Five Helpful Tips For Wrangling The Wilds Of The Internet When Buying Pet Products Online
By Margot K. Vahrenwald, DVM, CVJ
Everyone is always looking for bargains and ways to more cost-effectively use their money.
Never before have we as consumers had so many avenues for the purchasing of pet care products, from prescription medications to fancy beds and toys. Nor have we ever had as many scams, counterfeit products. It can be a little overwhelming and it is our nature to be more trusting than suspicious, especially online. However, in the wilds of the internet, caveat emptor still applies – buyer beware.
There is a gray-market for veterinary (and human products) feeding supplies to online sites and potentially also to big-box retailers. A real concern should be the safety and efficacy of products: are they counterfeit, repackaged, foreign-made, relabeled?
The Food and Drug Administration created the acronym A.W.A.R.E. to help consumers think about their online purchases:
1. Ask your veterinarian if buying a particular drug online is advisable and whether additional monitoring might be required.
2. Watch for red flags, such as when the online pharmacy does not require a veterinarian’s prescription.
3. Always check the site in question for accreditation such as participation in the Vet-VIPPS program.
4. Report suspicious pharmacies to the FDA if you see any red flags.
5. Educate yourself about online pet pharmacies.
When you do receive anything ordered from an online pharmacy, make sure that you look closely to make sure that the product looks the same or similar to its previous packaging i.e. make sure the trademark is not missing, etc.) We see many counterfeit anti-inflammatories, heartworm preventatives and flea/tick preventatives.
Also use your veterinarian as a resource about information about all veterinary products. Going online about a product can take you straight down a giant rabbit hole of misinformation. Just like for humans, FDA-approved medications and products for pets can have side effects and adverse reactions. Even Benadryl, the most commonly used antihistamine, can have adverse effects. Remember, even drinking too much water can cause adverse impacts within a body.
Medications and products that undergo FDA approval are tested extensively for safety and efficacy, but when they go out for use in the general population, problems can show up. Does that mean that the drug should be pulled from the market? No, it does not. It means that human doctors and veterinarians learn more about what patients should or should not be prescribed a particular medication.
There is a current wave of negative internet stories about oral flea/tick preventatives in a class of drugs call isoxazolines, including Simparica, Nexgard, Bravecto, Credelio, Revolution Plus, and Simparica Trio.
These drugs have been around for many years now, first approved in Europe and then brought to the US. They are highly effective and safe, but like with many drugs, there are individual animals that are not tolerant of the medications and can have an adverse effect with neurologic signs and potentially seizure activity. We tend not to prescribe these products for patients with known epilepsy because of that concern.
Known is the key word in that last sentence. It is scary and sad when a pet has an adverse reaction, a bad one or even up to death, but that doesn’t mean a veterinarian was wrong to prescribe because, again, like for ourselves, we cannot know or prevent all. But when we have excellent medications that work against the horrible effects of topical and other parasites that can create severe discomfort or lead to death for a patient, we will use them.
There is always inherent risk in everything, but you and your veterinarian, not a sensational internet story, should choose the right product/s for your pet based on their lifestyle and location risks.
Dr. Margot Vahrenwald is the owner of Park Hill Veterinary Medical Center at 2255 Oneida St. For more information, visit parkhillvet.com