Thursday, June 30, 2011

Season Finale! Online Pet Pharmacies: Saving Money or Danger to your Pet?



Transcript from this week's episode of The Web-DVM:

Season Finale! Online Pet Pharmacies: Saving Money or Danger to your Pet?

Their ads promise to save you lots of money and even “a stressful trip to the veterinarian”. You are encouraged by slick video and professional announcers to purchase flea medications, pain relief drugs and even heartworm prevention all from the comfort of your living room and laptop computer. But, are online pet pharmacies really the best option for you or are there hidden dangers?

With record numbers of families enjoying the benefits of pet ownership and online shopping, it should come as no surprise that the amount of money spent on our pets is huge. Experts are forecasting that pet owners will spend more than $50 billion dollars annually. A significant percentage of those expenses include veterinary care and prescription medications. So, is it any wonder that buying your prescription medications online may also look like a good deal?

At first glance, online pet pharmacies would seem to be a great option. The promise of lower prices and having the medication shipped to your door is a big selling point for busy, budget conscious people. But, there are some pitfalls when relying on Internet based sources for your pet’s medication needs.

First, they all say you can “save a trip to the vet”. Unfortunately, this is only partially true. In order to prescribe and dispense medication to your pet, most states require that there is a valid veterinarian-client-pet relationship or VCPR. This is usually defined as a veterinarian having examined your pet within the last 12 months. If the VCPR does not exist, medication cannot be dispensed.

Some websites will offer to sell the drugs without a prescription. This is not only illegal but not in the best interest of your pet! Websites that sell without needing prescriptions are most often based outside of North America, where pharmacy and drug laws may not be as strict.

The requirement for this professional relationship insures that you and your veterinarian have good, up to date facts about your pet’s health. Plus the medical records and history for your pet are all in one place. The veterinary staff also knows your whole pet family and can help prevent problems when there are multiple species present in the household.

Since pets are unique individuals, some may have unexpected reactions to certain drugs and some medications can even be deadly if given incorrectly. Others may need a special formulation for ease of administration. The online pharmacies will not know this information and this could be a problem if your pet is on several medications or has secondary conditions.

If a life-threatening emergency happens with a medication, your veterinarian is only a phone call away. Some online pharmacies only allow contact through email and this will not help you if your pet needs assistance immediately!

Finally, despite many good businesses online, there will always be a few who are looking for a quick buck at your expense. Avoid sites that offer dramatically lower prices than competing sites or your veterinarian. Likewise, if you have ordered medication online, check the drug to make sure it looks similar to what you have given before. If it looks different in any way, do not give it to your pet.

The FDA is so concerned about this, it is now warning pet owners to be aware of shady online companies. And, the National Board of Pharmacies has instituted the Veterinary Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites program (Vet-VIPPS) to help you find properly licensed and compliant online pet pharmacies. Only twelve companies so far have earned the right to display the Vet-VIPPS seal of approval.

Check with your veterinarian about online pharmacies. Many veterinary hospitals now offer their very own store on their websites. You can order your pet’s medications conveniently from home, possibly even get home delivery and you know that the source is reputable. In addition, you will know who you are talking to in case of any problems or concerns. Honest and open communication with your veterinarian about cost concerns will prevent misunderstandings about money and help you do what’s best for your pet.

This episode concludes our 2011 spring season, we will return with all new episodes in September, 2011. I will be using this time off to work on a project that stands to benefit pet owners worldwide. I plan to announce it in the first episode of the new season, so please be sure to keep in touch. This is Roger Welton reporting, for The Web-DVM.

Don't forget to catch my live call-in radio show Wednesdays 9PM EST. Listen via podcast live or archived here:


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Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website Web-DVM.net.

10 comments:

ROCAFELLETTEE said...

Hi Dr. Welton!

I found your podcast through iTunes last week and I've been trying to catch up with all your shows! They are awesome, informative and very easy to listen to. I'm a undergrad. university student in Canada and an aspiring veterinarian so I've been trying to gather as much veterinary knowledge as possible while I'm on my summer vacation. I was just wondering if you could either make a segment after your summer break relating to your journey in becoming a veterinarian and how/what/where you studied to become one, the pros/cons about the profession (because I remember listenning to your older segments with your wife talking about being a vet tech and you said that being a vet isn't for everyone), some advice for people who want to be a vet and just any other helpful information you could pass on to students like myself. Also, since I'm from Canada, it would be great if you could also talk about some of the reputations between the several vet schools in America (since I'm not familiar with any of them). Lastly, I have had the hardest time trying to find any veterinary/animal experience here in Canada. I'm not sure about the states but in Canada, vet. clinics need to cover any volunteers or shadowing students with insurance so they are almost always reluctant to take any students under their wing. I feel like many veterinary applicants would have experience at a humane society or the zoo, which seems to be the only places that will take volunteers. Do you have any suggestions or ideas on how I can find vet clinics/places where I can volunteer that are willing to take students and will increase my chances of being accepted into a vet school? Sorry for all these questions! Thank you so much for all the hard work and time you put into your shows to educate people about animals. You're truly an inspiration to myself and others out there watching/listenning. Keep on doing what you do best!

Joanne Yi.

Roger Welton, DVM said...

Wow, so glad you enjoy the shows and the info. That is great that you are an aspiring vet, as I know Canada has excellent schools. WIth the eception of Tuskegee and Missisippi State, all the US based schools have excellent repuations. The AVMA (AMerican Veterinary Meical Association) just acreditted Ross University in the Carribean (Island of St Kitts) where I started my veterinary career - great school, and what a place to study! I actually studied along side many Canadians there, as it is a pupular school for both US and Canadian Veterinary students alike. I most certainly will dedicate a show to aspiring veterinary students in the upcoming season and I will answer as much as your concerns are as I possibly can. So keep an eye out, first podcast is set to go in early September. Thanks for listening and offering you comments here.

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