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More than 1 in 10 pet owners have been conned into purchasing fake pet medicines online

Purchasing a counterfeit medicine can cause a serious health risk to pets, and potentially the families that look after them

29 July 2020, at 12:00pm

With COVID-19 causing a 129.5 percent year-over-year increase in online shopping sales in May alone, it is concerning to learn that over 1 in 10 pet owners have been duped into buying counterfeit pet medicines online. After receiving their online order and questioning the authenticity, these pet owners reported the issue only to receive confirmation that the products they’d bought were indeed fake.

The true number of owners affected is likely to be even higher, as a further 12 percent of pet owners in this survey said they believed that they may have received fake pet medicines, but had not gone down the route of reporting these to find out for sure. It is not surprising that pet owners are being tricked, illegal traders can often use real imagery and adverts to sell fake products at a slashed down price, which can sometimes entice the high numbers of pet owners who like to shop online.

Unbeknown to most pet owners, counterfeit medicines come in many forms. They can often look, smell and feel like the real thing but can contain completely different active ingredients, an incorrect dose of ingredients, or no ingredients at all. Counterfeit packaging can be so convincing that when buying pet medicines 62 percent agreed that they find it difficult to tell which are legitimate and which are fake.

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) is an executive agency that looks to protect animal health, public health and the environment and have been aware of this issue for a while. They work with a number of online retailers to combat the illegal marketing and sale of a wide range of veterinary medicines. Since April 2020 the VMD has removed over 500 veterinary medicine listings from online marketplaces.

New research by Seresto Flea and Tick Control collar shows that factors that made pet owners feel they may have bought fake product included the medicine having a strange smell, the medicine not seeming to work properly or making their pet unwell, or the medicine having a false expiry date.

It is, of course, important to remember that whilst fake or counterfeit medicines could lead to any or all of these issues, even genuine medicines can, on occasion, not work as expected or cause side effects, so it’s really important that these signs alone are not just attributed to a fake product. Pet owners are advised to contact their veterinary surgeon if they have any concerns about their pet’s health following use of any product. Nonetheless, the findings from this survey, that 237 pet owners out of 2000 had confirmation that they had received a fake pet medicine, highlights that the sale of counterfeit products is a very real issue and one that should not be ignored.

Counterfeit products continue to be sold illegally, and research showed that 87% of shoppers purchased pet parasite prevention products from un-accredited sites that have been known to sell counterfeit pet medicines such as ebay and Wish. However, purchasing a counterfeit medicine can cause a serious health risk to pets, and potentially the families that look after them. Unsurprisingly, of those pet owners who felt they had been duped by counterfeit goods, 42 percent felt worried and 38 percent upset.

Before purchasing any product online, pet owners should look out for the following key indicators:

  • Watch out for inconsistencies in packaging and design – sometimes old or incorrect imagery may be used, so always double check on the brand’s own website what the product should look like
  • Be aware of huge cost savings of up to 90 percent off the usual or expected price
  • Check and search for retailer reviews to help ensure a positive shopping experience
  • Beware of product that is being shipped from abroad
  • Check the brand’s own website to find authorised retailers

Popular TV Vet, Rory Cowlam, on behalf of Seresto says, “It saddens me that there are those out there looking to take advantage of pet owners who are really just trying to take the best care of their pets. It is so important to think carefully about where you buy your pet medicines, and always check the retailer is accredited. Visiting the brand’s own website to find out where to buy safely is always a good idea.”

To help pet owners navigate the market and ensure they are purchasing Seresto flea and tick collars from a reputable retailer, visit the website to locate authorised Seresto stockists.