Seventy percent of U.S. families own a pet, according to the National Pet Owners Survey, and they are spending more money on their furry friends, including $10 billion on pet medications alone, according to a Pet Medications in the U.S. report. Shopping online for medication can expose consumers and their animals to knockoffs that either do not work or could be dangerous.
Dr. Jennifer Shults is a veterinarian and the owner of American Emergency Clinic of Cary. Shults is seeing more pets with faulty medications in their system in the Triangle, especially during and since the pandemic. She tells Five on Your Side that fake heartworm and flea prevention medication and fake injectable arthritis medications are the biggest offenders. She says that in all cases the medications were purchased online.
“If you your pet takes the wrong medication, there is certainly a risk of death,” Shults said.
At the very least, she says a pet will not get the treatment it needs or get the preventative treatment it needs to keep a problem from arising. Shults suggests pet owners get their prescriptions through their local vet. However, if you prefer to shop online here are five ways to spot fake medication.
- Check the units of measurement. Prescriptions sold in the U.S. will use pounds not kilograms.
- Look at the language on the packaging. It should be in English.
- The real medication must include a list of active ingredients, often on the front of the package for heartworm, flea and tick medication.
- Pet medication is required by the FDA to include dosage, how to use it and potential side effects. All of that information is normally located on the back
- Know the logo. A real medication’s logo will be consistent no matter where you buy it.
When Five On Your Side took photos of real and fake medications to the dog park at Dix Park, owners had a hard time spotting the fake medications but could easily do so after following the advice above.
For more advice on how to shop online for your pet the FDA recommends that pet owners be A.W.A.R.E.
Ask your vet if they know the site you plan to buy from
Watch for red flags, a site not asking for a prescription is a big one
Always check sites for accreditation like VIPPS, which stands for Veterinary Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice.
Report suspicious online pharmacies
If you suspect your pet has received counterfeit parasite preventative products, please call the National Pesticide Information Center (N.P.I.C.) toll-free at 1-800-858-7378. To report the retailer you purchased the product from, alert the E.P.A.