Pet Health Alert: FDA Issues Warning on Buying Pet Drugs Online

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 11:00am

Although it may be tempting and convenient to order your pet’s medications online, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning to pet parents about unregulated online pharmacies that sell expired or counterfeit drugs without a prescription. According to the FDA, foreign and domestic web pharmacies may ask pet parents to fill out an online form and then falsely claim that a veterinarian will evaluate the pet’s condition to prescribe the appropriate treatment.

“Some of the Internet sites that sell pet drugs represent legitimate, reputable pharmacies,” says Martine Hartogensis, D.V.M., deputy director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance in the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). “But others are fronts for unscrupulous businesses operating against the law.”

The ASPCA does not recommend that pet parents forgo purchasing pet drugs on the Internet altogether, but encourages the active participation of your veterinarian in any decision to medicate your pet. “All pet drugs should be prescribed by a veterinarian after an in-person physical exam, and should either be purchased from that veterinarian or outsourced to a reputable pharmacy, whether on- or off-line,” says Dr. Camille DeClementi, ASPCA Senior Director of Medical Records.

Dr. DeClementi also recommends that pet parents avoid purchasing nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—one of the most common types of drugs dispensed online without a prescription—to treat their pet’s pain without consulting a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause of the pain. NSAIDs can be dangerous if not dispensed properly, and pets who are taking these drugs should be monitored closely.

If you do decide to purchase your pet’s medications online, please follow these smart practices:

  • Bring your pet to a veterinarian for a physical exam and obtain a written prescription for any necessary medications.
  • Ask your veterinarian if he or she uses an online pharmacy service. These services are state-licensed and require the active participation of a reputable doctor.
  • Only purchase medication from websites that are Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) accredited. Check to see whether the online pharmacy you’re considering is accredited at
  • Mail or fax your veterinarian’s written prescription to a Vet-VIPPS accredited pharmacy.

For more helpful tips and to watch an informational video about purchasing pet drugs online, please visit the FDA’s consumer health information page.