Everyone likes to save money, and that is no different when it comes to necessary medications and supplements. Veterinary (and human) medications can be costly, especially if a pet is on lifelong medications. Internet pharmacies may be a saving grace, but are you getting what you pay for?

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) has been checking the online accreditation and reliability of internet pharma since 1995. Of the 14,000 websites they have identified, around 95 percent are illegal or rogue sites. To address this growing threat, the NABP and the Food and Drug Administration have worked closely to single-out illegal and rogue sites. However, many big box stores and large internet pharmacies, such as PetSmart, Walmart and 1-800-PetMeds, often sell medication from “gray-market” distributors. This means they could be selling counterfeit medications, as most drug manufacturers will only sell to veterinarians or to a few recognized national distributors.

So, what does this mean for your pet? Quite honestly, it could mean gambling with your pet’s life. On the human side, for example, the NABP has uncovered websites shipping counterfeit drugs that contained paint, pesticides and other dangerous compounds. Also, even if the drug is not counterfeit, it may be rendered useless by improper handling or storage. Medication manufacturers will not honor any guarantees for products purchased from unauthorized sources, and they will not provide financial support in the event something goes wrong or doesn’t work at all. Surprisingly, the unauthorized resale of veterinary drugs is not against the law. However, it is illegal to sell prescription drugs to consumers without a prescription, which is why the more prominent companies require a prescription from a veterinarian before an order is filled.

Now, what can you do to protect your pet? Many manufacturers have measures in place to prevent the gray-market sale of their products, but as with many things, some distributors find ways around these control measures. The best way to ensure your pet is getting the correct medication is to purchase it through your veterinarian or from a reputable online pharmacy. A reputable pharmacy will have a “.pharmacy” domain. The NABP issues the domain to websites of accredited pharmacies which pass their vetting process. In the past, the NABP has issued a seal to be placed on the websites, but recently, they stopped this program because unauthorized websites were taking the seal and using it without permission. When shopping online, look out for the warning signs of a bad pharmacy:

  1. The website contains no information on where the company is physically located.
  2. The state board of pharmacy has no record of the website or can’t find information for the website.
  3. The website provides no contact information for an affiliated veterinarian or pharmacist.
  4. The website does not require a prescription to fill an order.


The world of online pharmacies is certainly a “buyer beware” one. Unauthorized sites know what attracts consumers and have become quite savvy at luring pet owners looking for a bargain. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Your best bet is to work directly with your veterinarian to ensure bad medications don’t cause expensive or unfortunate consequences for your pet.

We hope you’ve found this article to be helpful, and we’ll see you next time!  =^_^=