It’s no secret. Pet medications are often less expensive when purchased online than when purchased through your veterinarian. There are numerous online pharmacies more than willing to sell you Frontline®, Revolution®, Advantage®, Heartgard®, Rimadyl® and many other medications. You can purchase almost any medication online. But are these medications really a bargain? Is it possible these medications could be unsafe for your pet?
Counterfeit Frontline and Advantage Sales and Online Pet Pharmacies
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has posted a warning regarding counterfeit flea and tick control products. The primary products involved appear to be Frontline® and Advantage®. These products, unfortunately, are still available even through major online pharmacies.
Is there a way to tell whether the products are counterfeit or not? Yes, of course, there is. However, in many cases, it is impossible to tell without opening the packaging.
Are there other counterfeit products out there besides Frontline® and Advantage®? There are none that we are aware of. However, are you really prepared to take that risk with your dog or cat? Only you can answer that question.
If these counterfeit products are available through major internet pharmacies, are the medications that veterinarians sell genuine? Yes, the medications that your veterinarian sells are safe because he/she obtains the medications directly from the companies which manufacture them. They are not purchased from companies which import the medications.
Are Vaccines Purchased Online Safe for Pets?
Vaccines require very special handling in order to maintain their efficacy. They need to be held at a specific temperature (i.e. they need to be refrigerated) and excess heating or cooling can render the vaccine unstable and ineffective, or worse yet, even dangerous for your pet.
Vaccines purchased through online internet pharmacies must be administered by the pet’s owners. If a vaccine is not administered correctly, it will not effective. Many pet owners have difficulty giving their pets injections of any kind.
In addition, before your veterinarian administers a vaccination to your pet, he/she will perform an examination on your dog or cat. Regular examinations are an important part of routine pet care. Many pet problems can be detected early and treated before they reach catastrophic proportions if regular, periodic examinations are done. Your veterinarian will check your pet for things like oral/dental disease, ear infections, eye problems, skin disease, external parasites, swollen lymph nodes, and a host of other concerns. Ensuring that your pet receives a thorough examination at least once or twice a year is one of the most important things you can do for your pet’s health.
Heartworm Testing Performed Through Online Sources
At least one major pet store is offering online heartworm testing for dogs. This kit also includes testing for some of the tick-borne diseases as well (Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis). In order to perform this test for your dog, you must collect your dog’s blood at home. The recommended way to do this (at least according to this companies website) is to “quick” your dog’s toe-nail. “Quicking” a toe-nail means purposely cutting it too short so that it bleeds. This process is painful for your dog and many dogs will learn to resent having their feet handled if their toe-nails are “quicked”, making routine nail trims difficult or even impossible for your dog.
By contrast, a trip to your veterinarian will result in your dog’s blood being drawn by a relatively small needle. In most cases, this is much less painful than “quicking” the toenail and will not result in a dog who will not allow a routine nail trim.
Only you can decide whether saving the money and the trip to the veterinarian is worth quicking your dog’s toe-nail in order to obtain the blood for the test.
Testing for Feline Leukemia Virus Through the Internet
The same online pet store which offers heartworm testing for dogs via the internet also offers feline leukemia virus testing for cats. This test calls for collecting a sample of your cat’s saliva and sending it into the pharmacy for testing. That sounds simple enough, right?
Unfortunately, what the pet store does not tell you is that testing the saliva is not the most accurate way of testing for feline leukemia. Blood testing is the preferred method of testing for this virus because the results are far more reliable than a saliva test. In addition, when your veterinarian collects a blood sample to test for feline leukemia, the blood is also frequently tested for feline AIDS and sometimes for heartworms as well.
Evaluating the Safety of Online Pet Medications and Pet Services
Pet owners need to choose wisely when it comes to their pet’s health. Many veterinarians are now partnering with veterinary distributors to make the products they would normally sell in their offices available online. In this situation, the online products come only from known, reputable veterinary distributors who acquire the medications directly from the manufacturer so there is no chance that these products are counterfeit. These veterinary drug distributors do not deal with online or internet pharmacies. In most cases, these veterinarian-based pharmacies and pet stores are available as a convenience for their clientele. As with any other pharmacy, prescription medications still need to be “okayed” by the pet’s veterinarian before the prescription can be filled and sent to the pet owner but this is often done automatically through an interface with the software at the veterinary office. Ask your veterinarian if this service is available through his/her animal hospital if you really need to purchase pet medications on the internet.