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How to Find an Online Veterinary Pharmacy

November 19, 2019

online pharmacy safety

Dog playing on a beach

Pets aren't just companions — they're part of the family. That's why when they aren't feeling well, you're likely to quickly take them to the vet — even faster than you'd take yourself to the doctor. Yet, much like humans, pets have extraordinarily expensive drugs. The cost of filling a prescription with a veterinarian or brick-and-mortar pharmacy can be a major strain on your wallet.

Here's how to keep your best friend (and your wallet) healthy by finding a safe online veterinary pharmacy.

Filling a Pet Med Prescription: The Basics

A pet getting ill can be a frightening thing. Pets can't articulate what is wrong with them, and in some cases their owners may not know anything is amiss until the pet is quite ill. When that happens, the vet performs whatever tests they deem necessary, discusses medical options with you and prescribes a treatment — often in the form of prescription medication.

Because the disease is unexpected, the costs are unexpected as well. Diagnostic tests can run into the hundreds of dollars depending on the condition and the clinic, and there may need to be multiple tests just to confirm your pet's diagnoses. When all is said and done, an unexpected vet bill can easily top $1,000 dollars.

When veterinarians have the necessary emergency medicine onsite, pet owners often just pay for it at the clinic so they can start the treatment immediately. Pet owners also have the option of buying medication at a traditional pharmacy, or for non-prescription treatments, at a pet supply store. However, it can be difficult to source good pet care products in many areas, and your pharmacy may not have the medicine you need. Additionally, there's no guarantee your pharmacy will have better prices than your veterinarian.

But medical emergencies aren't the only costs that add up. Routine veterinary visits can run into the hundreds, if not, thousands of dollars — and that doesn't count special diets, or routine medicine such as preventive heartworm treatment for dogs. These high costs can put a strain on pet owners budgets, and make it harder to keep your pets healthy.

But while you don't always have a choice in emergency treatment, you can choose when it comes to long-term or ongoing health products. Online veterinary pharmacies can provide the same high-quality pet meds, often at half the price or less. Here's how to find safe pet meds at the best price, online.

Benefits of Online Veterinary Pharmacies

Lower Costs

The biggest benefit of online pharmacies isn't simply the savings. Most veterinarians buy medication in relatively small quantities, since they don't fill enough scripts to justify buying in bulk. That means they often pay higher prices than online pet pharmacies do, which translates to higher costs per patient. Commercial brick and mortar pharmacies also tend to charge high prices, simply because they can — most pet owners aren't even aware they have another choice, outside of a few big pharmacy chains.

For online veterinary pharmacies, by contrast, their entire business model is based on providing medication at a lower cost. One reason is we buy in bulk, and can have lower overhead, which enables us to save consumers money. Pet med costs can vary greatly from pharmacy to pharmacy and vet to vet, but in many cases, we can save consumers 50% or more on the cost of their pet medication.

Better Pet Health

One of the biggest problems veterinarians face is the difficulty of getting pet owners to comply with their orders. Just like human doctors, vets can't make the patient (or the patient's human) follow directions outside the office. Over time, many pet owners forget to refill prescriptions. Others see their pets feeling better, and decide to discontinue medicine, or simply can't afford the cost of providing medicine year-round.

By providing a convenient, low-cost way to order medication, online pet pharmacies can actually increase compliance, according to Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Sarah J. Wooten. Writing in the industry journal, Vetted, Dr. Wooten points out that a 2012 study of human patients showed that "patients who used online pharmacies had higher rates of medication adherence compared with patients who did not, meaning that online pharmacy users followed prescription instructions better."

To study the implications for veterinary medicine, Denise Tumblin, CPA, looked at veterinarians who placed certain medications and other products on to an online pharmacy platform. She found that these veterinary clinics showed similar results to the human study, with pet owners showing "better compliance with diet and medication recommendations, resulting in better patient care."

Convenience

An online pet pharmacy makes buying safe pet meds easy. No more driving across town for the one pharmacy that stocks your cat's prescription drug, or your dog's skin cream. No more calling your vet ahead of time to make sure they have the medication you need in stock. And no more frantically looking for a last-minute alternative when your local pharmacy jacks the price. Just order and wait for delivery.

NorthWestPharmacy.com even has a lowest price guarantee, so you know you're saving as much money as possible, every time.

Cat

Are Online Pet Pharmacies Safe?

One issue that makes many pet owners uneasy is concerns about safety in online pet pharmacies. Every pet owner has heard horror stories about contaminated food or unsafe supplements poisoning the pets of unsuspecting owners. And while pet owners assume their veterinarian or a trusted local pet supply store stocks safe products, ordering pet foods or medicines online justifiably makes some of them nervous.

The situation is complicated by lack of regulation and enforcement. Even in the United States, unsafe pet products often take too long to recall, and even longer for the word to get out, putting our best friends at risk. In other countries, laws for pet products may be laxer. If you can't trust imported pet food at your local pet store, can you really trust online pet pharmacies to be safe? Some countries have much poorer enforcement and standards for pet products, after all.

These are legitimate concerns. Your pet is part of your family, and just like any family member, you want them to be healthy, happy and safe. Fortunately, there are many online pet pharmacies that are just as safe as buying pet meds straight from your veterinarian. The key is knowing where to look.

How to Find Safe Online Pet Pharmacies

The process of getting prescription pet meds is much like the process of getting a prescription for yourself or for a dependent. Your veterinarian establishes a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) when you bring your pet in for examination. The vet records information about the pet's health, name, and treatment plan along with basic information about the owner and the veterinary office.

They prescribe a treatment plan, and can either dispense the pet meds themselves, or give you a script you can take into a pharmacy. This ensures that whoever is filling the prescription knows what they're doing, keeps appropriate records, and has access to safe medicine.

For an online veterinary pharmacy, you should look for the same qualifications you'd want in any safe online pharmacy. The most important thing to look for is certification. An online pharmacy website should be certified by a third-party certification provider to dispense prescription drugs to humans. For pet meds from Canada and internationally, look for a CIPA certified pharmacy website — i.e. a site certified by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association. You can check CIPA certifications here.

For websites that offer prescription drugs dispensed by a British Columbia-based pharmacy, an IPABC certification (International Pharmacy Association of British Columbia) is also an excellent sign.

Positive user reviews are another great sign of a reputable pharmacy. We have more than 375,000 NorthWestPharmacy.com reviews, which vouch for our excellent customer service record.

Finally, exercise caution around sites that offer pet meds without veterinary prescriptions. Technically, some pet medications that are only available by prescription in the United States are available over the counter in other countries. However, pharmacies should strive to not ship these medications to Americans without prescriptions. A pharmacy that advertises prescription-free medication may not be above board.

Note that this caveat only applies to prescription-only medication. You should be able to buy pet meds without veterinary prescription if they're legal over the counter.

Are You Prohibited from Buying Pet Medicine From Canada or Overseas?

Importing legal prescription drugs for personal use or pets is widespread. There are no reported cases of anyone being charged or prosecuted for filling a pet med prescription from Canada or elsewhere when having a valid prescription and ordering a non-controlled drug.

There's been a lot of misinformation on this topic, stemming from industry conflicts over human prescriptions. The pharmaceutical industry is able to charge Americans far more than citizens in other developed countries by because there are no controls on drug prices in the USA but there are in other countries. Industry groups like the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) do not want competition from countries like Canada, which sell drugs at much more reasonable prices, so they've unsuccessfully lobbied government to prevent sales from Canada and other countries.

They have spread the misleading message that only pharmacies certified by their own administered Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program are safe, so they can eliminate competition from foreign online pharmacies — veterinary and otherwise.

They represent this as a move to protect consumers, but this is not about safety. Canadian regulations and those of many other countries on drug testing and quality are every bit as strict as American regulations, and CIPA and IPABC certified pharmacies and websites like NorthWestPharmacy.com have a perfect safety record.

In addition to misleading Americans and trying to force them to pay higher prices, this approach actually poses its own health and safety dangers. By painting all international pharmacies as part of a "rogue" group, they make it harder for American consumers to tell legitimate online veterinary pharmacies apart from dangerous or fraudulent ones.

You can learn more from our Canadian online pharmacy safety guide. But once again, importing drugs for personal or pet use is very common and is safely done by millions each year.

Cat and Dog

Tips for Using Online Veterinary Pharmacies

  • Online veterinary pharmacies are a great way to obtain high-quality pet medicine. However, it's important to ensure you'll have the medication when your pet needs it.
    Shipping from NorthWestPharmacy.com typically takes 8-18 business days to deliver. Additionally, inclement weather, customs and other factors can occasionally slow delivery for any product shipped from another country.
  • If your pet needs their medication urgently, we recommend getting it from the veterinarian, along with scripts for refills if needed. Then, order those refills one month before you need them, so that you'll have them in time.
  • For seasonal health issues, plan ahead. If your pet has summer allergies or gets skin irritation in the winter, have your vet write you a prescription before the season. That way, you'll be able to order it far enough ahead that your pet will have it when they need it.
  • Carefully read storage and usage directions on all medications, even if it's a medicine your pet has had before. Different manufacturers may have different instructions for dosing and storage, even for medications with the same active ingredients.
  • Be as thorough as possible when sharing your pet's medical history, both with your vet and your pharmacy. Different medications may have harmful interactions, which both your vet should check for. Making sure everyone has complete information will help ensure the best pet care possible.
  • Finally, always check with your vet if you have concerns. You know how your pet normally acts, and you can see when they're lethargic, uncomfortable or in pain. If your pet does not seem to be responding well to treatment, only your vet can diagnose the problem and design a better treatment plan.

Order pet meds today, or contact us for more information.

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