Can I Give My Dog Shots at Home or Should I Take Him to the Vet?
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?
Do you take your dog to the vet for shots or do the injections yourself?
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.
Expert Tips: Give Dog Shots at Home
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/
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2011 Donna Cosmato