Let me first say that I‘m not one of those vets who denies her clients written prescriptions. Nor do I begrudge them a savings on products they can buy elsewhere for less. I do, however, have a problem with unscrupulous merchants who sell products that are diverted from the normal chain of distribution.

Here’s a story that illustrates my frustration on this:

Mrs. Savapenny arrives at the hospital complaining loudly that the Frontline product we recommended does not work at all. In fact, she was so sure it was useless she actually saved a drop and applied it to a flea she’d trapped in a flea comb. “It did the backstroke,” she quipped. “The flea was happy as can be.”

What am I supposed to do? Return her money?

When I offered to switch it for another product she quickly explained that she had not purchased it from our hospital: “I bought it online.” Nor, could she remember the name of the website, since she simply finds the least expensive Frontline seller and buys from whomever’s offering it cheapest on the day she needs it.

Turns out Mrs. Savapenny had been duped. When she later brought the product in for me to look at its interior packaging was not the right color and the foil label on the back of the standard Frontline ampules was not the manufacturer’s. I didn’t have to try the flea Olympics trick. The stuff was clearly not Frontline.

Of course, this was not the first time I’d dealt with sham products first hand. I’d once seen a major pet retailer’s version of a popular flea killer labeled “Australia,” as in, it first went to the South Pacific before said pet superstore purchased it in bulk off the foreign exchange.

Does that mean the product is bad? No, not necessarily at all. But it does speak to the issues we’re up against when we recommend products. Going outside the normal channels of distribution means there’s some risk for the end users: our pets.

No, this is not a cautionary tale devised to ensure I make more money in my profession. Indeed, my role is not that of pharmacist and I’m OK with losing this sideline income.

But when I recommend a product like Frontline I damn well want to be sure it’s exactly what it says it is. God knows I don’t need a cadre of clients like Mrs. Savapenny breathing hot fumes of Frontline discontent down my neck…especially when I know where she can get the good stuff…for eighty cents more.