Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: July 7, 2023 by Crystal Uys

Kitten wrapped in a towel drinks medicine from a syringe

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?

The answer is that it depends. 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.

Tips to Safely Buy Your Cat’s Medication

1. 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.

Veterinarian explaining to woman cat medical condition
Image Credit: Nestor Rizhniak, Shutterstock

2. 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.

3. 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

4. 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.

Young woman cat owner working on computer
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

5. 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?

Featured Image Credit: galsand, Shutterstock

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16 Comments on Should You Buy Your Cat’s Medication Online? Facts & Safety Tips

  1. This is a most interesting and timely article. I began using Wedgwood in NJ last year for gabapentin which has to be compounded for feline use. My vet recommended them and I have found them prompt and meticulously careful. Wedgwood had some sort of problem with shipping to the state of Virginia earlier this year and I had to switch to local provisioning of the gabapentin, which is more expensive. They just resolved this issue but during the hiatus another cat began to need budesonide which also has to be compounded for feline use and is incredibly expensive. I found Thriving Pets Pharmacy in Denver online. My vet did not know them but the reviews overall seemed to be good and they required a prescription so I began using them. The capsules are clean and promptly delivered and the people sound knowledgeable when I talk to them. The first line of their corporate philosophy is “We believe animals have souls.” How could I not love a company like this?

  2. Many kitty meds are the same as human meds at lower doses. Walmart has $4 for a month’s worth of a generic brand. My vet wrote the prescriptions and Walmart filled them for much less than my Vet could have sold them to me. Just ask your vet about it. 🙂

  3. This is a great reminder. It’s hard enough to deal with a pharmacy that you can walk into and talk to face-to-face when purchasing veterinary medications (I’ve had some really scary mistakes in dosages made by them in the past). I know that gray market medication was a real problem in mail order for a long time, though I don’t know if that has changed. I would rather work with a pharmacy I trust and not worry about the sourcing of the medications.

    • My vet posted a complaint on FB recently about pharmacists wanting to change the dosages. In particular, dogs often need higher doses than humans and pharmacists find that hard to believe.

      • I’m a pharmacist and can understand how an animal dose could cause pharmacists concern. Recently the Pharmacist’s Letter, a well regarded source of information for pharmacists, added a continuing education on veterinary pharmacy. As my pharmacy does have a few furry patients I have an app on my smartphone to use to check animal dosing before I panic.

  4. Thanks for the great post Ingrid. I have only bought from a Prescription management service that my vet recommended for a special compounded eye med Garfield needed. And she did a lot of research before hand. I would worry if it wasn’t a good one.

  5. Yes – I have purchased meds online for my cats. I know and realize the problems with online (especially no script required overseas pharmacies) presents. I offer no excuse for walking this fine line between legal and illegal. However I will offer this explanation. I do TNR, rescue, shelter, foster and owner of cats and kittens. I personally have 13 living in my home with up to 10 foster kittens at any one time. To obtain legal meds vets require a visit with all the kitties with the problem in order to prescribe appropriate meds – and I agree. Personally I cannot afford to vet 3,5, 10 cats and kittens each time I need a script. In rescue we come across many ill kittens and cats and many times vets won’t see them because of unknown diseases they may have from being outside. To vet each cat and kitten would cost over $100. each for each visit not including testing that the vets always want to do. So…..with a lot of reading over the years, helpful vet tech information by a local teacher, experience etc. I do purchase and use ill gotten veterinary meds over the internet and from overseas. I feel this is my only choice to treat and save the lives of the cats and kittens that come my way very sick and without meds they would certainly die. I have found the quality to be equal to scripts given by the vets here in the states and have not had a unfavorable experience and hopefully have saved many lives. Now with that said…I would ALWAYS tell people to see their vet and most certainly take their advise. I know that obtaining meds illegally from overseas is certainly not optimal but I also know I have no other choice if I want to continue my work as I cannot afford (and neither can other shelters and rescuers I personally know of and work with) to vet each and every animal I come across. I hope those of you who are against online overseas vet drug suppliers can at least understand my and other rescuers predicament and not condemn us. I have tried to work with local vets and not so local vets with little or no success. We do what we have to do to save their lives and if that includes shopping the “net” for vet meds then so be it.

    • I certainly understand the challenges you’re facing, Suellen (and thank you for all you do for cats!). While I can’t endorse the practice, I’m also not going to judge you for trying to help as many cats as you can! It sounds like you have enough experience to at least know what to look for when you receive medications, so hopefully, if there ever were an issue with the pharmacies you order from, you’d be able to recognize it.

    • I’m sorry you haven’t found vets who will work with you. I started by volunteering and fostering for a shelter, and along the way have found many vets willing to work with trappers and fosters. I live in Houston and perhaps it is the advantage of living in a larger town. I will say that I use large dog Advantage for my cats (NOT AdvanTIX) and my vet has confirmed the correct dosage – with 6 it’s just too expensive to go the individual tube route and it is the same stuff.

    • I’m so sad to hear that you don’t have a vet that will work with you! I just moved from a city with an excellent vet who not only allowed clients to pay in monthly installments, but she didn’t require a visit for every animal in a rescue group’s care. And she did housecalls. I know how busy rescues are, having volunteered with several, but I wonder if you’ve been able to look around for a vet nearby who would be more understanding of your situation? Not to imply that you don’t know what you’re doing (!), but I don’t know how new you are to the rescue situation, and am hoping the suggestion might be helpful. TNR has become a passion of mine, so I really hope you can find a vet that will improve your situation!

  6. I’m lucky enough to live close enough to Canada to be able to walk in to a pharmacy to purchase my cats Lantus insulin. The price difference Is $230 uS vs $70 Canadian which is significant when managing diabetes. I know several fellow sugar cat moms that order from online canadian pharmacies, but most require a faxed script from the vet.

    • That’s a significant difference! The fact that these Canadian pharmacies require a script makes me think that most likely, they are reputable.

  7. We buy our cat’s Felimazole and flea treatments from Dr’s Foster and Smith’s online pharmacy. While the need for the prescriptions is new, I’ve been using this company for years. (When I first ordered from them, the internet didn’t exist.) They are prompt. The expiration dates are well in the future. I did not consider any other online pharmacy as I’d not trust them. The cost is about half what my vet charges and it’s delivered to my door. We’re totally satisfied with the experience of using their pharmacy and online store.

  8. This is excellent advice!

    I purchase my cat’s prednisone from a special compounding pharmacy that makes the pills chicken liver flavored, but it’s ordered via phone and was recommended by my vet who has used them before. Honestly, I’d be nervous to buy medication for my kitty online due to all the scams out there.

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