Heartworm disease is a serious illness in dogs. Fortunately, it is easy to prevent with prescription medication. While it might be tempting to save money by avoiding a visit to your veterinarian's office, there are risks involved with getting heartworm preventative medication without a prescription.
Heartworm Disease Prevention
Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes, so it is impossible to know if your pet has been bitten. It should be noted that topical flea and tick preventives do not reliably prevent mosquito bites. You can only prevent heartworm disease with monthly medication. Monthly heartworm preventive medications are very safe, while treatment for a dog that has become infected is expensive, painful, and carries a risk of serious or fatal complications.
Purchasing Medications Without a Prescription
All effective heartworm medications require a prescription in the United States. It is illegal to obtain an FDA-approved prescription medication without a prescription. According to Consumer Reports, it is also illegal to import prescription medications from other countries.
Warning Signs of Rogue Pharmacies
It is becoming more common to order medications from Canada or through other overseas locations. The Canadian International Pharmacy Association has a seal to help identify certified pharmacies. However, the CIPA has reported fraud in which rogue websites have been using the CIPA seal. Before ordering online, do as much research as possible about the pharmacy. Rogue pharmacies have been shown to sell counterfeit or contaminated drugs. AwareRx reports that warning signs of a rogue pharmacy include:
- No prescription required
- Prescriptions provided after only completing an online questionnaire
- No pharmacist available for consultation
- Lack of phone number or street address
- Requires you to sign a waiver
- Offers only a limited selection of medications
- Use of an international website
- Sends spam email
A Few Examples of Rogue Pharmacies
Here are some links to pharmacies that advertise that they sell medications without a prescription:
Reputable Online Pharmacies
Purchasing medications from an online pharmacy is not necessarily the same as obtaining a medication without a prescription. Many online pharmacies are reputable and follow standard pharmaceutical practices. One way to tell if an online pet pharmacy is trustworthy is to look for the VET VIPPS seal. This is a certification through the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy that shows that the pharmacy's license, policies, and procedures have been verified.
A Prescription From Your Veterinarian
Your veterinarian will probably require that your pet have a recent examination and a negative blood test for heartworms before writing your dog a prescription for heartworm preventatives. The American Heartworm Society recommends annual heartworm testing for all dogs. If your veterinarian authorizes a heartworm preventative, you can either purchase it directly at your vet's office or you can ask for a written prescription. As long as your pet is seen regularly for preventive care and vaccinations, you won't need to schedule a separate visit. You should be able to obtain refills for the rest of the year without another prescription.
Many veterinarian offices will offer to match the price of online pharmacies for heartworm preventatives. Others may offer to sell the medication with an extra dose included for the same cost. Sometimes rebate programs are available if you purchase from your vet's office. Also, be aware that online pharmacies may charge for shipping, so the initial savings that you might find could vanish by the time you finish the order.
If Your Pet Develops Heartworm Disease
While heartworm preventive medications are extremely effective, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported sporadic resistance to the drugs in 2013. If your dog is taking a heartworm preventive purchased through your veterinarian's office, the pharmaceutical company will usually pay for treatment if your pet is later diagnosed with heartworm disease. If you purchased a heartworm preventative without a prescription, it is doubtful that the pharmaceutical company will get involved.
Although heartworm preventatives are very safe, a few dogs may experience side effects. In some cases, the pharmaceutical company will also help out financially with treatment for these side effects if the product was purchased through a reputable outlet.
Talk to Your Veterinarian
If you have concerns about the cost of preventive care for your dog, speak to your veterinarian about which medications, vaccinations, or blood tests are needed the most. While heartworm preventatives can be purchased online without a prescription, there are many risks involved with this approach.