Like their human companions, at some point pets will most likely need to be prescribed a medication. Refilling a long-term prescription at the veterinarian’s office might not be convenient, or you might be able to get a better price from an online pharmacy, but you need to be careful. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), websites have been found selling unapproved and counterfeit pet drugs, and they want to remind the public that these products could be unsafe or ineffective for your pet.

The dangers posed by counterfeit medicines to animals are the same ones posed to humans. The medicine might contain too much or too little of the active ingredient, making the medicine at best ineffectual and at worst dangerous. The medicine might contain any number of dangerous ingredients including heavy metals, rat poison, antifreeze, and road paint. According to CBS News, beyond the physical dangers to your pet, the FDA warns that purchasing medicines from foreign online pharmacies which are not licensed in the US puts individuals at risk for credit card fraud, identity theft, and computer viruses.

The FDA recommends if you do want to purchase your pet’s medication online, only order from a pharmacy that requires a prescription and is licensed in the U.S. Additionally, any online pharmacy not requiring a prescription should be a warning sign that they are not legitimate. The best indicator that the pharmacy you are considering purchasing from is safe is if their web address ends in .pharmacy. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) administers the .pharmacy domain and only awards a domain to online pharmacies that meet US state licensing requirements. If you have previously verified your online pharmacy because it had the VIPPS seal, the NABP has stopped running that program.

If you prefer to pick it up in-person, there is a way that you might be able to save money on your pet’s medication. This can be especially useful if your pet will be on this medicine for a long time to treat conditions such a seizures or diabetes. First, you will want to ask how much the prescription will cost if it is filled by the veterinarian’s office and if it would be possible to pick the prescription up at a regular pharmacy. Humans and pets frequently take the same medications. If the prescription can be picked up at a regular pharmacy, ask the veterinarian to write out a prescription for you. From here, you can use NeedyMed’s Drug Pricing Calculator and Pharmacy Finder to find the best price using the NeedyMed’s Drug Discount Card and have your pet’s prescription filled at that pharmacy. Present the prescription and your NeedyMed’s Drug Discount Card to the pharmacists to save. The card is free for anyone to use and can save you up to 80% off the cash price for medications. Some pharmacies like Sam’s Club and Walmart do not accept the NeedyMed’s Drug Discount Card for pet medications.