Online Pet Pharmacies

Protect Yourself and Your Pet: Be A.W.A.R.E. One-page Handout “Affordable pet prescriptions!” “Pet meds at discount...

Online Pet Pharmacies

Online Pet Pharmacies

Written by Ron Pearlin Section Pets

Protect Yourself and Your Pet:
Be A.W.A.R.E.

One-page Handout

“Affordable pet prescriptions!”
“Pet meds at discount prices!”
“No prescription required!”
“Your best source for pet meds!”

If you’ve ever searched online for prescription pet medicines, you’ve likely seen similar eye-catching, attention-grabbing claims. They sound convincing, promising convenience and lower prices, but are these claims always true?

Many online pet pharmacies are reputable. Some, however, may be businesses breaking Federal, State, and sometimes, International laws. These illegal online pharmacies may sell medicines that are counterfeit, outdated, mislabeled, or incorrectly formulated. The medicines may not contain the actual drug or may contain incorrect amounts of drug. Some may not work as well if the product is old (expired) or has been stored in conditions that were too hot, cold, or humid. Others may not have the proper directions for use. If you are unhappy with the products you ordered, you may not be able to get your money back from an illegal online pharmacy.

If you want to purchase your pet’s prescription medicines online, you can protect yourself by doing your homework and being online pharmacy A.W.A.R.E.

A— Ask Your Veterinarian

Before you purchase online, talk with your veterinarian! Is an online pharmacy appropriate for your pet and for your situation? Does the medicine require additional monitoring and/or adjustments to the dose or the timing of doses that would best be handled by your veterinarian?

W—Watch for Red Flags

When buying from online pharmacies, keep an eye out for red flags. Be careful if …

  • the pharmacy doesn’t require a veterinarian’s prescription for a prescription medicine.

Online pharmacies that sell prescription veterinary medicines without requiring a veterinarian’s prescription are breaking the law. Under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, a pharmacy can’t sell you a veterinary prescription medicine without a valid prescription or order from a licensed veterinarian. Online questionnaires or consults don’t take the place of a veterinarian’s prescription. Online pharmacies that sell drugs without requiring valid veterinary prescriptions rob both you and your pet of the protection provided by a veterinary physical exam.

  • the pharmacy has no licensed pharmacist available to answer questions.

Can someone answer your questions about your pet’s medicines? Some pharmacies may not be prepared to respond your questions or they may have limited knowledge about medications for animals.

  • the pharmacy's website does not list its physical business address, phone number, or other contact information.

If something goes wrong with your order, can you contact them?

  • the pharmacy is not based in the United States.

If you use a foreign online pet pharmacy, there’s not much the U.S. government can do to help you get your money back if you have a problem with your order.

  • the pharmacy is not licensed by the State Board of Pharmacy where the business is based.

If the pharmacy operates in the U.S., you can check the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) website to see if the pharmacy is properly licensed: icon

  • the pharmacy's website does not protect your personal information.

Keep yourself safe from identity theft! Make sure the site you use is secure before you give the pharmacy your credit card number and other personal information. Look for easy-to-understand privacy and security policies.

  • the pharmacy's prices are dramatically lower than your veterinarian’s or other online pharmacies' prices. 

If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

  • the pharmacy ships you medicines that you didn’t order or medicines that look very different from what your pet normally takes.

Don’t give these medicines to your pet! Contact your veterinarian and the online pharmacy immediately!

A—Always Check for Pharmacy Accreditation

Beside following federal and state licensing and inspection requirements, many good online pharmacies are also accredited. In 2009, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) created a voluntary accreditation program called Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites). Vet-VIPPS-accredited online pharmacies:

  • are appropriately licensed in the states from which they ship drugs
  • have successfully completed a review and online survey
  • undergo yearly Vet-VIPPS review and re-accreditation, and
  • undergo NABP on-site surveys every three years.

Vet-VIPPS-accredited pharmacies must also meet other criteria including protecting client confidentiality, ensuring strict quality assurance, and validating prescription orders.

R—Report Problems and Suspicious Online Pet Pharmacies

If your pet has a problem with a medicine you bought online (for example, a reaction to the medicine or the medicine isn't working), contact the company that makes the medicine. You can also report problems directly to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) by calling 1-888-FDA-VETS (1-888-332-8387) or emailing [email protected]. For a copy of FDA's reporting form (FDA Form 1932a) and for more information on how to report problems, visit the following web page:

Protect yourself, your pets, and others! Don’t fall victim to illegal online pet pharmacies. Report suspicious online pet pharmacies to the FDA and the NABP: 



E—Educate Yourself about Online Pet Pharmacies

The best defense you have against illegal online pet pharmacies is education. Do your homework and be online pet pharmacy A.W.A.R.E. before you buy your pet’s medicines online.  An informed consumer is an empowered consumer.

For more information about buying pet medicines from online pharmacies, visit FDA’s website at:, or call FDA at 1-240-402-7002.

A-Ask your veterinarian

W-Watch for red flags

A-Always check for pharmacy accreditation

R-Report problems and suspicious online pet pharmacies

E-Educate yourself about online pet pharmacies

Whenever your pet needs prescription medicines, your veterinarian is a good, reliable resource.

Your veterinarian:

  • physically examines your pet and knows your pet’s medical and treatment history
  • knows which medicines are safe for your pet
  • educates you about potential side effects associated with your pet’s medicines
  • shows you how to properly use the medicines prescribed for your pet.