Don’t be duped by dupes
Online shopping fails can make for humorous Twitter threads. You order something and it comes in a little smaller than expected, or doesn’t quite look the way the picture said it would. It’s a low-risk gamble when it comes to clothes, office supplies, or home décor. However, when it comes to food or medications, it’s a risk with much higher consequences than money wasted.
No doubt, shopping online is convenient. Why make an extra trip to the veterinarian’s office to pick up your cat’s flea and tick prevention or your dog’s heartworm prevention when you can get it delivered straight to your door? There are many reputable online sources to purchase your pet’s medications, such as our online pharmacy. But there are also many untrustworthy online sources that offer fake products.
Counterfeit medications for pets (and people) are a big business. Overseas manufacturers create their own version of a popular medication and box it in packaging almost identical to the real, or they put a real label on a cheap, fake product. Then they sell it in bulk at a very low cost to U.S. outlets, including online stores.
What are the risks of using counterfeit products?
Medications from unreliable sources could be the wrong compound entirely. It could also be a similar, but different, product with unexpected ingredients that could pose problems to pets with allergies to certain ingredients.
The product could also be the wrong dose – if you give, say, a dose of flea and tick preventive meant for a Yorkshire terrier to a Great Dane, your dog will not have the proper protection against fleas and ticks. Then, they are susceptible to flea allergies, Lyme disease, heartworms, and more.
Is using a counterfeit source illegal?
No, but you are buying from an illegal source.
In 2009, John Buerman, who ran an online business called CatsMart Plus, was charged with trafficking counterfeit goods and knowingly using a counterfeit mark, as well as with distributing and selling a misbranded pesticide.
Buerman was investigated after a woman purchased a product from his store and gave it to her cat, only to have her cat fall ill. Buerman received two years in federal prison, plus 3 years’ probation.
Similarly, in 2017, California businessmen Michael Chihwen Weng and Paul S. Rodriguez Jr. pled guilty to trafficking in counterfeit labels and packaging. The men intentionally trafficked counterfeit labels and packaging by manufacturing, then shipping to Houston, counterfeit and trademarked Frontline, Frontline Plus, and Merial veterinary products. He also trafficked counterfeit Rimadyl labels, a veterinary product from health company Zoetis. The men faced up to 10 years in prison, plus up to $2 million in fines.
As a consumer, you face no penalty for purchasing counterfeit products.
How can you spot the real thing from the dupes?
Different false products have different characteristics that distinguish them from real products. Some things to look for are:
- Discrepancies between what the product should weight compared to its actual weight
- Lack of English instructions
- Products not packaged in child-resistant packaging
- Stickers on box to hide foreign labeling
- EPA registration number missing
- Product size is not appropriate for the animal weight listed on front of package (e.g., a large pill for a small dog)
However, many illicit products look very similar to the real thing, making it very hard to recognize it on sight. This is why you should strictly use products purchased from a reputable source, such as our in-house or online pharmacy. When products are purchased through us, they are guaranteed by the manufacturer.
What should you do if you’ve used a counterfeit product?
If you have used a product that did not come from a trustworthy source, tell us the next time you bring your pet in for a visit. It’s possible your pet is perfectly healthy, but we want to make sure there are no underlying issues. You also can bring the products in so we can properly dispose of the product, or contact your local government to learn the protocol for disposing of medications.
If your pet has a reaction to a medication purchased from an unknown source, bring them to us or the nearest emergency veterinary hospital immediately. Bring the product, if possible, so we can determine exactly what your pet has ingested.