Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 1, 2023 by Crystal Uys

cat with medication

I’m sure you’ve seen the claims: “Discounted pet drugs! No prescription necessary! Convenient home delivery!” There’s no question that prescription drugs are expensive, but is it really such a good idea to buy your cat’s medications online?

There are reputable internet pharmacies that sell pet drugs at a discounted price, but there are others that violate federal, state, and sometimes international pharmacy laws. Additionally, illegal online pharmacies may sell medications that are counterfeit, labeled or formulated incorrectly, improperly stored, or expired. And getting the incorrect medication for your cat can not only waste you money, it can have potentially deadly consequences.

Buy from your veterinarian

Before you order from an online pharmacy, always ask your veterinarian whether he/she will consider matching the lower price. Many veterinarians will do this, and you will have the peace of mind that you will have received the correct medication. Your veterinarian will also be able to answer any questions you may have about the medication.

If you still want to buy from an online pharmacy, ask your veterinarian before you order whether they trust this particular pharmacy. Your vet will know which online pharmacies are reputable.

Order from an online prescription management service

Prescription management services are state-licensed Internet pharmacy services that work directly with your veterinarian. They don’t undermine the veterinarian-client-patient relationship, and you get all the convenience of an online pharmacy with the trust you have for your veterinarian.

Watch for red flags when buying online

If you are going to buy from an online pharmacy, be careful if

  • the company does not require a written prescription for prescription drugs. Under federal law, a pharmacy cannot sell prescription drugs without a valid prescription from a licensed veterinarian.
  • the company has no licensed pharmacist available to answer questions
  • the company does not have a physical address listed on the website
  • the company is not based in the US (for our international readers: pharmacy laws vary by country, so check with your local veterinarian)
  • prices are significantly lower than prices at your veterinary clinic (if it seems too good to be true, it probably is)
  • the medicine you receive looks different than what you previously gave your cat

Always check for site-accreditation

Vet-VIPPS—the Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites—is a voluntary accreditation program of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). NABP gives the Vet-VIPPS seal to online pharmacies that dispense prescription animal drugs and comply with NABP’s strict criteria, including federal and state licensing and inspection requirements, protecting patient confidentiality, quality assurance, and validity of prescription orders.

Report problems with online pharmacies

If your cat has a problem with a medication you ordered online, contact your veterinarian immediately. Some drug reactions can be life-threatening, so this is no time to be embarrassed about not having purchased the medication directly from your vet. Problems should also be reported to the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Have you purchased medications for your cats online? What has your experience been?

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