Don’t get bit when buying your pet’s medication online
MADISON Your dog is lethargic and has little appetite.
You’re concerned about his health but worried about the expense of medications a veterinarian might prescribe.
Some pet owners have turned to the Internet in an attempt to save money on the cost of pet medication.
Sandi Sawchuk, clinical instructor at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, said buying pet medication online is an option if people use caution.
She answered the following questions:
Q: Can a person buy pet medications online?
A: “You definitely can, and there are websites available, but it is consumer beware just like with human medications,” she said.
Sawchuk recommended two companies:
-- Doctors Foster and Smith at drsfoster
-- PetMedExpress at 1800petmeds.com.
Q: Do you need a prescription from a veterinarian to buy meds online?
A: “It depends on what you’re ordering,” Sawchuk said.
Some flea and tick products available over the counter do not require a prescription, but many medications—such as antibiotics, pain pills and heartworm medication—do require a prescription, she said.
Q: Is buying online cheaper?
A: “It may or may not be, so you have to be careful comparing costs,” Sawchuk said.
For example, if a pet owner buys a package of heartworm, flea or tick products, they might get a free dose through the vet that usually isn’t available online, she said.
Also, ordering online often includes shipping fees, Sawchuk said.
Q: How do you avoid getting ripped off?
A: “If it’s a pharmacy you’re not familiar with or out of the country, you really have to question whether you are getting what you’re hoping to get. Are you actually getting the drug you want? Are you getting expired meds? That’s the big thing with online pharmacies, especially with the ones with too-good-to-be-true pricing,” Sawchuk said.
People should check with a vet as to which pharmacies they feel comfortable using.
Online pharmacies can earn a voluntary accreditation, Sawchuk said. If the business has participated, the website will include a “Vet-VIPPS” gold oval emblem, meaning it is a veterinary verified Internet pharmacy, she said.
“So look for that icon. It is kind of a seal of approval that they are dispensing prescription drugs and meet criteria with federal and state licensing requirements. If the website does not have that symbol, there is no guarantee that you are getting the drug you’re ordering,” Sawchuk said.
Q: What other tips can you offer?
A: Many pets on drugs such as pain medication need to be carefully monitored by a vet, who makes sure to order the correct dosage and gives an explanation of possible side affects, she said.
“That may not be happening when you’re using an online pharmacy,” Sawchuk said.
Medical patients can price shop at pharmacies, and Sawchuk believes pet owners should be able to do the same.
“But they also need to be working with a vet to find out where they should get this medication, making sure to get the right dosage, are aware of side effects and when rechecks and lab work needs to be done. That only comes from working with the veterinarian.’’