Can I Give My Dog Shots at Home or Should I Take Him to the Vet?

Updated on June 12, 2019
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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.

Disposal Requirements

Syringes and needles require proper disposal as hazardous waste. They cannot be disposed of in the garbage or in a landfill.

A 3 mL syringe is typically used for reconstituting and administering vaccines.
A 3 mL syringe is typically used for reconstituting and administering vaccines. | Source

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

Net Savings

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.

Vaccine administration sites on dogs.
Vaccine administration sites on dogs.

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?

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Can I Give My Puppy Booster Shots Myself?

Know how to identify the symptoms of vaccine reactions in dogs.
Know how to identify the symptoms of vaccine reactions in dogs. | Source

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.

Core Vaccines

The core vaccinations for “all puppies and dogs with an unknown vaccination history” 1 are:

  • rabies
  • canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2)
  • canine distemper (CDV)
  • canine parvovirus (CPV)

Non-Core Vaccinations

  • 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 Safety

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.

Not Recommended

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:

  1. Vaccines may expire before they are used up, wasting money.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. Some vaccinations, like rabies shots, cannot be self-administered by owners.
  5. Dogs may have a severe reaction to the shots and may require immediate emergency medical attention.
  6. 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?
  7. 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.
  8. Vaccines may accidentally get into the dog’s eyes, nose, or mouth and cause an adverse reaction.
  9. Vaccines can exacerbate canine allergies.
  10. Large dogs can be difficult to restrain during injections.
  11. 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.
  12. You do not receive a certified proof of vaccination certificate—which may be required for interstate or international travel or relocation and boarding.
  13. 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:

  1. No need to transport the animal to the vet or restrain it in the waiting room.
  2. Dogs that receive an injection in a familiar environment are less stressed.
  3. Administering shots yourself saves money because no office call fees or transportation costs are incurred.
  4. Buying the vaccines and other supplies may be more cost-effective than paying for a shot at the vets.
  5. 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

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 Donna Cosmato

    Can I Give My Dog Shots at Home? Share Your Thoughts

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      • profile image

        Lorraine Turner 

        5 months ago

        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!!

      • profile image

        Linda Bottiger 

        12 months ago

        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

      • profile image

        Jane 

        13 months ago

        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.

      • bac2basics profile image

        Anne 

        3 years ago from Spain

        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.

      • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

        Donna Cosmato 

        7 years ago from USA

        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.

      • AEvans profile image

        Julianna 

        7 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

        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.:)

      • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

        Donna Cosmato 

        7 years ago from USA

        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 profile image

        Cat R 

        7 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

        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.

      • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

        Donna Cosmato 

        7 years ago from USA

        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:)

      • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

        Donna Cosmato 

        7 years ago from USA

        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:)

      • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

        Donna Cosmato 

        7 years ago from USA

        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 profile image

        Deborah Brooks Langford 

        7 years ago from Brownsville,TX

        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 profile image

        Eiddwen 

        7 years ago from Wales

        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.

        Eddy.

      • moonlake profile image

        moonlake 

        7 years ago from America

        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 profile image

        Moon Lightened 

        7 years ago from Delhi, India

        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!

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