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Giving Injections to Dogs

By Malcolm Weir, DVM, MSc, MPH; Ernest Ward, DVM

Care & Wellness, Treatment, Pet Services

Certain medical conditions can be controlled by the use of drugs that are only available in an injectable formulation. Two of these conditions are:

  • diabetes mellitus, which requires daily insulin injections
  • certain allergies, which are controlled by regular injections of allergenic extracts

In many cases, dog owners are willing and able to administer these medications at home. If you decide to provide this treatment to your dog, your veterinarian will review the specific technique and make sure that you are comfortable with it. The following may help you make your decision.

Will the injection be painful?

Most dogs do not seem to mind routine injections. Single-use, disposable needles ensure that the needle tip is very sharp to minimize pain. Your veterinarian will prescribe the appropriate needles and syringes for your pet's needs.

What happens if my dog moves when I give the injection?

Ideally, have someone assist you while you give the injection, especially for your first few treatments.

"Try offering the pet an appropriate treat as a distraction while you administer the injection."

Try offering the pet an appropriate treat (based on your vet’s recommendation, as certain health conditions have dietary restrictions) as a distraction while you administer the injection. Some clients find that it is easiest to give their dog an injection while he is eating a meal. By injecting quickly, you can minimize your pet's movement. Most pet owners find that their pet becomes cooperative for these life-sustaining injections over time.

Is there any danger if he doesn't keep still?

Most owners are concerned that they may break the needle off but this is extremely unlikely. The needle may bend, but it is much more likely that the injection may end up outside the pet rather than inside when dealing with a wiggly pet. If you are unsure that your pet received the full amount of the injection, contact your veterinary hospital for instructions.

Generally, if you are unsure how much you injected, do not administer more unless directed by your veterinarian.

 

Can you explain the exact technique of giving an injection?

The injections are given in the subcutaneous tissue (sub = under; cutaneous = skin), which is considerably looser in the dog than in the human.

  • Pinch some loose skin from the back of the neck or "scruff" region (between the shoulder blades) between your thumb and forefinger.
  • Hold the syringe firmly in your dominant hand in whichever way feels most comfortable for you. Be sure not to place your hand or finger over the plunger of the needle in case your dog suddenly moves and pushes your hand, resulting in the contents being wasted or injected accidentally.
  • Insert the needle swiftly into the fold of skin, with the needle angled downwards at a thirty- to forty-five-degree angle. Most syringes are small enough to allow the plunger to be depressed with the palm of the same hand once the needle has been positioned underneath the skin.
  • Administer the contents of the syringe quickly and withdraw the needle.
  • Gently massage the area.

Having someone assist you will make the procedure easier. With a little practice, however, most pet owners find that they have no problems administering routine injections to their dog without assistance.

How should I dispose of the needles and syringes?

You should be aware that some communities have strict rules about disposal of medical waste material so do not throw the needle and syringe into the trash until you know if this is permissible. It is usually preferable to take the used needles and syringes to your veterinary clinic or local pharmacy for proper disposal.

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