Making Sure Medicines For Animas Are Safe And Effective

We understand that dog owners, like all pet owners, want the best for their dog especially when they are ill. 


The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) is the Government regulator of veterinary medicines in the UK. We ensure that the medicines we authorise are safe and that they work so that animal owners can buy and administer medicines for their sick animals with confidence. 


The VMD would like to answer some questions we are frequently asked by pet owners about medicines. Hopefully readers will find this helpful. 


How can I be sure a medicine is legal and safe?

Before a veterinary medicine can be sold or supplied in the UK, the VMD has to approve it. The medicine will need a Marketing Authorisation (MA).


In applying for an MA, any company that wants to place a medicine on the UK market must demonstrate it:


  • is safe for the animal, the owner  administering it and the environment
  • is of consistently high quality
  • will work as it is intended to 


Special provisions are put in place on every veterinary medicine so that the VMD can check there are no problems with how the medicine is working or its safety. These checks continue for as long as the medicine is sold in the UK.


Authorised medicines have to display a unique code number starting with Vm or EU. You should only buy or use these medicines. 


Unauthorised medicines may be of little or no use for treating your dog and may actually harm them. 


Details of all veterinary medicines authorised in the UK are listed on the VMD’s Product Information Database.


What about side effects?

Unexpected, harmful side effects to veterinary medicines are rare. Companies who market animal medicines are required by law to report to the VMD any side effects they are told about. If you have any side effects after giving your pet a medicine, tell your doctor and take the packaging with you. If your pet has a reaction, tell your vet who will be able to advise you if your animal needs any further treatment. 


The VMD wants to know about such cases too, including if the medicine doesn’t work as expected. Either you or your vet can report cases of the medicine causing a side-effect or not working to the manufacturer who will tell us.  You or your vet can also report it directly online via VMD’s GOV.UK website. Our Pharmacovigilance Unit monitors all reports of adverse events and lack of efficacy (i.e. if the medicine does not work properly) involving veterinary medicines so that we can identify and deal with any problems with a medicine.


Where can I find out more about my pet’s medicine?

The VMD’s Product Information Database on the VMD’s GOV.UK website contains the Summary of Product Characteristics and Public Assessment Report for medicines which includes details about what circumstances a medicine should not be used in (known as contra-indications).


Is it safe to buy veterinary medicines online? 

We know that many dog owners like to buy medicines on the internet. As with any online purchases, there are, of course, advantages and risks. 


The VMD’s Accredited Internet Retailer Scheme helps animal owners reduce the risk of buying unauthorised, inappropriate or ineffective medicines for their animals. Once accredited, online retailers display the Scheme’s logo on their website, along with their unique accreditation number.  Customers can then confirm that a retailer is accredited by clicking on the logo which takes them to the list of retailers accredited by the VMD on the VMD’s GOV.UK website.


Retailers voluntarily apply to be accredited by the VMD. Accreditation gives consumers confidence that the VMD has assessed how veterinary medicines are sold on the retailer’s website and that they comply with the Scheme’s requirements and the Veterinary Medicines Regulations. For example, when selling a veterinary medicine online the retailer must ensure that a suitably qualified person has assessed the details provided by the customer and advised them on how to use the medicine safely.


To find out more information about any of the above issues or if you have a question about any aspect of the regulation of veterinary medicines, go to the VMD’s GOV.UK website – or email us at

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© Diana Bailey