When people think of counterfeit products, they usually think of knockoff designer items and electronics, not pet medications. The truth is, counterfeit pet medications are a growing problem, and they pose a real danger to our beloved animals. Here’s what you need to know.


To start off with, it’s important to know why counterfeit pet medications are such a problem. The reason is because there is money to be made by selling these fake products especially online. Lots of it. The pet medication industry is extremely lucrative and the counterfeiters are always looking for ways to exploit unsuspecting consumers in order to cash in.


Just how big is the pet medication industry? It’s a multi-billion dollar industry, and, as you’ll see, it’s on track to get even bigger.


The Booming Pet Medication Market

The market for pet drugs has been a thriving one for years. Just like humans, animals can contract or develop a variety of illnesses and diseases that can limit their lifespan, reduce their quality of life, and even bring on sudden death. Animals owners are willing to pay significant amounts of money in order to access life-saving and life-enhancing products that will help their beloved animal get better and live a long and happy life.


But that’s not all. Even healthy our companions need regular drug to prevent heartworm and other parasites. So no matter what, the demand for pet medications will likely remain strong and continue to expand in the coming years.


The Impact of the Pandemic on Pet Medication Sales

The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated these upward trends in the pet drug industry. With so many people across the world spending more time at home and experiencing greater levels of isolation, many people are welcoming animals into their lives as a way to combat loneliness and establish a day-to-day routine. These people are spending lots of time with their pets every day and keeping a close eye on their health.


This focus on animal well-being makes sense, given the growing interest that people have in well-being for themselves. This is particularly true for Millennials and Gen Z-ers. They spend a lot of time and money on practices and products that can improve physical and mental health, from yoga and essential oils to CBD products and fortified health foods. It’s only natural that this commitment to personal care would extend to their beloved pets as well. This has led to an explosion in the pet medication market, with 2020 seeing close to $11 billion in sales of pet drug.


Countries That Spend the Most on Pets

Due to cultural and lifestyle factors, such as the prevalence of animal ownership and average disposable income levels, some countries tend to have more animals and to spend more on their pets than others.


Research shows that Britain, France, Switzerland, and the United States are the countries that spend the most on their pets. In the United States, specifically, the total amount of money spent on pets annually comes to over $150 per person. This includes things like pet food, grooming, toys and accessories, kennel services, enrichment activities, and, of course, health and well-being products, including medicines.


Counterfeit Pet Medications to Look Out for

You may be wondering exactly which pet medications are the biggest target for counterfeiters. While any product can be vulnerable to counterfeiting, there are specific ones that are most prevalent in the industry.


The most common counterfeit include the following:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Previcox, Metacam)
  • Flea and tick preventative products
  • Heartworm disease preventative products


The packaging for these products is designed to mimic the genuine article, but there are often telltale signs that set counterfeit products apart. These include logos that aren’t the right size or are missing altogether, low-resolution or grainy images, spelling mistakes in the text, and printed information that doesn’t match the contents inside the box.


Another red flag is price. If a medicine usually sells for $60 but you see it being sold for $25, especially in an online pharmacy, that’s a clear sign that the product may not be authentic.


Where Counterfeit Pet Medications Are Sold

The pandemic has also caused another trend to leapfrog ahead: online shopping. With retail stores and veterinary shut down for weeks and months at a time in many places across the world, consumers increasingly turned to online shopping as a way to purchase essential items, including medicines for their pets via online pharmacy.


This, unfortunately, leaves the door wide open to counterfeiters who, without the checks and accountability associated with brick-and-mortar retailers, can sell imitation products directly to consumers via their website. When orders are placed and fulfilled solely online, quality and origin of the purchased item become much more difficult to monitor and control.


Many Pet Medicines Are Only Available Through Veterinarians

There’s also the issue of using those products appropriately and responsibly, which is also related to the matter of counterfeit pet drugs.


In many cases, reputable manufacturers only sell their products to veterinarians, who then make them available to their clients. These manufacturers know that only trained professionals have the knowledge and experience that is required for a responsible prescription to pets and to monitor their health accordingly. So they don’t sell directly to pet guardians through pharmacies since a well-meaning person might buy the medicine without understanding the circumstances under which it should and should not be used.


Given this fact, one has to wonder where some companies like online pharmacies or vendors on amazon source their products from, if the manufacturer only sells to licensed vets. In many cases, the answer is that these products are not sourced from the manufacturer and are of unknown provenance.


The Tragic Impact of Counterfeit Pet Medications

It’s a sad fact that many families have experienced the worst possible outcomes of counterfeit pet medications by seeing their beloved animal get sick or die after taking them.


One veterinarian in the United States recounted in her blog the story of a patient of hers who bought what turned out to be counterfeit insulin for her dog. The patient opted for a cheaper version of the drug than the one the vet sold directly from her office. The product didn’t work as it was supposed to, and the dog’s diabetes wasn’t effectively controlled. It took a trip to the veterinary clinic emergency room and a thousand dollars to save its life.


Another instance happened in the state of Virginia. A ten-month-old rescue puppy died after receiving counterfeit shots of Frontline, a flea and tick preventative. Within hours of the owners giving the shots to the dog (which they administered themselves), it was showing symptoms of poisoning and it was already too late to stop the damage. When the owners showed the pet medication package to their veterinarian, he instantly recognized it as counterfeit. Sadly, this was not an isolated incident for the vet—he saw several instances of counterfeit pet drugs around the same time.


Key Takeaways About Pet Medicines

People are willing to invest a lot into their pets, both in terms of time and money. As more and more animal owners become aware of the prevalence and danger of counterfeit pet medicines, they will be looking for ways to ensure that the medicine they buy is real, authentic, and safe for their beloved companions.


Increasingly, it’s going to be essential for retailers to be able to prove the pet products they sell are genuine.


AlpVision is a world leader in anti-counterfeiting techniques and technologies that can protect producers and consumers from counterfeit products. Secured QR codes and Cryptoglyphs on packaging and labels provide secure anti-counterfeiting solutions that provide peace of mind when purchasing drugs both for people and for pets.


Contact us to find out how we can help you verify and authenticate your pet medications.

Eager to learn more?

Our team would be pleased to help you


      Quick Info Request