Protect Your Pets: Beware of Using Online Pharmacies

Buying online prescription drugs for yourself can be a risky proposition. The same applies when ordering pet medications from an online pharmacy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns pet owners to be extremely careful if buying from an online retailer. Similar to some online pharmacies for people, online pharmacies for animals may be selling medications that are unapproved, expired, or counterfeit, or contain the wrong dosage. Also, the online seller may be dispensing pet drugs without requiring a prescription, which is against the law.

In particular, FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine warns consumers about buying heartworm preventives and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) online. Both drugs can be especially dangerous when given to your pet without veterinarian supervision.

The FDA provides these tips when considering buying online:

  • Talk with your veterinarian. Is an online pharmacy appropriate for your pet’s condition and situation? Will the drug require regular monitoring by your veterinarian?
  • Check for “.pharmacy.” In addition to looking for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (Vet-VIPPS) seal on your pharmacy’s website, check that the web address ends with “.pharmacy” (which is like “.com” or “.org”). That web extension means that the pharmacy has met strict standards required for enrollment. Also visit the .Pharmacy Verified Websites Program’s website to find a safe site.
  • Watch for red flags. If the pharmacy doesn’t require a veterinarian’s prescription, and there is no licensed pharmacist available to answer questions, no physical address, and no contact information, stay away. Other warning signs include: The online pharmacy is not licensed by the Board of Pharmacy or is not based in the United States, and has prices too good to be true, and the drugs look different than the ones your pet normally takes.
  • Ask your veterinary hospital if it uses an internet pharmacy service. These are state-licensed internet pharmacies and work directly with the veterinarian.

As always, also remember to check the license of your veterinarian by going on the Veterinary Medical Board’s website, www.vmb.ca.gov.

 

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