners are saying about a given company on

big dogs

Purebred Puppies Online

The Reality: The Better Business Bureau advises consumers to beware of classified online ads offering puppies for free or at prices that seem too good to be true.

The Reaction: Don’t be fooled: Scattered among the websites of responsible breeders and rescue groups, Internet puppy scammers attract potential buyers with endearing pictures and phony promises. Buying a puppy online means you are risking supporting the inhumanity and cruelty of puppy mills but also you are likely to be scammed out of money. Not sure what a puppy mill is? Click here for more on puppy mills.


Lost Pet Scams

The Reality: The lowest of the low, these predators call to say they have found your lost dog and will meet you at a public location to exchange the pet for a cash reward.

The Reaction: Never give someone cash without seeing your lost pet first. Do not put any pet ID information in lost pet ads. Only put a partial description of your lost dog in the ad; scam artists will need to describe your pet in detail. Never list your home address in a lost dog ad. We’ll be sharing in-depth what to do when your pet goes missing interview with an expert very soon.

cute puppy

Buying Dog Food Online

The Reality: We all want to save a few dollars, and shopping for dog food and treats online is a viable option if the site is legitimate. Do not be fooled by professional appearing websites that prey on pet parents.

The Reaction: Before purchasing online pet food or supplies, check to see if the site has a toll-free number listed. Call them for a live voice. Ask questions and if any internal “yikes” bells go off, do not deal with them. Research them online for any negative reports and see how long they have been in business. What is their return policy? Only deal with well-established online pet food suppliers. One of the reputable sites we have used successfully and trust is

dog food shopping

Pet Sitting Scams

The Reality: Scammers exist in just about every profession, and that includes pet sitting and dog walking. When you invite a stranger into your residence to care for a precious (voiceless) family members, keep in mind the person will have access to your property in your absence.

The Reaction: According to the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, make sure the person you choose is trained and professional. You can do this by calling visiting their website, developing questions to ask for a thorough interview, asking for references, requesting proof of bonding and liability insurance coverage, and meeting with them in person.

cute dog

Crowdfunding Scams

The Reality: We all want to help that dog in need who needs expensive surgery and his dog parent is unable to afford it. Our heartstrings are tugged seeing these innocent live. Unfortunately, verifying the legitimacy of a campaign can be difficult.

The Reaction: According to tips from, “Even though crowdfunding is rife with small startups that don’t have much of a business reputation to scrutinize, discerning fraudulent campaigns from legitimate ones really only requires that you follow one golden rule: if a campaign makes you a promise that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

little dog

Online Veterinary Advice

The Reality: Perhaps one of the most important precautionary warnings on this list, proceed carefully when seeking online dog health advice. Generally speaking, advice dispensed over the Internet is not guaranteed to be as good as seeing a veterinarian in person.

The Reaction: According to, “If the site states that a veterinarian is answering pet health questions, there should be a licensed vet behind the site. But, there are also pet health sites with other experts answering questions, such as a vet tech or other people with experience with pets. The site should specifically state who is addressing the questions, and give a background on the person’s expertise with pet health. Good pet health advice may come from a variety of people, including long-term pet owners with a knack for research and plenty of experience.”

When in doubt, always contact your dog’s veterinarian. Dogs usually have to be seen to determine what’s really going on with their health.


Did we miss any online dog-related scams of which you are aware?


  1. Crowd funding and pure bred puppy scams are ones that I see all the time. It’s sad that we have to beware of these things, but that’s the way things work. I like to see things myself and ask tons of questions before deciding whether something is real

  2. This is such important advice. There are some things I would never buy online and that includes prescriptions and puppies. When shopping for other dog related items I try to stick to well known sites that have hopefully been suggested by others.

  3. Thank you so much for this extremely important article!! Your info about what to do and what not to do if (God forbid) my dog is missing just hit me like a ton of bricks!! It is vital steps that every pet parent must think of, just in case…but I, regrettably, I never did until now!!

  4. You are exactly right ~ if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is! I recently came across the “PetBucket” website, where all sorts of meds are sold; I’m not going to lie: I loved the prices at first. However, when I noticed that Heartguard is sold without requiring a prescription from your vet, I got a bit suspicious. Turns out their HQ is in the UK, but their shipping HQ is somewhere in China. Do NOT want to potentially harm my pups by administering who knows what. I backed away from those “awesome” deals fairly quickly.

  5. So much to watch out for when online shopping for anything but I just love the conveience. I would never buy a puppy online unless I could see the parents and pups in the home. Thanks for sharing these!

  6. It makes us sad when we see clearly fake crowdfunding funds with a lot of money “donated”. That money could be spent helping a real animal in need.

  7. I truly believe that veterinarian answer sites are dangerous. They’ve been great when I’m researching a topic; but I always worry about the person who will boot up a computer before calling their vet. I also no longer write about crowdfunding projects unless I do a lot of research, because I worry about scams. Plus, it seems like if you write about one, 10 more will be emailing you the next day.

  8. Which online pet pharmacy DOES NOT take the medications out of the the original packaging? I just called Pet360 and they do take the meds out of the original packaging. My Vet will not approve that….

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