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How to be aware of shifty online pharmacies

Protect yourself and your pet- Be website aware.

Pet Medicines- Your pet needs them, and they can be expensive.

You've seen advertisements for online pharmacies and retail websites that promise lower prices than the veterinarian's office, but are they trustworthy? Not all websites that sell pet medicines may be what they seem. Just as with any other internet website, you should know what red flags to look for so you can protect yourself and your pet.

Do your homework and be website A.W.A.R.E

A - Ask Dr. McMillen

W - Watch for red flags

A - Always check if and where the pharmacy is licensed

R - Report problems

E - Educate yourself

A- Ask Dr. McMillen

Before you buy online, talk with Dr. McMillen, she is a reliable source when it comes to all aspects (including cost!) of your pet's specific medication needs.

  • She physically examines your pet and knows if your pet has any health issues

  • She knows which medicines your pet has taken in the past and which medicines your pet is currently on.

  • She knows which medicines are safe for your pet

  • She can educate you about the potential side effects of your pet's medicines

  • She can show you how to properly use the medicines prescribed to your pet

  • She knows whether your pet needs a change in the dose of a medicine

  • She knows whether your pet needs a blood test & a check-up

  • The hospital will obtain medicines from legitimate sources so you can be sure the product is authentic.

W- Watch for Red Flags

When buying your pet's medicines from a website, watch for red flags. Be careful if you notice any of the following...

  • The website doesn't require a veterinarian's prescription for prescription veterinary medicine. Websites that sell prescription veterinary medicines without requiring a veterinarian's prescription are breaking the law. Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, a pharmacy or other website can't sell you a prescription veterinary medicine without a valid prescription from a licensed veterinarian. These sites should ask you for the prescription from your veterinarian or verify it by contacting the animal hospital directly.

  • The online Pharmacy has no licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions. Can someone answer your questions about your pet's medicines? Some online pharmacies may not be prepared to answer your questions, or they may have limited knowledge about medicines for animals.

  • The pharmacy's website does not list its physical business address, phone number, or other contact information. A legitimate online pharmacy lists its physical U.S. address, U.S. phone number, and other contact information on its website.

  • The website does not protect your personal or financial information Make sure the website is secure before you share your credit card number and other personal or financial information. Look for and read the websites' privacy and security policies. If there are none or you don't understand them, that's a red flag. Keep yourself safe from identity and financial theft.

  • A website's prices are much lower than the veterinarian's or other online pharmacies' prices. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Suspiciously cheap medications may be unapproved knock-offs, from another country (sometimes with the label in a foreign language) or expired.

  • The website ships you medicines you didn't order or medicines that look different from what your pet normally takes. Don't give this medication to your pet- Contact Dr. McMilllen or your regular veterinarian and the website's customer service department immediately.

  • The website does not accept credit cards, only Bitcoin, or payment through money transfer websites. If you pay with Bitcoin or a money transfer and there's a problem with your order, you will likely have difficulty getting your money back. If you pay with a credit card and there's a problem, the credit card company may be able to help you through the charge dispute process.

A- Always check if and where the Pharmacy is licensed

Do you know if the online pharmacy you're using is licensed in the U.S.?

U.S. pharmacies must be licensed by the state board of pharmacy or similar agency in the state where they are based and where they fill prescriptions. To find out whether the pharmacy is appropriately licensed, contact your state board of pharmacy or state government. You can find the contact information for the state boards of pharmacy by visiting the interactive map at: and click on Pennsylvania or your home state.

R- Report Problems

If there is a problem with your pet's medication that you bought from either an online pharmacy or another retail website (for example, your pet has a bad side effect, the medicine isn't working, or it looks different than usual,) contact Dr. McMillen or your regular veterinarian first. To report problems with veterinary medicine, you can contact the company that makes the medicine. You can also report directly to the food & drug administration(FDA). For information on how to report problems with a veterinary medication visit:

Report suspicious online pharmacies to FDA at: or to your state board of pharmacy.

If you have a problem with your order, you can contact the following organizations for help:

  • Better Business Bureau (for businesses in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico)

  • Federal Trade Commission (For businesses located both in the U.S. & in other countries: or by phone at (202) 326-2222

  • Your credit card company, if you've purchased the medicines with your credit card.

If you buy your pet's medicines from an online pharmacy or retail website based outside the U.S. and have a problem with your order, be aware that you may not be able to get your money back.

E- Educate yourself

The best defense you have when buying your pet's medicines online is to do your homework and be website A.W.A.R.E. Protect yourself and your pet- an informed consumer is an empowered consumer.

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