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Giving Puppy Shots At Home

Puppy shots are not optional, they're essential..... but you don't always have to rely on your veterinarian to administer them all... I can help you learn how to give puppy shots at home.

Vaccinations protect little Fido from a host of serious, potentially deadly, dog illnesses, including Parvo, Distemper, Leptospirosis, Coronavirus, Hepatitis and more.

The Rabies vaccination has to be given by a licensed veterinarian but if you feel comfortable using a syringe it's perfectly possible to give the other ones yourself.

Quick Links:

But, this isn't for everyone and you need to make sure that you are going to be okay about injecting a needle into your precious puppy.

Also, talk to your vet first, plus read ALL the instructions and follow them carefully... that way your puppy is kept safe at all times.

What Shots Does My Puppy Need?

You can find details about which shots your pup needs on my main Puppy Shots page. Plus info. on which diseases these are protecting Fido from.

Even if you are vaccinating a puppy yourself, the same vaccines are needed.

Here is a quick recap of the recommended puppy vaccinations and the puppy vaccination timeline to follow...

Generally a pup will receive either a 5-way 'combo' vaccine or a 7-way combo.

These vaccines protect against a number of different diseases....

5-Way Canine Vaccine (aka DHLPP) usually includes:

  • Canine Distemper
  • Hepatitis/Adenovirus (CAV-2)
  • Leptospirosis
  • Canine Parvovirus
  • Parainfluenza

7-way Canine Vaccine normally include all of the above, plus protection against additional strains of adenovirus, leptospirosis, and coronavirus.

You will need to check the product information on the particular combo vaccine you buy to be sure you know what it contains.

Minimum Recommended

Although the 5-way or 7-way combinations vaccine is popular, there is growing concern among pet owners and some researchers concerning over-vaccination...

... especially when several vaccines are given at the same time in a 'combo' shot.

There are 4 CORE VACCINES recommended by the AAHA and AMVA, these are CAV-2, Parvo, Distemper and Rabies.

All of these need to be given to protect your pup and the general dog population.

You can ask for them to be given individually by your vet, or purchase the vaccines separately to reduce the chances of an allergic reaction or immune system issues.

There are also additional vaccinations that your pup/dog might need, depending on the area you live in and other things.

These may include Lyme Disease and Giardia.

If your pup is going to be kenneled, attend training classes or doggie-daycare, visit the dog park or other public places often and generally be a 'social butterfly' (which is good!) you will need to protect him against Kennel Cough (with the Bordetella vaccine)

There are two options for this, either give him a 'shot' or use nasal drops. The intra-nasal method gives faster protection and doesn't need to be repeated 3 or 4 weeks later the way the shot does.

Whichever option you choose, if your pup is regularly in contact with many other dogs you should dose him twice a year (every six months) rather than waiting for a yearly booster.

Rabies is a vaccination all dogs must have by law, but it needs to be given by a licensed veterinarian.

You can purchase the vaccines from feed stores or online. Here are some of the most popular ones...

5-way Puppy Vaccines

7-way Puppy Vaccines

Additional Canine Vaccines For vaccines that come without syringes, you can buy these separately. I'd suggest either of these two..... Luer Slip Syringe or disposable syringe/needle combo.

For large/giant breed puppies and dogs, the recommended size of syringe would be 3/4" X 22 ga for subcutaneous shots and 1" X 22 ga for intramuscular ones.

For small/young puppies and kittens, the 5/8" X 22 ga is usually better.

There are many different brands of canine vaccines to choose from. Some of them come in single doses and multiple doses, others come only in packs of 10, 25 or more.

You can also buy vaccines for cats and kittens, horses and livestock. To see more options check out this page...... Vaccines.

Vaccines need to be kept refrigerated or they can become ineffective.

When you order online, vaccines will come in a cooler of some sort with a gel ice-pack (buy extra ice-packs in hot weather) but I'd still recommend choosing speedy shipping options.

Put them directly into your refrigerator as soon as you receive them.

Recommended Puppy Vaccination Schedule

Usually you want to begin your puppy's vaccinations when he's between 6 and 8 weeks old.

Some high-risk breeds, or puppies in large kennels, may need to be vaccinated earlier (at around 5 weeks old) to protect against Parvovirus.

Here is a 'puppy shots timeline' to use as a guideline:

Puppy's Age


6 - 8 weeks Combination vaccine - it's often recommended NOT to use one with Leptospirosis for puppies under 12 weeks old..
9 - 12 weeks Combination vaccine plus Coronavirus and Lyme Disease if necessary
12 - 15 weeks Combination Vaccine plus Coronavirus and Lyme Disease if necessary
After 16 weeks Rabies vaccine. Additional Parvo shot should be given for high-risk breeds (such as Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers and Pitbulls) 3 weeks after the third one was administered.
Annually (or every 3 years) 'Booster' shots (the combo and Rabies) should be given either annually or every 3 years depending on the local law and exact vaccine chosen.

But please remember, this puppy vaccination schedule is a guideline only. It's always a good idea to check with your veterinarian before deciding on the type of vaccinations and the timeline you plan to use.

There can be variations depending on the breed and age of the puppy (and any health concerns) and the area that you live in.

Also, bear in mind that just because your puppy has had one set of vaccinations (or even two or more), immunity isn't 'instant' neither is it guaranteed!

In general it takes somewhere between one and two weeks for the vaccine to take effect, or depending on the age of the puppy the antibodies still circulating in his blood from his momma may interfere with their effectiveness.

This is why three sets of shots, at three week intervals is recommended.

Preparation For Giving Puppy Shots At Home

If you've decided that you're ready to learn more about how to give your puppy his shots at home and want to get started, it's important to make sure that you understand how to do it correctly, and what safety precautions to follow.

It's a good idea to have two people involved if possible as you will need someone to hold your pup still while you do the injection (or vice versa).

Although it may be a bit stressful for you to put that needle into your puppy's skin, it will actually be LESS stressful for him as he won't have the added anxiety of being in the veterinarian's office surrounded by strange people, smells and sounds.

Before we go into the details of how to give puppy shots at home properly, here's a quick overview of how to get prepared...

Some vaccines come in two vials, one of liquid and one of powder. Before you can give the shot you need to mix both components.

Step 1
To do this simply insert the needle into the vial of liquid and slowly and gently pull up the plunger. The body of the syringe should fill with liquid. Once you've got all the liquid into the syringe, remove it from the empty vial.

Step 2
Push the syringe into the second vial which contains the powder. Push down on the plunger so that the liquid empties into this second vial completely, then pull out the syringe.

Step 3
Shake the vial well so that the powder until the powder and liquid are thoroughly mixed together (make sure all the powder has completely dissolved and that there are no lumps).

Step 4
Re-insert the syringe into the vial and draw the mixture up by pulling back on the syringe (as you did with the liquid the first time). If you draw up any air after the liquid, gently push down on the plunger until you push it back out. Now remove the syringe from the vial completely and you're all set.

If the vaccine you are using came premixed, or as single vial of liquid, then you don't have to worry about all the mixing!

Either way, at this point you are ready to really learn how to give those vaccinations all by yourself.

NOTE: You need to use all the liquid/powder that is supplied.

Don't think because you have a tiny/toy breed that you will need to use less than a complete dose.

All dogs need the full amount of vaccine, regardless of their size, age or breed.

This video shows you how to mix and prepare the vaccines as described above...

This video shows you how to mix and prepare the vaccines as described above...

Administering The Vaccinations Yourself

There are 4 ways that you can give these puppy shots, they are.... intramuscular (directly into a muscle), intravenous (directly into a vein) and intra-nasal (drops into the nose).

Most routine vaccinations are given subcutaneously (the easiest method), but the Rabies vaccine is an intramuscular one.

Never try to give an intramuscular or intravenous vaccination yourself, those MUST to be left to a professional!

The Bordetella is given intranasally, or as a subcutaneous injection, and sometimes is combined with other vaccines such as parainfluenza or leptospirosis.

The normal puppy shots that we're talking about here can be given subcutaneously.

Here's a run-down of how to do it (please read through at least once, then watch the 'how to give puppy shots at home' video, before you start):

  • Use a flat surface, such as a table top, or have your 'helper' hold your pup on their lap. Hold him firmly but gently, and try to keep him as still as possible so that it's easier for you to insert the needle.

  • Use your fingers to lift up the skin to just ahead and to the outside of the shoulder blade (doesn't matter which one) and slide the needle into the fold of loose skin, don't push it down into muscle or flesh.

  • DON'T inject the vaccine yet... first you need to pull out the plunger just a tiny bit and check that there's no blood being drawn up. If you see any being pulled into the syringe you are in a vein (which you don't want) and you'll need to pull the needle out and insert it again. Going through the same 'test' until you are sure that you're not in a vein.

  • Now you can administer the vaccine by gently pushing down on the plunger until all the liquid has been injected

  • Remove the syringe and gently rub the site injection area with your fingers. Don't panic if you feel a large swelling at first, the fluid may collect directly under the skin and take a short while to disperse, rubbing it gently for a few seconds can help. You can tell your pup 'well done' (even if he DID squeal and fuss!) and give him a small treat.

When you're all finished don't forget to dispose of the vaccine vials and the needles safely.

Also, always use a fresh syringe/needle for each pup or each vaccination.

This video shows you how to give puppy shots at home correctly...

This video shows you how to give puppy shots at home correctly...

After Vaccination

Although it may seem a bit scary at first, learning how to give puppy shots at home is pretty straightforward... and it does get easier with practice. If you have a whole litter to do, you'll be feeling like a pro by the time you're done!

However something that you need to be aware of is that there is a possibility of the pup having an adverse reaction of some kind.

Many puppies have a mild reaction to their puppy shots, and a lump or swelling at the site of the injection itself is very common.

This may only last a few hours or days, or it can stick around for weeks. As long as it's not red, inflamed or showing signs of infection this isn't anything to worry about.

Other very common side effects of puppy vaccines include a day or two of drowsiness, loss of appetite, maybe loose stools and sometimes some localized pain.

More severe reactions can include hives, or localized or generalized swelling of the head, body even occasionally disorientation or seizures.

If you see any swelling start after you've given your pup his shots, you need to have a vet take a look at him immediately as he may need corticosteroids or antihistamines to deal with it.

A really severe allergic reaction can cause difficulty breathing, seizures and even, in rare cases, death. So never take any chances!

If this does happen, future vaccinations should be given at the veterinarian's office so that he can be monitored.

Also, some breeds are more prone to allergic reactions than others, and may be hyper-sensitive to the components in some vaccines.

These breeds include:


American Cocker Spaniel

Australian Shepherd


German Shepherd

Golden Retriever

Great Dane

Irish Setter

Kerry Blue Terrier

Old English Sheepdog


Portuguese Water Dog

Scottish Terrier

Shetland Sheepdog

Shit Tzu



West Highland White Terrier

The vaccines for Rabies, Parvovirus and Leptosirosis seem to be the ones most likely to cause problems, but it's possible for a reaction to occur to any vaccine.

If you have one of these more susceptible breeds I would strongly recommend discussing your desire to learn more about how to give puppy shots at home with your vet before going ahead.

If you are committed to vaccinating a puppy yourself who is of a susceptible breed, you should have some epinephrine handy (and know how to use it), just to be safe. Discuss this with your vet also.

If you have any questions about how to give puppy shots at home, or about puppy vaccinations in general (or any other pet related veterinary question for that matter!), you can get a quick, professional answer by using the question box below...


Related pages............

› How To Give Puppy Shots At Home

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