Keeping our pets healthy can be expensive. Often, well-intentioned pet owners will try to save money by ordering medications over the internet. But the FDA cautions that not all online pharmacies are reputable, or even legal. Here’s what you need to know before you put your furry friend’s health in jeopardy.
Although some online veterinary pharmacies are reputable and have your pet’s best interest at heart, some are only interested in the lucrative pet market. By purchasing from disreputable or illegal online pharmacies, you may get an improperly formulated or watered-down medication. It could be mislabeled, expired, or even counterfeit. It also might not have correct directions for use. You wouldn’t risk giving a family member counterfeit or ineffective drugs, and your furry and feathered friends deserve the same vigilance.
If you don’t want to risk subjecting your pets to these unscrupulous tactics, the FDA has some guidelines you should be aware of.
A—Ask your veterinarian. Your veterinary team should be able to help you determine an online pharmacy’s legitimacy, as well as whether an online pharmacy is appropriate for your pet’s condition. The FDA is particularly worried that pet owners are purchasing two types of medications online: heartworm medications and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Even if the medications are correct and effective, heartworm meds require yearly blood testing or serious complications could result. And animals taking NSAIDS must be monitored periodically for organ damage and other side effects.
W—Watch for red flags. There are many signs that should give you pause. Is the company based overseas or does it not have a physical address? Does it require a veterinarian’s prescription for a prescription medication? A legal pharmacy will. Are the prices too good to be true? Is there a licensed veterinarian available to answer questions?
A—Always check for pharmacy accreditation. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) website has a list of properly licensed pharmacies. There is also a voluntary accreditation program called Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (Vet-VIPPS) that requires members to meet certain quality assurance, prescription validation and client confidentiality requirements. The NABP has also created a new Pharmacy Verified Websites Program, under which only pharmacies that operate under certain standards are allowed to use a “.pharmacy” web address.
R—Report problems and suspicious online pet pharmacies. If something seems suspicious about a medication you bought online or if your pet experiences problems with it, contact the drug’s manufacturer, You can also report problems directly to the FDA to help curb the problem of fraudulent pharmacies.
E—Educate yourself. The best tool to protect you and your pets from the risks of online pharmacies is to learn all you can and don’t let your pocketbook get in the way of your good judgement.
At Powell Veterinary Services, we understand the financial issues that responsible pet owners face and the reasons they might take shortcuts and risks in order to get necessary medications. We never want you to forego your furry friend’s health because of financial issues. Work with us and together we’ll make sure they get the healthcare they deserve.