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Online prescriptions for your pet: what changes during the lockdown in the UK

german shorthaired pointer laying on the ground dog-cat-serious

Prescription guidelines are being temporarily changed.

© Shutterstock

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the veterinary Code of Professional Conduct required an animal to be under the care of a vet before treatment could be dispensed or prescribed. 

By Dr. Liz Barton MA, VetMB, MRCVS

Published on the 10/04/2020, 08:00, Updated on the 12/03/2021, 10:40

In light of recent government guidance to limit non-essential journeys, the RCVS has temporarily allowed the remote prescribing of certain medicines. This may change and will be reviewed by 30th June 2020 at the latest.

When can a vet give a prescription?

If your pet has an ongoing condition and is under regular care from a vet, it’s possible to ask for a prescription which can be emailed or posted out to you. You have the option of asking the vet to dispense the treatment directly, or use an online pharmacy. In some cases, a local human pharmacy may also be able to dispense certain generic drugs. If you need new medication for your pet and you haven't taken them to the vet in a while, you would not normally be given a prescription or medication. However, this may now be possible due to the relaxing of the guidance around prescribing.

Have prescribing rules changes in the UK?

The rules around prescribing medicines for pets haven’t been permanently changed, but temporary permission to remotely prescribe has been given. Vets have been advised only to give new prescriptions in exceptional circumstances and only when it’s necessary for animal welfare. They should only prescribe the minimum amount until it is possible to physically examine your pet, and if you fully understand the potential risk of a pet being given medication without being examined. In other words, vets have been advised that this is a last resort, and they should always try and see your pet before dispensing prescription medications. In all cases, the risk of giving the medicine without seeing your pet should be outweighed by the benefits in terms of reducing coronavirus spread and the benefits to your pet's welfare.

Can you get prescriptions online for your pet?

You still need a prescription to be issued by a vet before you can order from online pharmacies to fulfil the prescription. However, since the lockdown and social distancing measures were introduced, many vets have started offering telephone or video consultations. They may then email you a prescription for online use.

What kind of prescriptions can you get?

Prescription preventative treatment, such as flea and worm products, are not considered to be essential so vets may delay prescribing or dispensing these out until after the period of lockdown. However, any treatment which is necessary for maintaining animal health and welfare should be allowed through the revised remote prescribing guidance, despite the lockdown measures. There’s no actual list of medications permitted – it is up to the vet’s own judgement in each case and will depend on a variety of factors, including the risk to the individual animal and your circumstances as an owner. If in doubt, contact a vet to discuss your options.