Don’t be duped by dupes

When you order clothes, office supplies, or home décor online, and they aren’t the product promised, worst case scenario, you lose out on some money and get a funny story out of it. But if you order your pet’s medications online and get the wrong product, you’re risking more than a few bucks.


Top: A real box of Frontline. Bottom: A dupe purchased from an unknown source

That’s why it’s important to use only reputable, secure sources when ordering medications, whether for your pets or for you. While there are many safe sites to order medication, such as our online pharmacy, unfortunately, there are also plenty of counterfeit medications online.

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.

Counterfeit products pose a huge risk
The biggest risks of giving your pet counterfeit products include:

  • The medication could be the wrong compound. This is obvious: you have no way of knowing on sight whether the pill in the box of Frontline is really a flea preventive, or if it’s a totally different medication.
  • The medication could be similar, but different, to the real product. The product inside might do what it’s supposed to, but it might be made with different ingredients than the box promises. This poses an allergy risk.
  • The medication could be the wrong dose. Example: if you give your Great Dane a flea and tick prevention pill that’s the dosage for a Yorkshire terrier, you leave your Dane susceptible to flea allergies, Lyme disease, heartworms, and more.

Pet medicine dupes aren’t illegal to buy – but they’re illegal to sell
As a consumer, you face no penalty for purchasing counterfeit products. However, 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.

How to tell the difference between real and fake products
Different false products have different characteristics that distinguish them from real products. There are a few common signs of a dupe, including:

  • 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.