Where is the best place to get medication for my pet?

Consumer Reports News: May 16, 2013 05:30 PM

Not from your vet. They sharply mark up their drug prices, and tack on a $5 to $15 dispensing fee, according to the American Animal Hospital Association. For many pet meds, a better bet is your local pharmacy.

Kmart, Rite Aid, Target, and Walgreens all fill prescriptions for Fluffy and Fido, so long as that same drug is also prescribed to humans. Prices can go as little as $4 for a month's supply. Walgreens allows customers to enroll pets as family members and take advantage of its prescription savings club. Giant/Eagle, Kroger, and Target also open their discount programs to pets.

"While our pharmacies do not carry all pet-related medications, common treatments for pet ailments like itching, infection, blood pressure, digestive issues, and seizure are available at prices that may be more affordable compared to other providers," says a spokesperson for Walgreens who adds that they can also make it easier for you to give pets their pills. "With a valid prescription, our pharmacists can turn many capsules or pills into a liquid flavored with chicken, beef, or salmon."

In contrast, vets' markups over wholesale start at 100 percent and frequently hit 160 percent. And for some medicines the markups are even higher: 567 percent for the anti-inflammatory steroid prednisone, 800 percent for the pain reliever tramadol, and more than 1,000 percent for the antibiotic amoxicillin, according to a 2009 survey of vet pricing conducted by the market research firm LHK partners.

If you frequent an independently owned pharmacy, ask about pet prescriptions; you may be able to negotiate the same low prices offered by the chain stores.

Another option is to shop at one of the Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Examples include 1-800-PetMeds, Drs. Foster & Smith, KV VetSupply, and PetCareRx.

For one-time prescriptions, you might be willing to pay extra for the convenience of getting the drugs at your vet's office. And you might not have a choice in an emergency. But especially for medications that you'll be buying repeatedly for a pet's chronic conditions, you should consider going elsewhere. Ask your vet to quote a price and give you a written prescription, then call around.

Additional links:

Is pet insurance worth the cost? [Consumer Reports]

New options for flea and tick protection [Consumer Reports]

How to track a lost pet [Consumer Reports]

Teresa Carr

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