Be careful what pet medications you purchase on the internet – the FDA and Center for Veterinary Medicine issue warnings about online pet medication safety.

What did we do before online shopping? Did we actually go to the store for all of our purchases – and buy without coupon codes? It’s hard to believe. Yet even with the convenience and cost savings of online shopping, it’s important to take precautions, particularly when buying pet medications online. Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is telling pet parents to buy with care.

FDA Warning

The FDA has issued a warning about companies that sell unapproved, expired or counterfeit pet medications, and those that dispense prescription drugs without requiring a prescription from a veterinarian. “Some of the Internet sites that sell pet drugs represent legitimate, reputable pharmacies,” says Martine Hartogensis, D.V.M., deputy director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance in FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). “But others are fronts for unscrupulous businesses operating against the law.”

Center for Veterinary Medicine is Concerned

The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is particularly concerned about two pet medications that are commonly purchased online: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and heartworm medicines. NSAIDs are used to relieve pain in dogs, and one of the most widely dispensed drugs online, and while they don’t require a prescription, they do require a veterinarian’s involvement. A dog should be examined before being given NSAIDs to ensure it’s the right treatment, and also should be monitored while on them. The CVM also warns against purchasing heartworm preventative medications online without a prescription and your vet’s involvement.  The concern is warranted because they should only be given to dogs that have been tested and are not infected with the parasite.   The FDA warning doesn’t mean you need to stop purchasing your pet’s medications online, you just need to be aware.

Below are the FDA’s recommendations:

  • Purchase from websites that are Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) accredited. This is a voluntary accreditation program by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). To see if a specific online pharmacy is accredited, visit Click on “Programs” at the top, then Vet-VIPPS, and on the left side, “Find a Vet-VIPPS online pharmacy,” or simply use this direct link. Vet-VIPPS accredited sites currently listed include popular sites such as,, Drs. Foster & Smith and others, overall a relatively small number since the program just launched in 2009.
  • Purchase from an online pharmacy that your veterinarian uses. These are state-licensed, work directly with the veterinarian, require that a prescription is written by the veterinarian, and support the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.

There you have it — you can still purchase online and save, just shop smart to protect your fur family!


The Scoop:

Read the complete report from the FDA, “Purchasing Pet Drugs Online: Buyer Beware”

Find a Vet-VIPPS accredited online pharmacy


Thank you to Jaydot on flickr for the photo of Kookai.

Updated October 2016.