Cat and dog meds cost a lot, too. Tips for buying online

September 15, 2016

YCW vetIf you’ve recently taken your dog or cat to the vet, you know two-legged patients aren’t the only ones whose prescriptions cost more. Pet medications can also run hundreds of dollars, depending on the drug.

Few animal drugs have lower-priced generic substitutes, a 2015 report by the Federal Trade Commission notes. At the same time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is approving a growing number of specialized pet medications.

It all adds up. In 2013, retail sales of prescriptions and non-prescription medications for dogs and cats were estimated at $7.6 million. That total is expected to top $10 billion by 2018.

With limited options for pet health insurance and few, if any, storefront pet pharmacies, consumers often look online to find lower prices for Fido’s pills. Reputable sites exist, but so do bad actors. Some online pet pharmacies sell medicines that are counterfeit, expired, mislabeled or incorrectly formulated, according to the FDA.

Before you buy online, the FDA offers this advice:

  1. Ask your veterinarian. Find out whether an online pharmacy is appropriate for your pet’s situation. Does the medication require additional monitoring or adjustments by the vet?
  2. Watch for red flags. Be wary if the online pharmacy doesn’t require a veterinarian’s prescription for a prescription medicine.
  3. Always check for pharmacy accreditation. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy created a voluntary accreditation program called Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites). These sites are licensed in the states from which they ship drugs and are subject to regular reviews.
  4. Report problems and/or suspicious activity. Be sure to report any problems your pet has with medication you bought online. Contact the manufacturer or the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (1-888-FDA-VETS)
  5. Educate yourself. If you’re concerned about cost but worry about online drug quality, ask your veterinarian’s office if they’ll match the price.

Have you been shocked by how much your pet’s drugs cost? Share your story and your solutions at