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It’s no secret to most Americans that we are a country full of pet lovers. According to the Humane Society of the United States, around 39 percent of American households own at least one dog. A lot of work is involved in caring for a pet and that can often mean a lot of expense. Pet care is constantly evolving to include preventative care to ensure that our pets remain free of disease or illness. This means plenty of trips to see the veterinarian and additional costs for vaccinations and medications as well. And let’s not forget the rise of pet insurance as a way of protecting our wallets in times of emergency or illness. Many pet owners are trying to address rising pet care costs by turning to online providers of pet medications. But every owner must beware that in doing so, they may be doing more harm than good.
The cost of pet medication has been on the rise for years. The increased emphasis on preventative care is one key reason as more medications are being used to control fleas, heartworms, and ticks. In fact, the sales of prescription tick, heartworm, and flea medication currently represent more than half of all pet medication expenses. The increased availability of cheaper medications for pets over the internet has added a new layer of concern as pet owners struggle to determine if medication purchased online is effective or even safe.
Do I Need to Purchase Medication from the Vet?
Many Americans are still under the belief that they can or should only buy pet medication from their vet. However, pet owners can actually benefit from purchasing medication from online pharmacies or large chains like Costco or Target. Veterinarians have been known to mark up their wholesale rates on pet medications by 100 percent. In some cases, it can even reach 160 percent with a dispensing fee charged on top of that. This often puts pet care out of reach for countless pet owners who cannot afford the medication and are not aware of alternatives or enjoy the one-stop shop convenience at the vet’s office. But the truth is that it’s not necessary to buy medication from the vets that prescribe them.
Beware of Online Pharmacies
Shopping at online pharmacies can help save money on medication for pets just as it does medication for people. However, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), there are a number of concerns that consumers need to be aware of first. The USFDA revealed that its own investigations identified a number of online companies selling counterfeit products and unapproved drugs that could pose a risk to the health of your pet. Certain websites are shipping expired drugs, while others dispense without a prescription or make false claims as to the benefits of a particular drug. Selling products without the requirement of a prescription poses an immediate risk to the health of your pet. Concerns have also been raised about a class of pain relievers available online that is known to cause internal bleeding in pets if consumed regularly.
Identifying a Reputable Online Pharmacy
Although there are risks associated with shopping for pet medications online, it is not necessary to avoid them completely. There are reputable online pharmacies that can help you save a lot of money. Legitimate companies will ensure that they are in compliance with federal laws and there are signs to look out for. It may come as a surprise but the federal law that bans the sale of prescription drugs without a prescription applies to pet medications just as much as it does to humans. Legitimate online pet pharmacies will always require a prescription from a veterinarian prior to filling any order for drugs. A common practice of illegitimate pharmacies is to offer medicines that require a prescription in the U.S. without a prescription by arguing that they are available over the counter in other countries. While that may be true, it is important to acknowledge that the USFDA regulates such medications to ensure that our animals remain safe and disease-free. Standards of animal care in the United States are considerably higher than in many other countries.
Why are Practices of Illegitimate Online Pharmacies Dangerous?
- Purchasing unregulated medicine is dangerous because your animal is unable to communicate if it is effective or even harmful.
- Buying online from an unregulated pharmacy cannot guarantee you that the drugs you have purchased are not already expired and repackaged in someone’s basement.
- If the medication you purchase does not do what it is supposed to, your animal is at risk of disease and that can have an impact on your home and family as well.
- If counterfeit pet medication fails, the money you saved will end up costing you more later if you need to purchase medication again from another provider or possibly treat a condition that has resulted from the counterfeit medication.
- If there are recalls on particular products, products sold on the internet often do not contain the necessary packaging to ensure that the manufacturer can be traced. In these cases, no guarantees are provided.
- Drugs are dangerous to everyone when there is no professional involvement. A veterinarian is needed to monitor the care of pets. Saving money won’t necessarily save your animal’s life.
Order from an Accredited Pharmacy
The Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) offers a voluntary accreditation program under the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). The VIPPS seal is issued to online pharmacies that comply with the strict criteria of the NABP when dispensing prescription pet medication. To identify a VIPPS website, you can look at the pharmacy’s website for the seal or visit the NABP website to determine if a particular pharmacy is accredited.
Tips for Purchasing Pet Drugs Online Safety
- Ask your veterinarian for the name of a state-licensed internet pharmacy service.
- Ensure that the online pharmacy is based in the United States to ensure that they are bound by state and federal legislation and regulatory agencies.
- All internet pharmacies should be licensed by their respective state’s Board of Pharmacy.
- Try and identify if the online pharmacy actually employs certified, active pharmacists.
- Conduct research online to determine a company’s overall reputation and be on the lookout for warnings. The Better Business Bureau is always a good source of information.
- Never buy medication from pharmacies that do not require a prescription no matter what they say. These companies are not only breaking the law but possibly putting your pet at risk.
Always Speak with a Vet First
Health problems are on the rise for pets resulting from online medicines that were not effective either because they were not labeled properly, contained wrong ingredients, or not stored at appropriate temperatures. As NBC news reports, the American Veterinary Medicine Association is receiving hundreds of complaints each year from veterinarians with clients that received prescriptions from online pharmacies that were never authorized by them. The problem is not limited to the United States either. In the United Kingdom, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate is taking steps to ensure that all online pharmacies are investigated and that only approved websites are provided with a seal to display indicating that their drugs are legitimate. But even if you find a legitimate website, you should always consult with your veterinarian first before making any purchases online. Speaking with a vet can offer pet owners additional insight into any potential issues that could arise with respect to their pet’s health, while also preparing the vet for any potential problems.
You Can Still Save Without Online Pharmacies
If you do not feel confident about shopping online for your pet medication, there are still plenty of other ways to save money. Vets can often write prescriptions for human drug equivalents that are not only more widely available but often less expensive. You can also take your prescription to a local drugstore to compare prices. Many discounted drug programs like those offered by AAA and AARP will also cover veterinary drugs. As long as you do your homework, you can easily save money and save the life of your pet.
What has been your experience with pet medications online?