FDA Warns Pet Owners to Beware of Buying Pet Medications Online
A Companion Animal Care Article from All-Creatures.org

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Bev Hahler, This Dish is Veg


We're all trying to save a few pennies at the moment, and the idea of finding cheap online medications for your pet may sound appealing, but the FDA has warned that it may be risky to be taken in by the promise of discount pet drugs.

"Some of the internet sites that sell pet drugs represent legitimate, reputable pharmacies," says Martine Hartogensis, D.V.M. and deputy director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance in the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). "But others are covers for illegal businesses that may well jeopardize your pets health. The FDA has discovered companies selling pet medications that have been unapproved, counterfeit or expired, as well as making fraudulent claims and selling prescription drugs without a prescription."

Some foreign Internet pharmacies offer to sell to U.S. citizens without the need for a prescription, stating that an on-site veterinarian will evaluate your pets information via a form you fill out, but according to Hartogensis, "There is a risk of the drugs not being FDA approved. A veterinarian should physically examine an animal prior to making a diagnosis to determine appropriate therapy."

CVM is especially concerned that pet owners are going online to buy two commonly prescribed drugs - non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and heart-worm preventatives both of which can be dangerous without proper professional involvement.

"It's not generally a concern if the owner uses a legitimate online pharmacy and mails in a prescription from their own veterinarian who is monitoring the animal," said Hartogensis. "But if there's no veterinarian-client-patient relationship it's a dangerous practice."

NSAID's are often prescribed to relieve pain in dogs. They should not be bought on the web without the involvement of a veterinarian because:

  • your dog will need to undergo blood tests and a thorough physical examination before starting the NSAID regime
  • the dog will then need to be closely monitored by your vet throughout the course of the treatment
  • the prescription should come with a Client Information Sheet that explains important information to the pet owner.

Heartworm disease is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito that is carrying the infected larvae of the heart worm parasite, and is potentially fatal to dogs, cats and ferrets. Heartworm preventatives work to kill the larvae before they become worm.

The American Heartworm Society recommends:

  • using heartworm medication all year round, no matter where you live in the United States
  • getting pets tested yearly to ensure they are not affected by the parasite

"Testing is important, even in dogs regularly treated with heartworm preventative products, due to the occasional reports of product ineffectiveness," says Hartogensis. An online veterinarian cannot draw blood to perform the test, and the pet owner risks giving preventatives to an animal that might already be infected, potentially leading to severe reactions.

Tips for buying pet drugs online

Order from a site that belongs to a Vet-VIPPS accredited pharmacy. Vet-VIPPS (the Veterinary - Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) is a voluntary accreditation program by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). NABP gives a Vet-VIPPS seal to online pharmacies that dispense animal medications and comply with their strict criteria, which includes inspections and federal and state licenses. Look for the seal on the pharmacies website, or check with NABP's Accreditation Programs.

Order from an out-sourced prescription management program that your veterinarian uses. These state licensed internet pharmacy services work closely with your veterinarian, require a prescription and support the veterinarian-client relationship. Ask your veterinary hospital if it uses an internet pharmacy service.

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