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by Kristina Lotz, TheILoveDogsSite.com

If your pet has expensive medications, or maybe you have a lot of dogs that need flea medicine, worming, etc., it’s easy to be seduced by advertising from pet prescription filling companies promise inexpensive meds, free shipping, great customer service, and name brands.

Remember the old adage, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t?” Well, this definitely applies here. While there are some good prescription companies out there, most in the industry urge customers to use EXTREME CAUTION when ordering pet meds online. Not only can you lose money, but your pet could lose their life.

Pet Prescription Scams

SiteJabber, the National Science Foundation-funded consumer protection service, recently released an article warning consumers about pet prescription filling sites that end up being complete scams.

In the article, SiteJabber reveals that the leading issues customers have with these “no name” pet med sites are:

  • Auto-replenishment. Remember Time Life? You would purchase one CD from them, give them your credit card, and they would keep sending and billing you for CDs and it was IMPOSSIBLE to get it cancelled. It seems this scam has resurfaced in the pet meds industry, with customers complaining about not being able to cancel their auto-fill prescription.
  • Shipping. You pay for expedited, it comes two weeks later. You pay for priority, it comes regular or you get an email saying it still hasn’t shipped because they need further authorization from your vet. If you factor in that expensive shipping, your “cheap meds” are not so cheap any more.
  • Never Come. A lot of customers have issues with paying for meds that just never show up. The oldest mail order scam in the book.
  • Wrong or Phony Meds. Definitely the most worrisome of the group. Companies are sending you the wrong medicines or “medicines” that are really placebos. if your pet’s meds are crucial, THIS SCAM COULD COST THEM THEIR LIFE.

How Can You Tell?

Before purchasing anything from an unknown site, there are plenty of things you can look for to tell if it’s legit and safe.

SiteJabber suggests:

  • Do an internet search with the company name + review or at sites like SiteJabber or LegitScript. Here are the SiteJabber ones for 1-800-PetMeds and Costco.
  • Look for a phone number, physical address, and who owns the company (i.e. owners, CEO, manager, etc). Many of the scam sites have no way of contact and no information about who is behind it.

Kathryn Primm DVM (www.applebrookanimal.com) has special tips for those looking at OTC drugs like hip and joint supplements:

  • The FDA classifies supplements as “food products” so they do not require proof of efficacy from the manufacturers. Read any claim on the label with a critical eye and know that these claims may not be as “black and white” as they seem.
  • If a product is a human product, NO testing on animal patients is required at all.
  • Neutra-ceuticals (the industry call tag for these products) that are labeled for animal use may not have been tested for the suggested species and if they are said to be effective, there may be no proof. The FDA acknowledges that there is a significant risk of fraud with their program AWARE.

“This industry is quite lucrative and one can spend a significant amount on these products,” says Dr. Primm. “When you choose, do not choose the cheapest or the one with the flashiest label. You could be buying something that does not even have an active ingredient. You might be buying something that will harm your pet. There are good products with a proven track record for the species you want to treat. There are charlatans who just want your money and there are all shades of grey in between. As veterinarians, we have experience with these manufacturers and are more likely to be able to spot an ‘iffy’ product.”

Lastly, Michael Harrison, Pharmacy Operations Supervisor for Pet360.com and PetFoodDirect.com, has his own tips for consumers:

“You should be wary of any online pharmacy that won’t provide their state license number or a copy of their license,” he cautions. “Every pharmacy should be licensed in the state it’s located, and most states require pharmacies to be licensed in the various states in which they do business. All of these companies should also have licensed pharmacists on staff, and you should be able to speak to one of the pharmacists should you have a question about your pet’s medication. Additionally, you should look for third party monitoring companies such as Vet-VIPPS. If a pharmacy is Vet-VIPPS approved, it should have a Vet-VIPPS seal listed somewhere on the site.”

He also said you can search for their license on the National Association of Boards Pharmacy website.

Companies Doing It Right

While there are thousands of pet med companies online, many of which are scams waiting to steal our money with no thought of the effect on your pet, there are ones out there that are doing it right.

One of these is Pet360.com.

“One of the main ways we ensure quality and safety is by running our pharmacy like any other human pharmacy,” explains Harrison. “We do this by ensuring we meet all of the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy and National Association of Boards of Pharmacy standards. Additionally we are Vet-VIPPS accredited, and they impose their own requirements for internet-based pharmacies to ensure that we obtain proper prescriptions and that our products are of the highest integrity. To ensure we are constantly meeting all legal and third party requirements, we have licensed pharmacists on staff and nothing leaves our shipping area before it has been reviewed and checked by a pharmacist. Like other human pharmacies, we have quality assurance programs in place, and we are constantly searching for ways to reduce errors and improve our overall customer service.”

Since they do not have the overhead of a vet’s office, they are able to offer the same meds for less, Harrison added. He has a team of customer service members that can answer people’s questions and each order has a tracking number so customers can be sure their ordered was shipping and when it will arrive.

And, for the safety of your pet, their pharmacists check for any drug interactions before finalizing the order.