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Be wary of online bargain pet medicines

Updated on October 28, 2017
Bob Bamberg profile image

Bob has been in the pet supply business and writing about pets, livestock and wildlife in a career that spans three decades.


In a case of pet parents vs. scoundrels, we find pet owners who are just looking to save money on medicines for their pets, in the cross hairs of those who have no regard for animals, but a high regard for easy money.

They prey upon pet owners, exploiting what’s known in the trade as “the humanization of pets.”

This phenomenon has incentivised scientists and business people to develop new treatments and medicines and is responsible for the array of pet products now on store shelves.

They'll say just about anything

Marketing has reached the point of excess; so much so that one pet food company touts, “Farm Grown Carrots” on its packaging. I guess they’re distinguishing their farm grown carrots from, say, those lower quality hardware store grown carrots.

But, many of us will just blindly take that as a positive without giving it a second thought. Exploiters especially love us for that.

A number of years ago the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned us about the dangers of ordering pet medicines online.

What prompted the warning back then was the easy availability of counterfeit flea and tick control products known as spot ons.

Some online sources were selling repackaged product that was near or beyond its expiration date.

Compounding the problem was that some medicines and parasite control products offered online originated in foreign countries where dosing is different than in the U.S.


But, the words “Made in the USA” are absolutely reassuring to most of us. I hear that all the time. If it’s made in America, what could possibly go wrong? Well, here’s one example of what could go wrong and, in fact, did.

Back in April, 2017, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) a division of the Department of Homeland Security teamed up with the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations (the other ICE) to catch a bad guy swindling pet owners by trafficking in counterfeit labels and packaging of flea and tick products and medicine.

The CEO of a company called Action Packaging and Design, Paul S. Rodriquez, Jr., pled guilty to intentionally trafficking in counterfeit labels and packaging.

Between July 2015 and December 2016 his company manufactured counterfeit and trademarked Frontline and Frontline Plus labels and packaging.

They also manufactured counterfeit Merial veterinary product labels and packaging. Merial is a worldwide animal health company, with 13 R& D facilities and 15 manufacturing facilities, that manufactures medicines for pets and farm animals.

But wait...there's more!

Rodriguez’s company also intentionally trafficked in counterfeit trademarked RIMADYL labels. Many pet owners are familiar with RIMADYL, a product of New Jersey company Zoetis, which is the arthritis medicine most commonly prescribed for dogs.

Rodriguez will face a sentencing hearing on October 2, 2017. The scoundrel is free on bond until then. But he’ll get his in the end, as he’s facing up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible 2 million dollar fine.

So much for “Made In The USA.” While it talks a good story, it’s no assurance of quality or safey. You may be familiar with the Evanger’s recall of February, 2017.

Some of their canned product contained pentobarbitol, the drug used to euthanize animals. At the time of the recall, the product was linked to one dog death and sickness in several others.

In an online report on March 2, 2017 FDA said, “Additionally, the agency concluded an inspection of the manufacturing facilities on February 14, 2017, and noted numerous significant concerns with conditions found at both the Wheeling, IL and Markham, IL plants.

Also bear in mind that products made off shore are not automatically bad. Many countries adopt American or European Union standards for safety and purity.

But, alas, manufacturers in countries with a widely regarded reputation for having very loose standards are out there, too.

Growing up I heard the phrase caveat emptor (Google it, GenXers and younger) a lot, but not so much anymore. Might be smart to resurrect it.

© 2017 Bob Bamberg


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    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 3 months ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi, Pat, nice to see you again. I just published an updated version of this topic with new information on how to tell if the online pharmacy is legit, "How To Safely Buy Prescription Pet Meds Online." Thanks for stopping by and commenting...and give Heston Wayne a big hug and an "attaboy, dude!" for me.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 months ago from sunny Florida

      Bob It is so important that you have highlighted this. It is so sad that others will try to victimize unwary individuals...but they are out there just waiting for someone to fall into their snare. It is costly to purchase items from a vet usually but it just makes me feel that my Milo and my Gretta Lynn are getting safe products. Angels are once again on the way to you ps

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 months ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      You must be one of the old people, FlourishAnyway, if you don't have to Google caveat emptor :) Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 5 months ago from USA

      Let the buyer beware. Didn't have to Google it! Seriously, this is very important information for pet lovers. I buy mine from a nonprofit spay/neuter clinic but I know many who buy online. Thank you for the warnings.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 months ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Thank you for sharing Angel's story with us, Kirk, and please accept my sincere condolences on your loss. You didn't say how old she was, but I assume you accumulated a lot of memories over the years. Hopefully, these will help you deal with her passing. I'll bet there are countless events you'll recall with a chuckle, because that's what dogs do for their people. After more than a quarter of a century of talking with pet owners, I have yet to recall anyone talking in negative terms about the dogs in their life. I trust Angel's memory will sustain you, and I thank you for taking the time to share her story.

    • profile image

      Kirk Bonin 5 months ago

      My dear sweet Angel, quietly passed away on Monday evening. She had a terminal gastric disease that her vet said hospice home care was better than an exploratory operation.

      So that's how we lived for the last couple of years. Though she could not absorb calories, she had a ferocious appetite. So I let her eat as much as she wanted.

      But she got more and more frail. I didn't enjoy petting her skin and bones but she liked grooming.

      She was her normal self on Monday, greeting me when I got home and even being a little sassier. Was she trying to tell me something.

      By Monday evening, I noticed she was listless and didn't eat dinner. She began to have difficulty breathing. Within an hour, she was gone. I hope I didn't selfishly hold on too long.

      I trust she is animal heaven with meadows, flowers, birds and other animals to keep her company.

      I miss her beyond words.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 months ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Thanks for stopping by, Heidi. I subscribe to a lot of government and trade publications, so when I get information that affects the public, I think it's important to get the word out. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 5 months ago from Chicago Area

      As a dog owner, this is really sad. True, you have to do your due diligence. Thanks for the heads up!