Wondering why you should avoid online veterinary pharmacies? Your quest to save money could cost your pet’s health a whole lot more.
Remember the old adage, “You get what you pay for?” When we talked about safe flea and tick prevention for your pets, we mentioned the dangers of grocery store flea products. But there’s another danger - the appealing cost savings offered by popular online pharmacies.
Again I’ll cite my years in the veterinary industry, and be blunt: You should always get your pet medications from your vet’s office or a pharmacy that they specifically recommend. Here’s why:
1. Questionable sources may provide counterfeit medications
Most major pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell directly to online pharmacies and encourage customers to obtain the drugs only from their local veterinarian.
How, then, do the online pharmacies get their product?
They hide behind the phrase “trade secrets”, refusing to divulge the sources of the medications they stock. That’s a cause for concern. They may get some from vets who sell in bulk to them. But there are numerous reports of counterfeit, expired, and even overseas product (Chinese labels covered by stick-on English labels) being received when customers order from online pharmacies.
2. Unethical business practices can endanger your pet’s health
Some of the most well-known, widely-advertised, and “certified” online pharmacies have been known to fill prescriptions after the vet’s office says not to. This is unethical and can be dangerous for your pet.
Consider heartworm disease. Your vet requires an annual heartworm test before refilling prescriptions. That’s because, if your dog has contracted heartworms, a preventative medication like Heartgard could actually kill your dog. If your vet refuses to approve an online prescription refill because your dog needs the test, that’s for the safety of your dog. Would a truly ethical pharmacy ignore their request and refill it?
3. Online pharmacies void the manufacturer’s guarantee
When you purchase heart worm, flea, and tick medications directly from your vet, they are guaranteed by the pharmaceutical company if something goes wrong. They will cover the cost of treatment. If you buy it from an online pharmaceutical company, the pharmaceutical company does not honor the guarantee. Again, this is because the pharmaceutical company cannot guarantee the efficacy of the medication.
4. Local vets are not in it for the profits
A locally owned veterinary hospital is a small business, just like mine. Vets have extensive medical training, just like human doctors, yet they receive significantly lower salaries. The cost of veterinary medicine is not subsidized by grants or widely-held insurance. Have you ever compared the cost of pet surgery to that of human surgery?
I often heard my vets worry out loud whenever a client said they couldn’t pay for a surgery or medication. But the vet’s worries were always for the health of the pet, not for the health of our profit margin.
Note: If your pet is on long-term medication, speak with your vet about possibly getting it at a lower price from a reputable pharmacy like Costco. Most vets are happy to accommodate this request.
And finally: learn to identify counterfeit pet medications
Counterfeit pet medications are a dime a dozen, especially on sites like Amazon. I know some people who use the veterinary-recommended Seresto flea collar but have received counterfeit products when ordering online at a discount.
The EPA compiled this comprehensive guide on how to spot counterfeit pet medications. Signs include:
- Lacks directions in English (or comes with no directions at all!)
- Doesn’t come in child-proof packaging
- Weight of package doesn’t match printed weight
- Stickers covering the packaging - especially the brand name
- Foreign language on the packaging or labeling instead of English
We know that being an educated pet parent makes you the best kind of pet parent. You’ve done a lot for your dog in the name of comfort, from getting her human-grade food to lining her crate with a Merlin Mat. You want only the best for your four-legged friends and so do we!