< Back to posts

Veterinary medicines - You get what you pay for…

Written By: Jane Davidson RVN

After writing a few times about some of the issues around veterinary medicines and online pharmacies, I felt I couldn’t ignore the recent BBC Watchdog TV programme that showed the varying prices of veterinary medicines across online suppliers.

Yes – ‘Prices vary depending on where you buy a product’ SHOCKER!

I’m not belittling the show – it is important pet owners know all the options on where to get help for their pet, but as clinics cannot refuse to give a prescription when requested and also have to display a notice that they will do so, vet practices are trying to help already. However there are clearly basic differences in retailing veterinary medicines from an online wholesaler to a fully staffed vet clinic. I will explore these later on but for now, let’s put all this in perspective and check the price of a popular item in various retailers (info found on 1stDec 2018*).

The price of a can of cola

Branded cola for a 330ml can varies by price depending on where you buy it

Provider price difference Multibuy required
Discount store 33p Yes – 3 cans
Motorway services £1.20 + 87p (263%) No
Supermarket 33p Yes – 24 cans
My work café £1.15 + 82p (248%) No
Next day delivery 65p + 32p (96%) Yes – 30 cans

Non-branded cola

Provider price Multibuy required
Discount store NA
Motorway services NA
Supermarket 21p Yes – 12 cans
My work café NA
Next day delivery 21p plus delivery of £5 Yes – 12 cans


- Tesco online

- Poundland North London

- workplace café

- personal motorway services experience

The price of a branded 330ml cola can varies by as much as 263% depending on where you buy it. My work café and motorway services have different retail boundaries to supermarkets and discount stores, hence the price difference. There is also the issue of multibuy discounts that are not always available with medicines.

Non-branded cola prices can be related to veterinary medicines because you can buy the original branded medicines but also, in some cases, cheaper “generic” veterinary versions (although it is illegal to use a human medicine if a veterinary one exists and is suitable). This is related to the medicines licenses given to medicines and there is usually a time delay allowed between a new medicine being brought to market and then others being able to copy it. Availability is usually a little better than non-branded colas so you can ask your vet for further information on the medicines prescribed.

Veterinary overheads

It’s also worth pointing out that the delivery, storage and sale of products like cola do not require

  • Medical examination and prescriptions
  • A pharmacy certificate or medicines license
  • Precise temperature controlled environments
  • Safe disposal of medicines returned – read my previous blog on this – click here

Vet clinics also have to fund

  • The vet clinic and all the equipment
  • Qualified and trained staff
  • Further delivery fees from wholesalers

None of us want to feel that we are paying more than we should for any product, so I understand the headlines around this topic but, if you break down where people are buying products compared to the service received, the prices reflect the true cost of the product plus the service.

 How vet medicines compare

In comparison to the price of a can of cola I have bought my cat’s painkillers from a vets and an online pharmacy. The online pharmacy was around £18 (plus the cost of the prescription and delivery) and the vets price was about £40 with no prescription or delivery fee.

I had a choice as a pet owner on where to get my pets medication depending on cost and convenience. I am also aware the knowledge of the vet needs to be paid for somehow so if I’m not paying a clearly separate prescription or dispensing fee I know these must be included in the overall price of the medication.

I was pleased to see the official response of the British Veterinary Association – click here and I agree that using your vets is often the best option to get advice and support on the best way to give medicines to your pet. I know there are many times the ‘quick chat’ as a client picks up medications can help in the care of the patient.

But still shop safely

As a pet owner you have options on which vet to use and how to (safely) get the medicines your pet needs. Check my previous blog on online pharmacies here, so you fully understand this option and make sure you always look for the VMD Online Pharmacy logo – or better still check their list of online pharmacies. Fake medicines are big business in human and vet fields so don’t go only on price – you might not get what you paid for.


    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.

    Find local vets by town Find vets by region or country Referral and Specialist Vets

    Find local vets by town.

    Please select your preferred town:

    Find local vets by region or county.

    How would you like to search?

    Please select your preferred region:

    Find local vets by speciality.

    Please select your preferred speciality:

    Note: Your changes will not be published unless you have clicked
    'Make Live'.

    If you leave the page now, all unsaved data will be lost. Are you sure?