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PET owners in the UK could be wasting up to £600 million each year on prescription-only medicines which provide treatments they don’t actually need, according to new research. 

PET owners in the UK could be wasting up to £600 million each year on prescription-only medicines which provide treatments they don’t actually need, according to new research. 

And now experts have called for better ‘clarity’ on pricing from veterinary surgeries.


Leading pet retailer surveyed more than 200 vets in order to work out the average price of flea and tick treatment.

Through their enquiries they found that veterinary surgeries often have their own ‘preferred treatment’ which they automatically recommend to patients.

In many cases this preferred, prescription-only treatment is much more expensive than other over-the-counter products, as they also combat other rare parasites such as lungworm and heartworm.

But Iain Booth, MD of VetUK, says many owners are unaware they’re paying a premium to repel such worms – branding the extra protection potentially ‘unnecessary’.

And it can push the cost of flea and tick treatment up to an average £139 annually – whereas owners can, in reality, get effective protection for just £30 a year by shopping savvy.

Calling for better transparency, Mr Booth says: “The majority of vets in the UK will have a preferred product when it comes to treating cats and dogs for fleas and ticks.

“But many of these products will treat more than just fleas and ticks.

“So when you are recommended a prescription-only product, you may be unaware your pet is also being treated for lungworm and heartworm – which are both very rare in Britain.

“It is a treatment you and your pet my not necessarily need.

“And when you compare this to the standard over-the-counter veterinary flea and tick treatment there is a big price difference.

“It is rare a pet owner will be asked whether they want this additional treatment, but they’re none-the-wiser, so they end up paying for it regardless.”

According to recent research, there’s an estimated 20m cat and dog owners, combined, in the UK.

Around 30 per cent – 6m – regularly take their pet to visit a vet.

After canvassing costs throughout the UK, vets were recommending flea and tick treatment  – such as Simparica, Bravecto, Broadline and Stronghold – costing an average £126 a year for cats and £139 for medium sized dogs.

However, budget flea and tick treatments – still containing the active ingredient fipronil, such as VetUK’s own brand – don’t require a prescription and can be purchased for as little as £2.99 per monthly dose for dogs — around £35.97 annually, or £23.40 annually for cats.

And that equates to combined potential savings among pet owners of more than £600m.

Mr Booth has also called for pet owners to ask for their pet’s prescription, so they can shop around for medications and treatments.

He adds: “It is also important to consider that many of these multi-functional medications will be offered for purchase by vets.

“But owners are well within their rights to ask for a prescription — like they would at their GP — and buy online where the same treatments can be half the price.

“Keeping an animal is expensive enough when you consider the cost of food and then add other treatments like worming or vaccinations on top.

“It can be confusing. Vets tend not to publicly list their prices, so there is no way of knowing whether you’re going to get a good deal or not — other than ringing around.

“Even then, many surgeries won’t divulge their prices unless you are registered with them.

“And if you want to be registered, a large chunk of these will charge you for a checkup beforehand.

“That can cost upwards of £30, sometimes nearly £50, depending on where you are in the country.

“There has to be some kind of clarity or requirement for vets to tell pet owners exactly what they are being treated for, and how it is going to treat their animal.”

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons is responsible for monitoring the profession, and anyone wishing to practice in the UK must be registered.

But the body has no jurisdiction on fees and accepts cost may vary between practices — and could be a factor in choosing a vet.

A spokesman added: “The stance of the College is that veterinary practices should take practical steps to set out to their clients in advance charges for things such as consultations, common medicines and routine procedures.

“As far as the treatment of an animal is concerned making clients aware of expected fees is recommended for gaining informed consent and clients should be informed at the earliest opportunity if fees are likely to increase.”

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