(by Andres Rojas)

“Can I Administer My Pet's Vaccines Myself?” is an important question that has appeared more than once in Dr. Jeff’s Weekly AMAs on Instagram

Whether it’s due to distance, COVID, or time constraints, more and more pet parents are interested in learning to administer vaccines for their pets themselves. With the infinite ways for such a venture to go wrong, take note of Dr. Jeff Werber’s cautions:

Comfort vs. Safety

Dr. Werber recommends focusing on safety, first and foremost.

”[My first reaction for “should you”, is:] It depends on how experienced you are giving shots. 

My only concern is sometimes dogs will have a reaction to a vaccine and there is an advantage of giving the vaccine in a clinic setting, just in case your pet does have a reaction. But if you do it at home and there is a reaction, there may be very little you can do to help and that does concern me.”

As Dr. Jeff says, administering a shot is the easy part. The difficulty is knowing what to do - and doing it - if your pet has a negative reaction.

Pet Health Risks of Vaccination

Although most vaccines for pets are considered safe, sometimes they can create negative side effects. For example, some common post-vaccination symptoms that both cats and dogs may have include:

  • Swelling around the vaccination area
  • Lethargy
  • Mild fever
  • Coughing, sniffling, and other mild respiratory symptoms

Though less common, the possibility remains. Therefore, it’s important to discuss the risks and variables with your veterinarian at length, before launching into action. 

When You Should NOT Self Administer Your Pet’s Vaccines

Over-the-counter pet vaccines, or other types of shots, can induce an infection or urticarial reaction in pets with hypersensitive skins in a matter of hours.

The scariest reaction your pet could have, though, is going into an anaphylactic shock. Signs your pet may be going through it might include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Reduced breathing rate
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Coma

If your cat or dog has sensitive skin, having them vaccinated in a clinic where they have the fluids and anti-shock meds needed to reverse the effects could save your pet’s life.

When Can I Administer My Pet's Vaccines Myself?

While at-home vaccines don’t cause serious adverse reactions in most pets, pet parents can get invaluable advice (as well as the over-the-counter pet vaccines) from their trusted veterinarian

“As far as the administration itself, a lot of times we have to teach pet parents, for example, how to give injections when it comes to allergy shots or when it comes to administering insulin, in the case of a diabetic.”

Says Dr. Werbs. 

Pet parents who have tight schedules or pets that need long term medication can learn valuable vaccination skills from their local veterinarians:

“There are also some – long term – we have animals that are on percorten, which is an injection to help fight Addison's disease. We have certain clients that are giving their pets adequate injections on a regular basis, they don’t want to bring them in.”

Final Words

Vaccinating your pet at home has certain appeal, but before you go ahead with the at-home vaccines for your pet, please, have a vet professional explain to you the ins and outs of administering the vaccines, in person, and in advance, if possible:

“We can teach pet parents how to give your shots but as far as the vaccines are concerned you want to check with your veterinarian, to see what he or she is comfortable doing and obviously follow their lead.”

Visit Dr. Jeff Werber’s Instagram account (@werbs_dvm) to view and submit questions and answers on weekly AMAs – or call and leave a voicemail at 424-835-0576. Your call will be returned posthaste. 

For emergencies, download Dr. Jeff Werber’s app Airvet, a video-chat option for veterinary needs at any time of day or night!