How to Administer a Vaccine to a Dog

Two Parts:Preparing to Vaccinate a DogGiving a Vaccine to a Dog

You can save a lot of time, money, and energy by vaccinating your dog at home. As long as you know the correct procedure and follow basic guidelines, vaccinating at home can be simple and safe. However, you need to make sure your dog is first thoroughly examined by a veterinarian and is healthy. Vaccines should also be stored and handled properly to prevent health problems for your pet.

Part 1
Preparing to Vaccinate a Dog

  1. Image titled Administer a Vaccine to a Dog Step 1
    Get the dog examined by the veterinarian. You'll need to take the dog in for a thorough medical examination. The vet will determine whether the dog is healthy enough to be vaccinated at home. If the dog has a compromised immune system or is sick, giving a vaccine will only make him sicker or cause the vaccine to be ineffective.
    • While you can vaccinate the dog against a variety of diseases, you cannot give the rabies vaccine. The rabies vaccine must always be given by a veterinarian.[1]
  2. Image titled Administer a Vaccine to a Dog Step 2
    Recognize reactions to vaccines. While it's rare for a dog to have a reaction to a vaccine, it's important to recognize possible reactions. Your dog may have swelling at the injection site, mild fever, decreased energy or appetite, sneezing or some coughing.[2] One of the worst reactions is anaphylactic, a life threatening reaction that needs immediate medical treatment. If you notice your dog is having trouble breathing, has a slow heart rate or low blood pressure, see the vet right away. [3] If your dog has a slow heart rate or low blood pressure, he may become unusually drowsy, may seem weak or drunken and then collapse, all within 20-30 minutes.
    • Most vaccines for animals are given just below the skin (subcutaneously) to reduce pain and possible reactions.
    • If your pet has ever had a reaction to a vaccine, no matter how minor, do not attempt to give a vaccine of any type at home in case of a severe reaction.
  3. Image titled Administer a Vaccine to a Dog Step 3
    Understand the basics of vaccines. A vaccine works by imitating a viral or bacterial infection. It does this by stimulating the body’s immune system to produce cells that fight the virus or bacteria.[4] This prepares the immune system for future encounters with the virus or bacteria. So, if the vaccinated dog comes into contact with the virus or bacteria, his immune system will remember how to fight the infection, producing cells to fight off the virus or bacteria.[5]
    • The vaccine does not actually infect the dog, it only imitates the virus or bacteria, though the dog might have a slight reaction (like mild rash or fever).
  4. Image titled Administer a Vaccine to a Dog Step 4
    Follow a vaccination schedule. Many vaccines need an initial series of two vaccines given 3 to 4 weeks apart. This makes sure the immune system is working. After this, the dog will need an annual or 2 to 3 year booster shot of the vaccine to keep his vaccine status updated.
    • Each vaccination has its own timeline, so talk with the vet to determine the timing of vaccinations for your pet.[6]

Part 2
Giving a Vaccine to a Dog

  1. Image titled Administer a Vaccine to a Dog Step 5
    Prepare the injection. Check the vaccines to make sure they've been properly transported and stored at the temperature on the label. You may need to mix vaccines. If so, there will be two vials that you'll need to combine according to the label instructions. Once mixed, draw back all of the solution into the syringe and remove excess air bubbles by tapping on the side of the syringe. The needle should be pointing up.[7]
    • Most vaccines will need to be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures.
  2. Image titled Administer a Vaccine to a Dog Step 6
    Prepare the dog. Make sure the dog is clean so that no dirt is visible around the loose skin on the neck. His fur should be dry before you vaccinate. Lift up the back of the dog's skin near the neck to make a tent. This gives you a pocket of space underneath the skin where you can inject the vaccine.[8]
    • Unlike humans, you don't need to prepare the site with an alcohol wipe.
  3. Image titled Administer a Vaccine to a Dog Step 7
    Insert the syringe. Hold the syringe level with the dog's back and place the needle with the bevel (flat part of the needle) along the tented skin. Gently puncture the skin with the needle and draw back on the syringe. Slowly press on the syringe plunger to give the vaccine.[9]
    • If you see blood in the needle, you will need to find another location to give the injection. Blood in the needle means you’ve hit a blood vessel and you cannot give a vaccine into a blood vessel.
  4. Image titled Administer a Vaccine to a Dog Step 8
    Remove the needle. Once you've taken out the needle, apply pressure on the site for about 30 seconds. This will prevent bleeding. Place the needle and syringe in an appropriate garbage receptacle or in a glass jar to be disposed of at a veterinary clinic.[10]
    • Never put an uncapped needle into the garbage since people who work at landfills could get injured.


  • If you don't feel that you can administer the vaccine correctly, you may want to take your dog to a veterinarian.
  • If you feel you need to practice before actually giving the vaccine: Place a sock over an empty water bottle and practice pulling up on the sock like you would pull up and "tent" the skin of the dog. Practice handling the syringe until you're comfortable using the syringe one-handed. Practice using the syringe and tenting the sock at the same time. Do this until you feel comfortable doing both before trying to vaccinate your dog.
  • Remain calm and composed. This will keep the dog relaxed.


  • Only give vaccines recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Do not give vaccines by IV.
  • Do not administer a vaccine if your dog may be ill or has a compromised immune system. If your dog has had any diarrhea or vomited, do not administer the vaccine.
  • Make sure all materials used are sterile and follow sterile procedures. Never use materials that haven't been sterilized.
  • Purchase vaccines from a registered vendor to ensure proper storage.

Article Info

Categories: Canine Health