When a medication is prescribed for your pet, it means that your veterinarian has made a decision that the medication is indicated to treat your pet's health problem. Many prescription drugs are only effective for specific problems, and may be harmful for your pet if used without a veterinary examination and diagnosis. Having these drugs available as prescription-only medications ensures that they are used appropriately.
In most states, it is unlawful for a veterinarian to write a prescription or dispense a prescription drug without a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR). For more information about the VCPR, including a technical definition, see Section III of the AVMA's Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics. For a simpler explanation of the VCPR, read our "Frequently Asked Questions by Pet Owners about the Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship.
To maintain a VCPR, your veterinarian must see your pet regularly. How often they need to see your pet depends on your pet's health. If your pet is on a prescription medicine, your veterinarian may need to reexamine your pet, check blood work, or perform other tests to monitor your pet's response to treatment and determine if the medication needs to be changed. For example, a dog being treated for hypothyroidism needs to be reevaluated regularly to make sure the dosage of medication prescribed is effective.
You have several options when your pet needs a prescription medication: you can get it from your veterinarian if they keep it in stock; your veterinarian can write (or call in) a prescription to a local pharmacy that stocks the medication; or your veterinarian can provide a prescription so you can get the medication from an online pharmacy.
Prescriptions and Pharmacies FAQ
Buying Prescription Medication Online: A Consumer Safety Guide (FDA)