How to DIY Vaccines

Blonde woman playing with her adorable cat

Breeders, kennels, shelters, rescue groups and adoption agencies routinely order dog and cat vaccinations. It makes more sense than schlepping everyone to a veterinarian for shots. If the way your pooch freaks out when visiting veterinarian hospitals or the cost of cat vaccinations has you wondering if there’s a way to do it yourself, the good news is that you can.

Most dog and cat vaccinations are subcutaneous, meaning that you only need to get the needle under the skin and not into a muscle. It’s much less painful than an intramuscular injection, and your pet will only feel a brief prick. If you feel up to sliding a needle under your pet’s skin, you can DIY pet vaccinations.

The How-To

Most dog and cat vaccinations come in two vials. One contains the powdered part of the vaccine, and the other contains the liquid portion. To begin:

1. Insert the needle into the top of the liquid vial and turn it upside down. Pull the plunger back to draw all of the liquid out into the syringe.
2. Withdraw the needle from the liquid vial and insert it into the top of the vial with the powder.
3. Press the syringe plunger to dispense the liquid into the powder vial.
4. Roll the vial between your palms to mix the powder and liquid together.
5. Reinsert the needle into the vial containing the vaccine and turn it upside down. Draw all of the vaccine out into the syringe.
*If you’ve purchased a vial that contains more than one dose, only draw out 1 ml (1 cc).
6. Remove the needle from the vial and hold the syringe so that the needle is pointing up. You’ll see a bubble of air at the top of the syringe; gently depress the plunger to expel the air from the syringe. It’s OK if a drop or two of the vaccine comes out, but don’t press so hard that a large amount is forced out.
7. Grasp the loose skin around your pet’s neck and shoulder area between the thumb and forefinger of one hand. Gently lift the skin away from your pet’s body; the skin will form a narrow triangle between your thumb and finger.
8. Slide the needle under your pet’s skin in the area below your fingers and above his body.
9. Depress the plunger on the syringe, and then withdraw the needle.

It may be helpful to have another person hold your dog or cat still so that you can vaccinate your pet quickly, but that’s all there is to it. It’s wise to talk to your pet’s veterinarian before you take on the vaccination responsibilities, however. She should be aware that you’re vaccinating your pet so she will be prepared if there’s an emergency. Pets sometimes have adverse reactions to vaccinations, and you may need to rush your pet to the clinic if he experiences one. Web MD1 explains that reactions are typically mild with only 4 or 5 in 1000 experiencing symptoms such as:
• mild fever
• lethargy
• swelling at the injection site

On more rare occasions, your dog or cat may have an allergic reaction that can include hives, itching, swelling and even anaphylactic shock. According to Pet MD2, this type of reaction can be life-threatening and requires immediate veterinary care, so keep a close eye on your pet after vaccinations, whether a veterinarian administers them or you DIY them at home, and get him to the clinic if you notice any adverse reaction.