You see the commercials.  The flashy ones that rave about all the money you will save if you purchase your pet products online. Did your mother ever tell you that there is no free lunch? Did anyone ever say, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”?  Pet products, most notably prescription medications, can be obtained online, but ask yourself why they might be cheaper.  Where is the savings coming from?  Is it coming from the sacrificing of quality of the product? Is the product a genuine product that actually is what the labeling claims?

Many of the manufacturers of these name brand products have issued disclaimers.  They have stated that if the product was purchased outside of a legitimate veterinarian/client/patient relationship as required by the Federal Prescription Law, they cannot guarantee that the product is not a fraud. 

Pet owners who love their pets and think that they are doing the best for them might be giving their beloved pets a fraudulent product.  Imagine your surprise when next year Fido tests positive for heartworms! Or maybe Felix has arthritis and you have been faithfully giving him pain medications bought online.  He cannot say that he is still in pain and your money and effort are wasted.  In some cases, it may not be a case of effectiveness, but instead a toxicity question and a disreputable vendor might not be around to answer that question.

"When you buy drugs from a questionable Web site, you just don't know what you're actually getting," says Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). The World Health Organization, although hesitant to give a number, estimates that up to 30% of drugs bought online worldwide may be counterfeit and says that indications point to as increase in the prevalence in counterfeit medications, even in developed countries. Recently some arrests have been made in pet medication fraud.  One cannot deny that with a profit margin in the billions, the health and safety of your pet is not foremost to the scammers.

There are numerous reports of people being scammed with online prescriptions, but just imagine if the one being scammed could not say so. Animals are a perfect silent target and our love of them makes us as vulnerable as they are. 

When the medications are purchased through a licensed veterinarian, the manufacturers will stand behind the efficacy and safety of their products. Your veterinarian knows you and your pet and can make the best recommendations concerning his care.  If there is a question of effectiveness or toxicity, you know where to find your veterinarian and he or she offers products that have proven safe, effective and were purchased directly from the manufacturer. 

Many of the online sources have said that they will guarantee their products, but it is a money back guarantee.  That’s a great offer, but does not do much for your pet if he or she has heartworms. My manufacturers offer effectiveness guarantees.  They stand behind me and their products. It makes me feel better selling high quality products from companies who care about pets.

I hear people counter that they get their own medications online. That is true, but as a human being, you can tell if the medication is not effective or is causing undesirable side effects. I guess I don’t know about you, but I do not want to let my pets take the fall for my budget. 

Be an educated consumer. Ask your veterinarian. Check online for the reputable manufacturers’ websites.  Most of them have a customer hot line that can answer questions for you.  Do not always believe advertisements and question things that sound too good to be true. Someone is paying…and it might be your pet.

Photo Credit: Carlos Huerta via: imager.io, cc

Dr. Kathryn Primm is a veterinarian and author. Her first book is Tennessee Tails: Pets and Their People, and you can visit her author site at http://www.drprimm.com/