Donna shares insider tips about your pets gained through exclusive interviews with industry experts.
Is It Possible to Self-Administer Dog Vaccines?
You may be wondering: “Can I give my dog shots at home?” While the short answer is yes, most people can give their dogs a shot, other questions to ask are:
- Should I give my dog shots?
- What shots does my dog really need?
- What shots should we avoid?
- Can I properly administer them myself?
A Veterinarian Is Required for Rabies Vaccinations
Before we proceed, there are a few important points to mention. State public health and law enforcement officials do not recognize the administration of a rabies vaccine unless it was administered by or under the supervision of a veterinarian, according to state protocol. Vaccinating someone else's animal and being paid for it is also illegal if you are not a veterinarian.
Syringes and needles require proper disposal as hazardous waste. They cannot be disposed of in the garbage or in a landfill.
How Much Do Dog Vaccinations Cost?
One major reason for giving dog shots at home is to save money. However, what are the cost savings? Let’s compare a vet bill for two common canine vaccinations.
This cost comparison is based on purchasing the vaccines online from Doctors Foster and Smith and includes shipping and handling charges. (Vaccines must be shipped by one or two-day air; costs were calculated using the one-day air rate of $14.99.)
The prices for the veterinary services were verified at Vinton Veterinary Hospital in Vinton, Virginia, on December 15, 2011, and are the usual and customary charges for having our dogs vaccinated at their facility.
The vaccines in this example ship to Virginia and so a prescription is not required for needles and syringes. Be aware that other states could require a prescription.
Note: Fees have likely changed over the years since this analysis. This information is to provide you with a general cost comparison.
Cost Comparison Analysis
- Cost of canine DHLPP vaccine booster shot (includes non-core leptospirosis):
- Vet = $51.50 (includes office visit)
- Self-administered = $18.98 (includes needle and syringe)
- Savings = $32.52
- Cost of bordetella booster
- Vet = $20.00 (does not include office visit)
- Self-administered = $18.18 (includes purchasing a needle and syringe for injectable ONLY)
- Savings = $1.82
- An office visit to consult with the vet: $49.00
For a net savings of around $34, you have to decide for yourself if it is cost effective to administer the shots—especially if you are squeamish or own a large animal that might be difficult to inject.
The Benefit of the Vet Visit
In addition, since the canine DHLPP vaccine (at least at our veterinarian's office) includes an office visit, we know our dog also gets a complete checkup and the vet will let us know if he sees any warning signs or potential health troubles. For us, that peace of mind is worth the extra cost.
Core Combination Vaccine Notation
- D = canine distemper virus
- H or A2 = canine adenovirus-2 or A2 (tracheobronchitis) and canine adenovirus-1 (infectious hepatitis)—protects against both
- P = parvovirus
- P = parainfluenza
May be notated as the following variants: DA2PPV, DHPP, DA2PP, or DHPPV
Can I Give My Dog Shots at Home?
Can I Give My Puppy Booster Shots Myself?
A List of Basic Dog Shots
Veterinary medicine, like other branches of medicine, evolves based on new research about animal health, and one recent change concerns canine immunizations. Here we'll discuss current vaccination guidelines and give you a list of dog shots. You need this information to select the proper vaccinations if you decide to give your dog shots at home instead of taking it to the vet.
Consult your vet for advice about which vaccinations to give your dogs, as needs vary in individual dogs depending on age, weight, health, and so forth.
Core, Non-Core, and Not Recommended
According to the UC Davis VMTH Canine and Feline Vaccination Guidelines, appropriate vaccines for canines are separated into core, non-core, and not-recommended groups.
The core vaccinations for “all puppies and dogs with an unknown vaccination history” 1 are:
- canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2)
- canine distemper (CDV)
- canine parvovirus (CPV)
- canine influenza virus (CIV-H3N8)
- canine influenza virus (CIV-H3N2)
- canine parainfluenza virus (CPiV) and Bordetella bronchiseptica, often a combo vaccine—though recommended in kennel environments or high sociability areas
- canine distemper-measles combination vaccine (distemper is core)
- leptospirosis vaccine (recommended as core in California)
- Borrelia burgdorfer (Lyme disease) vaccine
Bordetella is either administered subcutaneously or intranasally—be sure to verify before administration! Intranasal vaccines must be reconstituted with needle and syringe, but should not be injected. Accidental injection can cause serious tissue sloughing.
Vaccines not recommended because “evidence for the efficacy of these vaccines is minimal and they may 'produce adverse events with limited benefit’” 2 are:
- canine corona virus
- canine Giardia
- canine adenovirus-1 (individual)
- canine rattlesnake vaccine
- canine Porphyromonas vaccine
A Note About Vaccine Waivers
Certain animals may be granted exemption status from receiving vaccines. These animals have either demonstrated severe vaccine reactions in the past or have autoimmune disorders or preexisting health conditions that make vaccination risky. Obtaining a vaccine waiver is a meticulous process. Your veterinarian will advise you accordingly.
Reasons to Not Self-Administer Dog Vaccines
Now that you know the types of shots dogs should receive, let’s talk about why you might avoid having your dog take those shots. Certain dog populations should not receive canine vaccinations unless a veterinarian recommends it. If your dog is in one of the following groups, please consult your vet prior to giving them vaccines:
- Puppies younger than six to eight weeks of age
- Dogs with a history of an adverse reaction to vaccines
- Nursing or pregnant bitches
- Dogs that are recovering from surgery or that are ill
- Dogs that are being treated with glucocorticoids
Also, many vets are now recommending that senior dogs stop receiving routine immunizations after they reach a certain age. Be sure to ask your vet's advice about this matter and follow his or her recommendations.
The Cons of Self-Administering Dog Vaccines
Here are some of the drawbacks of at-home canine shots:
- Vaccines may expire before they are used up, wasting money.
- You risk injecting into a vein. If you do not aspirate the needle properly before injecting, you may hit a vein or muscle, which can cause major health issues like embolisms, tissue sloughing, or nerve damage.
- You risk injuring yourself or your dog (any flailing can result in entry into the wrong injection site, injury, incomplete administration, or injury to the owner).
- Some vaccinations, like rabies shots, cannot be self-administered by owners.
- Dogs may have a severe reaction to the shots and may require immediate emergency medical attention.
- It is difficult to be assured of the quality and freshness of the vaccines—how were they transported, were they kept refrigerated, where did they come from?
- Additives, called adjuvants, may cause cancer or immunological diseases, so it is important to know the proper injection sites. This often requires experience in the field.
- Vaccines may accidentally get into the dog’s eyes, nose, or mouth and cause an adverse reaction.
- Vaccines can exacerbate canine allergies.
- Large dogs can be difficult to restrain during injections.
- Your pet misses out on a routine checkup by your vet, who might notice an illness or condition that is starting to develop such as canine arthritis.
- You do not receive a certified proof of vaccination certificate—which may be required for interstate or international travel or relocation and boarding.
- You may need a prescription for needles and syringes for dog vaccines. According to the Doctors Foster and Smith website, you will need one if you live in New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois or New Jersey.
The Pros of Self-Administering Dog Vaccinations
Here are some common advantages of doing canine shots yourself instead of taking your dog to the vet. Be sure to inform yourself of proper vaccination protocols and methods before proceeding:
- No need to transport the animal to the vet or restrain it in the waiting room.
- Dogs that receive an injection in a familiar environment are less stressed.
- Administering shots yourself saves money because no office call fees or transportation costs are incurred.
- Buying the vaccines and other supplies may be more cost-effective than paying for a shot at the vets.
- Shots can be given at your convenience, so you can plan them around your schedule.
Making an Informed Decision
We’ve covered a lot of information, but now you can make an informed decision on the question: “Can I give my dog shots myself?”
Additionally, should you choose to go that route, you learned that you can buy supplies online from companies like Doctors Foster and Smith. Another resource to check are the local farm supplies stores.
No matter whether you decide to administer the shots yourself or rely on your vet, you can be assured that you have acted in the best interests of your pet.
Other Useful Pet Health Articles
- Dog Health Advice: FAQs About Canine Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Is your dog's discomfort due to a stomach ache or is it canine inflammatory bowel disease? Find out what symptoms to watch for and more.
- Arthritis Pain Relief for Dogs: Alleviating Your Best Friend's Pain Safely
What are the safest arthritis pain relief methods for dogs? Dr. Benson discusses some safe alternatives.
References and Resources
- UC Davis Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis VMTH Canine and Feline Vaccination Guidelines (Revised 11/2009)
- Doctors Foster and Smith, http://www.drsfostersmith.com/
- Vinton Veterinary Hospital, http://www.vintonvethosp.com/
© 2011 Donna Cosmato
Lorraine Turner on March 07, 2019:
Please please keep in mind you should never vaccinate you pet if they seem sick in anyway!!! Vaccines lower their immune system!! I found out my dog had cancer because I take him for routine vaccines every year!!! I didn’t notice any difference in him at all, the vet did an exam and noted he was tender in his belly. Anyway long story short they ended up taking a nearly 6lb mass out of his belly!!
Linda Bottiger on August 21, 2018:
I have a Chihuahua puppy who has a small cleft palate and needs her shots, can we do them ourself or do we need to get the dead versions from a vet
Jane on July 13, 2018:
I have a question, I live in Canada and I want to give me dog a shot because he has a fever, but I don't know if Canada's vet lets Canadians give dogs shots at home. So I am curious, If I give my dog a shot, then I go to the vet, will the vet get mad or let us give shots at home? Please answer me and help me.
Anne from Spain on April 18, 2016:
I have 2 dogs and both have canine leishmaniosis. To control this incurable disease they both require a yearly visit to my vet for blood tests and then treatment to keep the leish under control, the treatment is usually a course of injections and as these could be anywhere from 10 to 30 ( depending on the result of the blood test) I give them at home. I also give anti biotic or anti inflammatory shots at home if the dogs have been ill , examined and given initial shots at the vets, but need follow up´s in a day or so. The vet fills up syringes for me to give later. For anything else I would take the dogs to the vet especially as they are not allowed some routine vaccines because of the leishmaniosis.
Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on February 15, 2012:
Thanks for the feedback and compliments AEvans. Although I've given our cat her insulin shots, I haven't ventured into immunizations yet but we are weighing the costs savings to see if it makes sense. Since we are down from 4 cats and 4 dogs to one of each, it may or may not be justified.
Julianna from SomeWhere Out There on February 14, 2012:
Although we utilize our Vet for our pets, I just recently gave all of them there 7 in 1 for the year. We purchased it from the feed store and the bottles were not expired. I have given our dogs there shots in the past, but when check-up time came of course our Vet gave them over again. Lololo! Informative hub and a great read.:)
Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on December 16, 2011:
Hi Cat R, and thanks for sharing this valuable information with everyone. Grouping your order with others is a good money saving idea as well.
Cat R from North Carolina, U.S. on December 16, 2011:
You can get the shots for $5.99 (5-Way)/$6.99 (Bordetella) at most Tractor Supply/Farm Stores too. Or order them at Dr.Foster/Dr. Smith online. I bought a 25 dose 5-Way for roughly $75 or so. I think it came out to $2.40 per shot. Get your friends together and order together. The box of syringes was like $15 for 100. And if you have good rescues around you, you can get the rabies for less than $10 when they do their rabies clinics. At least in NC.
Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on December 16, 2011:
Thanks, Eddy, for the vote...so nice to hear from you today! I hope all is well in Wales and I'm anxious to read your next hub:)
Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on December 16, 2011:
Thanks, moonlake, for reading and commenting on this hub about giving dogs shots at home. I'm glad it is working well for you; Drs. Foster and Smith's staff was incredibly nice when I called them to get the information for this piece. If I ever decide to do home vaccinations, I'll definitely patronize them:)
Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on December 16, 2011:
Thank you for your kind words, Moon Lightened...they brightened my day! I've always wondered if giving our dogs shots at home would really save us that much money, especially since I'm one of those squeamish people:)
Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on December 15, 2011:
I hope I never have to give any dog or any one a shot.. I never wanted to be a nurse.lol... I always take my animals to the vet. but thanks for writing a great informative HUB... I voted up...
Eiddwen from Wales on December 15, 2011:
A very well informed hub which I am sure will benefit many who read.
I vote up and look forward to reading many more by you.
moonlake from America on December 15, 2011:
We live by Foster and Smith so we buy our dogs and cats vaccines from them. The rabies shot we get at the vet so at that time the dogs get checked by the vet.
Good hub and good information.
Moon Lightened from Delhi, India on December 15, 2011:
Very useful hub, Donna and well written. I've wondered about these things in the past and now you've given a brilliant resource. Well done!
Cat & Dog Vaccines
The Low-Cost Vet Clinic is open BY APPOINTMENT 7 days per week 10 am - 3 pm with curbside service for vaccines and microchips. If you are unable to schedule an appointment online, call 702-955-5955 for assistance. Walk-ins can be accommodated on a first come, first served basis between the hours of 10 am - 1 pm. Please note that without an appointment, wait times may be in excess of one hour. Scheduling an appointment online is always recommended. Thank you for your understanding.
Vaccinating your dog or cat is easy, inexpensive, and can save your pet’s life. The Animal Foundation successfully vaccinated over 15,000 pets last year. Our Low-Cost Vet Clinic is a reliable and affordable resource for keeping your pet’s vaccinations up to date.
Dog Rabies Vaccine Schedule
How often do dogs need rabies shots? While state and local requirements vary, the standard recommendations, according to the American Animal Hospital Association, are an administration of a single dose of killed rabies vaccine via injection under the skin or into the muscle to dogs no younger than 3 months of age.
In general, when puppies go in for their 16-week check-up, they receive their first rabies vaccine. A second single dose of rabies vaccine is administered one year later regardless of the age of the dog, and then every three years thereafter.
This vaccination schedule is designed to maintain adequate immunity to rabies virus in case the dog is ever exposed. According to tests run by the manufacturer, antibodies against the rabies virus in your dog’s body created by the vaccine start to decrease after three years.
I can’t think of a disease that causes more owner anxiety than diabetes. Something about having to give a shot twice a day, every day, to an animal you love is very daunting. Then you do it a couple times and suddenly, it’s a breeze! I’ll also answer the common question of “how far apart/early/late can I give the insulin?”
Insulin is kept in the refrigerator. Some pens made for humans can be left out for periods of time, but for the most part, plan on refrigerating the insulin. If you have a decent drive to the pharmacy or vet office, bring a little cooler to bring the insulin home. It needs to be gently mixed before each dose. Vetsulin, an insulin made specifically for dogs and cats, can be shaken like a polaroid picture. Other insulins need to be gently inverted in a rocking motion, not shaken like orange juice.
Your veterinarian will show you how to give shots, and make sure you get some practice with saline solution while still at the clinic! When I have clients practice in front of me, I can watch the fear leave their body after 1-2 practice shots. Nobody every needs a third – they walk out confidently! It’s 90% mental/fear, and once you get over it, you’re home free.
Here’s some pointers on shot-giving (hoping to have a video soon!):
- Choose a super special treat or snack that your pet gets ONLY during the insulin shot. That ensures a happy pet, as well as one that is distracted (eating) and moving around less. For cats, a little tuna juice tends to work well. For dogs, a thin layer of peanut butter on a plate takes some time to clean up. We want our pets to associate the injection with something positive – many of my patients remind their owner it’s shot time!
- We generally aim for the back, between the shoulder, but insulin can be given under the skin anywhere! Try not to hit the exact same place over and over. Some owners move it in a little circle on the back, some do a 4-corners approach. Do what works for you. You basically want a spot that has skin you can easily pinch.
- Pinch the skin with your thumb and middle finger. That leaves your index finger free. If you’re right handed, do this with your left hand. Feel the “tent” of skin that forms from your pinching. That’s where the shot goes.
- After drawing up the insulin and getting the bubbles out, hold the syringe with your thumb and middle finger, leaving your index finger free to depress the plunger.
- Insert the needle completely into the skin. You can part the fur if you want, if the pet is super shaggy, but not a requirement. Once the needle is in, then depress the plunger to inject the insulin. Done!
- Remove the syringe and dispose of safely. Warning! Yes, it is a tiny, wimpy needle. And yes, the plastic cover seems rather thick. Believe me when I say that tiny needle can bend and poke through that plastic cap, poking you and making you bleed like nobody’s business. (not that I’ve done that! LOL)
- You may use an old milk jug or coffee can to keep used syringes. They are meant for one use, no more. I love the Safe Clip – it removes the (sharp!) needle and allows you to throw the syringe in the trash!
Dogs and cats often have lots of extra skin on the back, just behind the neck.
If multiple people will be giving the shots, I suggest having a pow wow on measuring the insulin. 3 units to my eyes might look like 3.5 to yours. So, get everyone on the same page.
Pick a time (two times actually, 12 hours apart) and stick with it. Most people do 7 am/7pm or something similar. I have a client who works late and gives the insulin at midnight and noon! Do what works with your schedule. I often feed the animal first, make sure they eat, then give the insulin. Some veterinarians recommend giving the shot 30 minutes before a meal. That makes the most sense biologically, but then what if the pet doesn’t eat? You have insulin in them that you can’t get out! And now we worry about their blood sugar dropping too low. If we make sure they eat before giving the shot, that’s a non-issue.
Here’s how to handle other common questions:
- You have 1 hour on either side of that time you chose to give the insulin shots. So if you chose 7 am/pm, then between 6 and 8 is acceptable. Obviously, giving it at 7:00 on the dot is ideal, but sometimes life gets in the way. Also, if you have to give insulin at 8 one time, do not make the next dose at 6. Try to get as close to 11-12 hours apart as you can.
- If you have to give a shot earlier or later than that +/- 1 hour window, it’s better to skip that dose altogether. I’d rather have your pet have high blood sugar (not a huge deal) by missing an insulin shot than risk him getting too low (very bad!) by getting insulin shots too close together.
- If you give a shot, and your pet moves, making you not so sure if it actually went in or not, don’t panic. Also, do not give another shot. Again, better to have a missed shot than to get a double dose!
- If multiple people in the house are responsible for giving the shots, have a paper or dry erase board to check off when the shot was given, to avoid any double dosing.
How can you tell if it’s working? How do you know when to worry? Check out the rest of the Diabetes series:
Check out our podcast episode about diabetes. In an hour, we couldn’t even cover every detail, but you’ll learn and laugh with us along the way!
How Are Vaccines Given?
Most vaccines are given as injections. These are given either under the skin or into the muscle.
However, some vaccines, such as those against kennel cough, work better when given as a spray up your puppy’s nose.
Most vets offer a combined injection so your puppy doesn’t need to have numerous jabs.
This will protect against the core diseases, plus a number of others, depending on the vet’s advice.
Most combination injections protect against distemper, leptospirosis, hepatitis, parainfluenza, coronavirus and parvovirus.