Home Dog Care How to Safely Buy Cheap Pet Meds Online (And Save Money)

How to Safely Buy Cheap Pet Meds Online (And Save Money)


Buying prescription drugs for your dog each month can become a costly expense. Now more than ever, many dog owners on the budget struggle with the costs associated with these dog prescription drugs. But there's a way to find cheap pet meds online and other ways to save on your dog's drugs.

Top Cheap Pet Meds OnlineLet's take a look at some of the reasons why pet medication for dogs is so expensive today, and then I'll give you a few tips of my own on how to save money when buying dog meds for your pooch this upcoming year.

Pet Health Industry is Booming

There's really no surprise that as dog owners we'll be finding it extremely difficult to budget well for dog medication costs in 2018. Have you seen the numbers? Here are some statistics from the pet health industry:

In 2017, veterinary care made $16.62 billion and pet OTC medicine raked up $14.93 billion total.

For majority of pet owners, it breaks down as follows into the following categories: dog's surgery at $474/year, dog's routine health expenses at $257/year, and the minimum spend on vitamins and supplements (not meds) was at $58/year on average.

This is why pet insurance industry has reached almost $1 billion in total premiums paid in this year alone, according to NAPHIA. In 2015 it was $688 million and in 2016 the number went up to $836 million (a +21.4% increase). With the average premium per pet at $496/year, no wonder pet owners struggle to pay either for meds or pet insurance.

As prices for dog medications continue to rise, the pet medication market is growing at a staggering rate and the whole pet industry is at an all-time high right now, surpassing a whooping $69 billion in revenue, according to APPA. The sales for pet medications alone are projected to reach $10.2 billion in 2018, according to FTC.

Todays’ flea and tick medications that work best are often prescription based. Dogs also need monthly heartworm preventative, which is by prescription only. There can be other basic prescription needs for worms, ear infections or common stomach troubles. If your dog is faced with life-threatening long term illness, like diabetes, then your pet prescription costs will skyrocket even further.

This begs the question, why are the costs of pet meds for dogs are so high and more importantly, why do the prices continue to rise so fast? And is there a way to save money on dog medication, whether at the vet's or buying cheap pet meds online? Let's see.

Why Is Pet Medication for Dogs So Expensive?

Why dog medications are so expensiveIf you're puzzled about the costs of pet meds, you're not the only one. Caroline Meyer has written an article on Forbes about her shock of having to pay $43 for a small 8-ounce dog ear-cleaning solution for her pooch. And that was 5 years ago (prices have gone up significantly since then). But it's not only pet owners who are concerned over the rising prices of pet medications for dogs and cats.

Government has been looking into the rising costs in pet health industry since 2012, when Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have put together a workshop to analyze the costs of pet meds and the trends of sourcing cheap pet meds online. Then, three years later, FTC have released a 3-year long study report (PDF here) on the competition in the pet medications industry.

What they found are two main reasons why pet medications are increasing in price:

  1. All types of new treatments are simply more costly for vets and companies;
  2. There is more focus on preventative care (including prescription drugs), which means consistent spending on your dog's medications.

But here's the kicker to all of this: buying your dog's medication at the vet is substantially more expensive for pet owners of dogs and cats. During the three-year study, FTC found evidence that vets have a very high mark-up on selling dog medicine, while sources of cheap pet meds online offer significantly better/lower pro-consumer prices as well as the benefit of convenience.

Consumer Reports magazine wrote an article where they pointed out that while drugs do cost more to manufacture today, the skyrocketing prices are also due to veterinarians jacking up the cost when selling them. After all, if websites for cheap meds online can sell those same dog medications for far cheaper, why can't vets do the same?

“That’s often a mistake because vets’ markups over wholesale start at 100 percent and frequently hit 160 percent, plus a $5 to $15 dispensing fee.” – Consumer Reports

After the FTC study came out and the government mandates began to circle in the congress, followed by tons of media outlets exposing the real reasons for high prices of pet medications when buying at the veterinarian's clinic, and how choosing cheap pet meds online is the only way to go, some veterinarians came out to defend their position.

American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) wrote a short piece explaining their position, and some veterinarians took to online websites to provide their opinion as well. For example, here's an op-ed from Dr T.J. Dunn Jr, DVM published on PetMD with some good points, and some others that are a little questionable:

“…If the veterinarian does not make a profit from dispensing the medication (or the pharmacy a profit if you obtain a prescription and get it filled at some other source), there will be no animal hospital or pharmacy for you to rely on for help when your pet is in need.” – Dr T.J. Dunn Jr, DVM on PetMD

But does the profit really have to be 100-160% markup over the wholesale price? How come cheap pet meds online websites are able to sell at a much lower rate? And if it's the dog's health that a veterinarian selling at this price range is so concerned, wouldn't this unaffordable cost of pet medication simply discourage pet owners from buying them in the first place?

It remains to be seen what 2018 will show and whether pet owners will continue to buy dog medicine at the vet's office, or if more of us will switch to cheap pet meds online. In the meantime, here are some quick tips on how to save money on your dog's medicine.

How to Save Money on Pet Medications

Many pet owners are under the misguided belief that they have to buy medications directly from their veterinarian. As I've said above, that is not true. Today dog owners are actually benefiting from saving money by finding cheap pet meds online or at their home pharmacy or local chain store like Walmart or Target.

The best advice, especially if there are concerns about expenses, is to discuss them with your veterinarian so that the two of you together can find the best solution for filling your dog’s prescription medications even if it is online or at your local Walmart.

Many veterinarians are aware that to dispense drugs in their own office they have to charge a markup, and with dispensing fees on top of that it can add up to 160% of the original cost of the medication. Sometimes this can put treatment out of reach of some dog owners who simply cannot afford it.

1. Buy elsewhere. Ask your vet to write a prescription for you to buy cheap pet meds online or at your local pharmacy, or in stores like Walmart or Target. If the vet is unwilling to do that, it's time to switch to a different veterinarian.

2. Go human. Drugs for people are often cheaper, so ask your veterinarian if there's a human medicine equivalent that is safe for your dog. Then go for that.

3. Shop around. Whether you're buying pet medication or a human equivalent, always do your resaerch and shop around. Some store and websites charge more, but cheap pet meds online can be found if you know where to look.

Ultimately, the best way to save money on your dog's medicine is to find the cheapest source that's legitimate. The rest of the article will focus on shopping around for cheap pet meds online, and if that's what you're after, here are some actionable tips for you.

Buying Cheap Pet Meds Online

Cheap Pet Meds Online

Can (and Should) You Buy Cheap Pet Meds Online?

There are some veterinarians who will complain about online pharmacies. The truth is that it has made it harder for many vets to make profit from having a private practice. However, we shop online today for everything from clothing to groceries and online pet pharmacies are a more convenient and cheaper way to buy medications for your dog.

As with any online business, there are responsible and real online stores selling good medications, and there are fake and dirty businesses who are out to make a buck and are selling medications that are cutting corners or using bad ingredients that could harm your dog. Make sure you know who you're buying from, and what you're buying.

Vet-VIPPSFirst, if you have a good and honest vet, you can talk to them and get recommendations for a good online pharmacy to use. Second, only buy cheap pet meds online from pet pharmacies with the seals of approval from Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Practice Pharmacy Sites). Sites with the Vet-VIPPS seal are following all federal and state regulations as well as the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy safety standards.

Where to Buy Cheap Pet Meds Online the Safe Way?

As long as you make sure to buy your dog's medication from a Vet-VIPPS approved pet pharmacy, you can be certain that the place is legitimate and not a scam. Here are a few very popular sites that you can take a look at for your next shopping spree:

Remember to take a look at discount drug card programs, too. Ask about them at your local retailers and/or consult with a vet for the best programs. Some websites also offer them. Here are a few sites that offer that and may help you save on pet medications:

These programs often cover veterinary prescription medications and some other pet health care costs. You can find more of such programs if you look around or ask your vet, or other dog owners.

Are Drugs Bought Online the Same as Those at the Vet's?

The dangers of online pet pharmaciesSome pet owners new to buying cheap pet meds online will often have concerns about whether these drugs are safe to buy, use and if they're the same ones as those bought at the vet clinic. The answer to all of that is yes – as long as you buy from a legitimate pet pharmacy (see above), those drugs are safe and are the same ones you buy at the vet.

Online pet pharmacies have been around for a long while now, but they are not regulated. It is up to the consumer, i.e. the pet owner, to try and avoid scams, and look for legit cheap pet meds online sites that are well known and established pet pharmacies carrying the Vet-VIPPs seal or are otherwise known for being a good pharmacy.

There's one thing I'd like to mentioned though:

Sourcing of some (not all) dog medications is not always what it seems. This only applies to select brands. For example, while many pharmacies online will state that these are actual name-brand products, manufacturers such as Meriel (Heartguard and Frontline) and Merck (TriHeart) have come out with statements that they do not sell directly to online pharmacies and could not guarantee any medications purchased online.

Just something you should probably keep in mind, and another reason to always do your due diligence and ask around.

VIDEO GUIDE: How To Give A Dog Medicine and Vitamins

Potential Dangers of Buying Cheap Pet Meds Online

While many have found purchasing online medications for their pet perfectly safe and reliable, some pet owners I personally know, and have also read about, did have issues. But in all of those cases, they were not using good pharmacies and bought cheap pet meds online from places that weren't approved by Vet-VIPPS.

Like with everything on the internet, there are always scams around and plenty of online pet pharmacies will sell medications without a prescription. Some will state that they have a veterinarian on staff who can make a diagnosis based on what symptoms you provide.

Do NOT use those pharmacies.

This is dangerous and it's not how the process should go. Your veterinarian should physically examine your dog in order to give you recommendations and suggest appropriate treatment and/or medications.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has come forward to say that it has found a number of illegal pharmacies that are selling pet medications online. The FDA warns that pet owners should protect themselves from giving their pets dangerous or counterfeit drugs – once again – by searching for the VET-VIPPS seal. Always.

What to Look Out for When Shopping for Cheap Pet Meds

Are cheap pet meds online safe to buyThere are ways to help avoid many of the risks and find good reputable online pharmacies that can save you a lot of money. A legitimate business will comply with all federal and state laws when it comes to the sale of prescription drugs. It is just as illegal to buy prescription drugs for your dog without a doctor’s written prescription as it is for you to do so for yourself.

While some online sites may be from overseas, standards in the U.S. are much higher than in other countries. When searching for an online pharmacy to buy cheap pet meds online, there are several things that you should consider, such as:

1. Speak to your vet first

You can talk to your veterinarian and ask for a recommended state-licensed site or one that they personally use with their patients.

2. Look for Vet-VIPPS seal

The Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) is a voluntary accreditation program offered by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). This shows that the pharmacy is voluntarily complying with strict regulations when it comes to dispensing prescription medications.

3. Ensure state-Licensing

Take the extra step when buying cheap pet meds online to look for the pharmacy’s location and if it is certified by their own state’s Board of Pharmacy.

4. Look for certified active pharmacists

Check to see if the pharmacy employs certified and active pharmacists who are available to not only fill your prescription but to answer any questions you may have.

 5. Conduct online research

On your own, you can check the background of the company’s reputation by looking online for comments from previous customers. You can also check the Better Business Bureau for a rating on the overall business.

 6. Refuse illegitimate scripts

Never buy medications from a pharmacy online without a valid prescription. If the pharmacy is willing to sell it to you, then they are breaking the law. These types of companies can be putting your dog at risk.

 7. Shop big name pharmacies and discount stores

Don’t discount the pharmacies that you shop at for yourself. Regular pharmacies often carry the same medications that your dog is taking. You can also check at large discount stores such as Walmart or Target.

Staying Safe (and Saving Money)

The number one way to stay safe when buying cheap pet meds online is to start a conversation with your veterinarian. Saving money is not a new idea for anyone, and your vet understands that it’s important to be able to afford your pets medications.

Speaking to your vet first will also provide any additional insight you may need while shopping for medications and any potential problems to look for. Your vet may also in many cases be able to write the prescription for a human drug equivalent that is often much less expensive and widely available at your local drug store. A conversation with your vet, will keep your dog safe, and help you along the way to saving money on prescription medications.

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