Purchasing Pet Meds Online – What Consumers Need to Know

Written on January 28, 2011 by Staff Veterinarian

Unlike physicians who treat humans, veterinarians have long enjoyed the option of dispensing medications directly to their clients via in-house pharmacies.  This privilege has been accorded by government regulatory agencies because many drugs used for animals are simply not available in human pharmacies (heartworm preventative, for example) and it allows the client the convenience of not having to make a separate trip to acquire medications for their pet.

There are certain disadvantages to this scenario however; many veterinary practices simply don’t have the physical space to stock the range of pharmaceuticals that the average commercial or online establishment can carry.  In addition, stocking and tracking these supplies requires time and manpower, and most small veterinary practices don’t have the purchasing power to obtain volume discounts, so competitive pricing can be challenging.

In response to these issues, many people have found it beneficial to make their routine medication purchases online, both for themselves and for their four-legged companions, and a number of pet-specific online pharmacies have sprung up to meet that demand.  We are happy to provide prescriptions, if required, for any medications or products that clients prefer to purchase via an online retailer.  Like all other virtual commerce, most of these companies practice in good faith, but a certain degree of “buyer-beware” precaution is appropriate.

Stories abound of pharmaceuticals that fail to perform, or even do harm, because they have been exposed to extremes of temperature, are expired or have been produced by illegitimate manufacturers.  A more pressing concern for the consumer, however, is the validity of product guarantees.  Most purchasers of heartworm preventative are not even aware that reputable producers, such as HeartgardTM and InterceptorTM , offer guarantees for the product’s efficacy, if used as directed.  However, these guarantees are typically null and void if the products are purchased through online retailers.  The reason for this is that the manufacturers only sanction product sale and use under the supervision of a veterinarian, so they cannot vouch for a product’s safe handling and administration if sold online.  If a product failure does occur, the client may find themselves vulnerable to treatment costs, sometimes adding up to thousands of dollars, that might otherwise have been covered by the manufacturer.

There are many circumstances in which purchase of pet products online is the preferred option, but consumers need to to make informed decisions where their pet’s health is concerned.  For more information, please visit the FDA’s website and view their page entitled Purchasing Pet Drugs Online, or feel free to give the team at your veterinary hospital a call; we’re always happy to discuss your pet’s options.

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