Tips For Using Online Pet Pharmacies

Everyone loves a bargain. But when it comes to veterinary prescriptions it’s vital to be aware of the potential dangers of buying pet medications online. You want to ensure your pet is getting the correct medication and that your personal information is secure.

There have been incidents where pet owners have received incorrect medications, expired or improperly handled medication, improper dosage instructions, and medications that appear to be under a guarantee but actually are not. In addition to these possible health risks to your pet, websites that are not properly secure can expose you to identity or online theft.

Not all online pharmacies are bad, but it’s important to know how to protect yourself and your pet from possible risks associated with online pharmacies. First, be your pet’s own best prescription advocate. Discuss all prescriptions and over-the-counter medications for your pet with your veterinarian. You should know the actual name of the drug (including the brand name or generic alternative names), what the medication is used for, dosage instructions (how many times a day, what route, with/without food) and the appearance of the medication. Always review any labeled medication very carefully. The label should include the drug name, dosing instructions, what the medication is being used for (antibiotic, anti-inflammatory), quantity (you should always double check this upon receipt), expiration date, the prescriber’s name and business name. Do not give a medication to your pet if something doesn’t seem right. Always call your veterinarian with any questions.

Next, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation of a trusted state-licensed internet pharmacy. This ensures that when your vet prescribes or recommends a drug for your pet, the prescription medication is handled appropriately by accredited pharmacists. Some sites even allow your veterinary office to load the recommended medications into an online “medicine cabinet” for greater convenience. This type of online pharmacy is the safest way to get the best value for your veterinary prescriptions.

Watch for red flags! Do not use an online pharmacy if it doesn’t require a prescription for prescription medications, does not have a licensed pharmacist who you can easily contact with questions, carries only a few items, has dramatically lower prices than your vet, doesn’t list a physical business address in the United States, or is not licensed by the State Board of Pharmacy in the state where the business is located.

Always check the online pharmacy for proper accreditation. Make sure it is an accredited Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice (VIPPS). This accreditation ensures the online pharmacy has appropriate state licensing, undergoes a regular 19-point review, and an on-site survey every three years. These websites must also meet criteria for protecting clients’ personal information, strict quality assurance standards, and ensuring prescription validity. Drug reactions should be reported to the medication manufacturer and to the FDA, as well as to your veterinarian. Immediately inform your bank or credit card company if you discover fraudulent online charges.

For more information about online pharmacies, go to the Center for Veterinary Medicine website at or call the center directly at 1-240-402-7002. Remember, knowledge is power, and you should always consider the old saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!”

Originally published September 2015 in the Lake Norman Citizen

Dr. Gretchen Burke is a veterinarian with LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, call 704-948-6300.