I hope I don’t get kicked out of the veterinary fraternity (sorority) for this post, but I shop for most of my pet meds online. Some things I can get through my veterinary supplier, but when I don’t want to buy in bulk (I can’t get rid of a carton of heartworm preventative before it expires in my in hospice/euthanasia practice), I’ll write a prescription and order from the same online pharmacies many of you probably use.

I know vets complain about on-line pet pharmacies, and they have made it harder to make a living from being in practice, but let’s face it, they’re a convenient and usually cheaper way to buy the medications owners know they’re going to need (e.g., preventives or drugs for chronic diseases).

As is true across the internet, there are responsible players as well as some shysters in the online pharmacy business, but it’s not all that difficult to tell the difference between the two. Here are a few ways to ensure that you are purchasing from companies that are not cutting corners that could endanger your pet’s well-being or your credit rating.

  • Make sure the company is based in the United States. Domestic entities are bound and overseen by all relevant local, state and federal laws and regulatory agencies; unlike the offshore sites that illegally ship medications into the U.S. Look for the pharmacy’s physical location and a toll-free or local telephone number on their website.
  • Internet pharmacies should be licensed by the Board of Pharmacy for the state in which it resides. Enter the company’s URL (internet address) into the LegitScript.com search box to check their status. Many pharmacies also display the LegitScript seal of approval, which indicates that they agree to follow the laws and regulations of their State Board of Pharmacy, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Look for the Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Practice Pharmacy Sites) seal and check the list of Vet-VIPPS pharmacies on AWARERX.ORG. Sites selling pet medications that have the Vet-VIPPS seal are in agreement with all federal and state regulations and National Association of Boards of Pharmacy safety standards.
  • The pharmacy ought to employ pharmacists (sounds self-evident, I know). These professionals should be easily available to answer client questions.
  • Check the company’s overall reputation. Visit the Better Business Bureau’s website and search for the name of the company. You might be surprised what comes up.

Last but not least, do not be tempted to buy prescription medications from pharmacies that do not require a prescription. I know, prescriptions are a pain in the rear, but these companies are breaking the law. I would never trust a company that is unethical in this regard with the health of my animals, and I hope that you wouldn’t either.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Happy New Year! by Mike McCune / via Flickr