Online Pet Pharmacies - Saving Money or Risk to Your Pets?

Image of hands holding a cat.

Their ads promise to save you lots of money and even "a stressful trip to the veterinarian". You are encouraged by slick video and professional announcers to purchase flea medications, pain relief drugs and even heartworm prevention all from the comfort of your living room and laptop computer. But, are online pet pharmacies really the best option for you or are there hidden dangers?

With record numbers of families enjoying the benefits of pet ownership and online shopping, it should come as no surprise that the amount of money spent on our pets is huge. Experts are forecasting that pet owners will spend more than $50 billion dollars annually. A significant percentage of those expenses include veterinary care and prescription medications. So, is it any wonder that buying your prescription medications online may also look like a good deal?

At first glance, online pet pharmacies would seem to be a great option. The promise of lower prices and having the medication shipped to your door is a big selling point for busy, budget conscious people. But, there are some pitfalls when relying on Internet based sources for your pet's medication needs.

First, they all say you can "save a trip to the vet". Unfortunately, this is only partially true. In order to prescribe and dispense medication to your pet, most states require that there is a valid veterinarian-client-pet relationship or VCPR. This is usually defined as a veterinarian having examined your pet within the last 12 months. If the VCPR does not exist, medication cannot be dispensed.

Some websites will offer to sell the drugs without a prescription. This is not only illegal but not in the best interest of your pet! Websites that sell without needing prescriptions are most often based outside of North America, where pharmacy and drug laws may not be as strict.

The requirement for this professional relationship insures that you and your veterinarian have good, up to date facts about your pet's health. Plus the medical records and history for your pet are all in one place. The veterinary staff also knows your whole pet family and can help prevent problems when there are multiple species present in the household.

Since pets are unique individuals, some may have unexpected reactions to certain drugs and some medications can even be deadly if given incorrectly. Others may need a special formulation for ease of administration. The online pharmacies will not know this information and this could be a problem if your pet is on several medications or has secondary conditions.

If a life-threatening emergency happens with a medication, your veterinarian is only a phone call away. Some online pharmacies only allow contact through email and this will not help you if your pet needs assistance immediately!

Finally, despite many good businesses online, there will always be a few who are looking for a quick buck at your expense. Avoid sites that offer dramatically lower prices than competing sites or your veterinarian. Likewise, if you have ordered medication online, check the drug to make sure it looks similar to what you have given before. If it looks different in any way, do not give it to your pet.

The FDA is so concerned about this, it is now warning pet owners to be aware of shady online companies. And, the National Board of Pharmacies has instituted the Veterinary Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites program (Vet-VIPPS) to help you find properly licensed and compliant online pet pharmacies. Only twelve companies so far have earned the right to display the Vet-VIPPS seal of approval.

Check with your veterinarian about online pharmacies. Many veterinary hospitals now offer their very own store on their websites. You can order your pet's medications conveniently from home, possibly even get home delivery and you know that the source is reputable. In addition, you will know who you are talking to in case of any problems or concerns. Honest and open communication with your veterinarian about cost concerns will prevent misunderstandings about money and help you do what's best for your pet.

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Testimonials

Feedback from our clients

  • "Words can not begin to express our gratitude for the care you had given Hunter over the years. When his time came, he watched for you to come through the door and his tail showed his affection towards you. That was most comforting having you there. Thank you.""
    ~R.H
  • ""Thank you so much for taking care of Maggie over the years. Y'all are the best and Dr. Johnson, you are the best vet in the world! God bless you all.""
    ~ J.D.
  • ""Your care for my beloved Mattie these last 10n years made her life, and mine much better….God bless each of you for all you did for us and I'm sure for all your other two and four legged patients.""
    ~E.D.
  • ""Thank you for saving my life." ~T.C."
    ~T.C.
  • ""I can not express how grateful I am for you and your staff… I appreciate everything you did in Beckham's treatment. He was so lucky to have such a wonderful doctor on his side. Thank you for all you do for the benefit of all our beloved pets.""
    ~L.B.
  • ""Dr. Johnson - There are no words that can truly capture your kindness.""
    ~G.B.
  • ""Thank you for the great care you took of Taco and the rest of our family. He is doing great now! He is enjoying running and playing with all four legs again.""
    ~W.C
  • ""People who avail themselves of your services at the clinic certainly are blessed to have such a caring staff....bless you and your devoted staff.""
    ~E.D.
  • ""A sincere thank you for taking such good care of Dulce. We are so thrilled that she is back to her normal self. You gave her the support and care she needed in her darkest hours and kept us confident in her recovery.""
  • ""Just to say how much we appreciate all of you. You all are wonderful people. We feel blessed to have our beloved furry children in your care when they need it. Your professional knowledge and your acts of kindness have a beautiful act all it's own. You are a great vet, compassionate and everything good all in one. You are in our daily prayers.""
    ~T.F.
  • ""Thank you and all of your staff for the excellent care you gave to my wonderful Abbey, who was so much a part of the family. Thank you for all the advice and support you gave to me these last few months. I don't know how I would have gotten through this without your constant support. I will, and I have highly recommended you to family and friends, as I feel you are the best!""
    ~P.B.
  • ""Thank you for taking care of my kitty, Slingshot. He is feeling better and better. My Paw-Paw said that you took extra special care of him and I really appreciate it. So, thank you again for taking care of my cat.""
    ~T.B. (age 6)
  • ""Dr. Johnson, I don't know why you decided to move here from your home in New Jersey, but I absolutely believe it was so you could help me and Mickey. I know coming to someone's home is not what a typical veterinarian would do, but you are obviously an extraordinary man in a world filled with ordinary men….On top of that, your sensitive and wonderful handwritten note arrived and touched my heart…You are one of those quiet, unheralded champions who make life easier for everyone you touch.""
    ~C.W.
  • ""Thank you so much for taking care of Lola when she had her reaction, and your office was already closed. I know you took time away from yourself and your family and I really appreciate it.""
    ~R.M.
  • ""Thank you for giving me more time with my best friend. We are all so grateful.""
    ~A.M.
  • ""Thank you for all of your support for Maxine during her illness. All was very much appreciated and will always be remembered. I have related to all my friends of what a great doctor and staff at Birdneck Animal Hospital.""
    ~O.B.
  • ""Thank you for taking such good care of me over the last 4 years. I am doing well and both legs and feet feel great. You sis an awesome job on me Dr. Johnson, and I'm gonna have a great year this year and I hope to see you only for my check up. You guys are the best!""
    ~Budkus
  • "We can't thank you enough for the wonderful and loving care you gave to"Budkus" while he was in your care. He was so little and so sick and we were so scared for him. Each and every one of the staff members made us feel like we had the only dog in the world. Like nothing else mattered except getting "Budkus" well again. Our deepest gratitude to all of you for the excellent care and attention we received, for your encouragement, comfort, and understanding, and most importantly for saving his life! Thank you so much.""
    ~ J.,B.,C.