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Can I buy drugs from the pharmacy for my pet?
Pharmacy insights

Can I buy drugs from the pharmacy for my pet?

Pets like humans can suffer from different conditions. A drug management of certain conditions in pets may be similar to humans. In fact some conditions are treated with drugs used by humans under  the management of a qualified veterinarian. For example Piriton (chlorphenamine) can be used to manage allergies in dogs or other pets. In this post I discuss if drugs available from the pharmacy can be bough for pets.

Can you buy medicines from the pharmacy for your pet?

No. It is illegal to sell or supply human medicines for animal use, unless it is prescribed by a vet and under ‘the veterinary cascade’.

As frustrating as it may be, you will most likely be refused a sale of drugs from the pharmacy if product you are trying to buy is for your dog or cat or any other animal.

In practice I have seen many customers trying to by chlorphenamine (Piriton) from the pharmacy under recommendation by a vet. Verbal recommendation by a vet to get drugs licensed for humans from the pharmacy do not give the right of the purchase. This practice is not allowed.

What is ‘the veterinary cascade’?

In simple terms a licensed veterinary medicine should be used in first instance for treatments of animals. If this option is not available and no other medicines for treatment of other animal species can be used, a human medicine can be considered on a veterinary prescription.

Vets are not allowed to recommend licensed human medicines for pet simply because they are cheaper. According to ‘cascade’ a justification for the course of treatment based on animal welfare needs to be present (GOV UK, 2015).

Can I get my vet prescription filled in the pharmacy?

Providing a vet prescription meets all legal requirements, supply of drugs from the pharmacy can be made. A vet prescription is treated in the pharmacy the same as private prescription. This means paying customer covers the cost of the medication plus a small mark up. Please note some pharmacies have a minimum charge for private prescriptions, which are usually around £5, but can be set at higher.

How long is a vet prescription valid for?

Legally, a vet (and private) prescription is valid for 6 months from the day it was written, however a vet may decide to limit prescription expiry date. The only exemption to this rule is repeated vet prescription. In some cases, a vet my allow for the same prescription to be repeated number of times. This has to be clearly stated on the prescription. In this case, the first dispensing needs to be done within 6 months of prescription date, following which there is no legal time limit for prescription to expire. A veterinarian can set time limit for dispensing of all repeats.


GOV UK (2015).  Guidance for prescribing vets on the use of the Cascade. Available at: Accessed on 04/03/19

I am a community pharmacist working in UK. I blog about drugs, health and pharmacy.


  • Lyn

    I have been told that pharmacists can dispense dogs flea treatment on perscription (advocate) and wondered if this was in fact the case? many thanks for your help

    • Michal

      In the UK majority (almost all) pharmacies use 3 main wholesalers to get their drugs. These wholesalers do not stock advocate. If they did you would be able to get it from a pharmacy. There may be some pharmacies small number of pharmacies that may be able to order advocate, but I have never seen this in practice. If you have a prescription for advocate, I would be easier and faster to use an online pet website which can supply vet medicines against a prescription. It would be possible to get any human medicine for a pharmacy for a pet if you have prescription.

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