Puppy Vaccines at Home
Before you understand How to Vaccinate a Dog At Home it’s important to understand what you are dealing with!. Vaccines are modified biological agents, either in the form of pathogens that have been rendered harmless or proteins that are the cause of disease taken from a pathogen and also rendered harmless. These antigens then elicit an immune response from the infected individual so that if they were to come into contact with the same pathogen again, they would be able to respond to it much more quickly and effectively and therefore eradicate it before it could cause disease. They have long been a controversial topic, but for pets, it’s generally accepted that they should be vaccinated when they’re young. Especially of they are going to be exposed to the outside world, for example dogs and outdoor cats.
For many illnesses, there are no treatments. Vaccines are the only protection such viral infections as Kennel Cough and parvovirus. Many places also require certain vaccinations by law and most kennels and doggy day cares won’t take your dog if it isn’t vaccinated and had up to date boosters. If you plan to take your dog on holiday with you or move to another country, there are certain vaccines required before your animal will be allowed into the country. This is to reduce the risk of any foreign diseases getting into a susceptible population that doesn’t have any immunity to it.
A good example of this is when grey squirrels were brought over from the USA to the UK, because landowners were bored with seeing red squirrels. The grey squirrels brought the squirrelpox virus with them and now the red squirrel population in the UK is almost extinct. You will now be lucky to see some of the very few left that are found only in protected areas in the north of Scotland.
Why Vaccinate Your Dog
Vaccinations are the only way to prevent certain diseases. Although there’s no guarantee that your dog will get these ailments without the vaccine, it’s better to be safe than sorry. As a general rule, puppies get a multivalent vaccine at around 8 weeks old. This means it get one injection with multiple vaccines in it. Your dog should then get annual booster vaccinations. The vaccinations that are commonly recommended for you puppy are:
- Canine hepatitis
- Kennel Cough
These will vary depending on where you live and which infections your dog is at risk from.
Many of these infections are painful, not curable and are often fatal to your dog. Vaccination and regular boosters will ensure that your dog is not unnecessarily infected with something that will hurt and kill it, but which could have been entirely preventable. It also provides herd immunity and provides protection for those puppies who, for some reason such as an adverse reaction, are not able to get the vaccinations themselves. By keeping other dogs vaccinated, the infection is not able to get into the community and spread to susceptible hosts.
Why Vaccinate At Home
The main drawback to vaccinating our dogs is, unfortunately, financial. The vaccinations and the vet’s time can be costly and it works out much cheaper to vaccinate your dog at home yourself. Some vets will charge $50 for their time and then upwards of $20 per vaccination on top. If you have multiple dogs, this can soon add up to a rather large expense.
Vaccinating at home also reduces the stress of taking your dog to the vet, which is generally never a pleasant experience. However, is this safe? Vets have been trained in the exact methods of vaccinations and most have a tonne of experience whereas we have a limited number of dogs and zero training on how to administer injections to either animal or humans. Yet, many people do it and do it successfully, so how dangerous is it really?
Is Vaccinating At Home Safe? – The Risks
Like with all vaccinations, there is always a risk of allergy. While this risk is small, the possibility does exist that your dog may take an allergic reaction to the vaccine you’ve just given it. The reaction to this allergy could be almost anything, such as an outbreak of hives from a histamine response that causes raised, itchy lumps on your dog’s skin. It could also be much more serious and produce an anaphylactic response. This results in a slowing of breathing and heart rate that causes a lack of oxygen to the brain. Unconsciousness is a likely result and if your dog does not receive immediate medical care to counteract this, it will most likely die.
How to Vaccinate a Dog At Home / How to Give Puppies Shots
Most vaccines are also administered as injections. While it looks simple, this can be pretty easy to get wrong with some quite severe consequences. When the needle of the syringe pierces the skin, it must be sterile and so must the vaccine that then passes through it. If you mishandle the vaccine or the needle and expose it to microorganisms, it can result in infection getting into the bloodstream or skin of your dog. Some vaccines are also supposed to be administered subcutaneously. This means under the skin. However, if you place the needle in the wrong place or put it in the wrong way, you may end up with the tip of it entering a vein without you knowing. Subcutaneous vaccines that are administered intravenously (directly into the bloodstream through a vein) can cause life threatening reactions.
Other vaccines should be administered into muscle tissue rather than under the skin or under the skin, but not into the skin. Without the proper training, you have no way of knowing if your needle is in the correct tissue. Administering a vaccine in the wrong place will affect its efficiency and may cause unwanted and sometimes dangerous reaction.
How you handle the vaccine will also affect its efficacy. Some vaccines will be light sensitive or degraded by heat or cold. Others will react to alcohol on the skin that’s used to sterilise the area before administering an injection. Knowing how to handle the vaccine is very important to making sure that it works properly and each vaccine is different. If you mishandle your vaccine, it may end up doing your dog no good at all, though it most likely won’t do it any harm unless it becomes contaminated.
How To Do It Properly
Your vaccine generally comes in a package with two small bottles and a syringe and needle. One vial will contain liquid and the other will contain the vaccine in the form of a powder. The following checklist will give you step by step instruction on how to then prepare and administer the vaccine:
- Insert it into the liquid vial and draw up all of the liquid.
- Insert the needle into the powder vial and deposit the liquid into it.
- Remove the needle from this vial. Shake the vial to mix the powder and the liquid thoroughly.
- Once it’s mixed, re-insert the needle back into the vial and draw up the vaccine mixture. Make sure you get all of it so that you’re giving your dog a full dose.
- Push the plunger down so that you have removed all excess space and air from the syringe.
- The vaccine is now ready to be given to your dog. Do this immediately as the vaccine starts to degrade as soon as it’s mixed.
Administering The Vaccine
Vaccines can be administered in several different ways. The most common is by injection and then the most common method of this is subcutaneously. This means that the vaccine is given just below the skin. When doing this, you want to find an area that is not too sensitive. For dogs, this is usually the skin over the shoulder. Do not administer the vaccine between the shoulder blades, but lift the loose skin of the shoulder and insert the needle into it. To make sure that you are under the skin and not in a vein, pull the plunger of the syringe back just a little. If you’ve hit a vein, a small amount of blood will be drawn back into the syringe. Assuming no blood comes back into the vaccine, go ahead and administer it.
Intranasal vaccines can be harder to administer as you have to spray them up your dog’s nose. A lot of them will come like an injection with a needle, but this is for mixing the vaccine before administering it and there will be an adapter for the syringe or else a dropper. You should insert half of the vaccine into each nostril and don’t be surprise if your dog tries to shake it out again or starts sneezing.
Some vaccines need to be administered directly into the muscle. This is called intramuscular vaccination. Ideally, if there is a subcutaneous form of the vaccine, you should take that. Otherwise it’s advisable to get your vet to administer these vaccines.
For all vaccines, syringes should only be used once to avoid the risk of infection. Even if you are vaccinating the same animal a second time, make sure that you use a new, clean, sterile needle and syringe.
When Not To Vaccinate At Home
While most vaccinations can be bought from various pharmaceutical companies or even directly from your vet, there is one exception. The rabies vaccine must be administered by a licensed veterinarian. Even if you do give your dog the rabies vaccine, it will not be recognised by any authority as it was not administered by a trained vet. This will also be given on its own and not part of a vaccine cocktail.
You should not administer vaccinations to your dog at home if your dog has ever had any kind of adverse reaction to a vaccine, no matter how minor that reaction was. Like with bee stings, the second reaction can be much more extreme than the first and if your dog is sensitive to something in the vaccination serum, it needs to be monitored after the vaccine to make sure everything is ok. In the rare case that your dog does take a severe reaction to a vaccine, the immediate access to medicine and medical care could be the difference between life and death.
Some vaccines are hard to get a hold of and can only be gotten from your vet while others are difficult to administer, like intramuscular vaccines. In these cases, getting your vet to do the job properly is advisable.
You should not be vaccinating puppies younger than 8 weeks at home. In fact, you should not be vaccinating puppies under 8 weeks at all. At this age, they are still provided with immunity from their mother and their own immune system is not mature enough to deal with a vaccination.
Nursing or pregnant dogs should not be vaccinated at home. Advice from a vet should be taken for any medical treatment that a pregnant or nursing dog gets. This also applies to dog with other underlying illnesses or who are recovering from an illness or from surgery.
If you are uncertain about any aspect of home vaccination, take your dog to the vet. Vaccinating at home may save you a lot of money, but if you are not confident that you can get it right, the risks of getting it wrong far outweigh that benefit.
If you know what you are doing and you are confident in your ability to vaccinate your dog at home, then there is no real reason not to, other than the slight risk of an allergic reaction. If you are considering this, then talk to your vet and get some advice.
Your vet will be able to help you know which vaccines to administer and may even be able to talk you through doing it to help you feel more confident. However, if you have any uncertainty then the best thing to do is to is to continue to take your dog to the vet for its regular boosters. Vaccinations are an important part of your dog’s health and if you aren’t 100% sure you can get it right then it’s better to be safe than sorry and pay out a little extra to get it done professionally. Dog owners want nothing but the best for their dogs, which is why you’re vaccinating in the first place, so if the best thing for your dog is to get its vaccine professionally administered, then do that.