What Shots Are You Allowed to Give Your Dog Yourself?

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Vaccinating your dog at home can save you money and your dog stress.
Vaccinating your dog at home can save you money and your dog stress. (Image: Javier Brosch/iStock/Getty Images)

You can administer most dog vaccines right at home, with the exception of rabies. If you give shots at home, you still have to learn the proper technique and adhere to a proper vaccination schedule to ensure your dog is safe and protected.

What's Legal

With the exception of rabies vaccinations, most vaccinations are legal for you to administer at home, including those against distemper, adenovirus, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, influenza, bordetella and Lyme disease. Depending on where you live, you might be required to buy those vaccines directly from a veterinarian. In other areas, it might be possible to order vaccines online or to buy them directly from a distributor. Outside of vaccinations, many medications and supplements for dogs come in injection form. Laws bar some prescription meds from being administered by the pet owner, but for the most part your vet decides.

Rabies Regulations

Although rules and regulations vary from one state to the next, rabies is the only vaccine legally required for dogs. Because of this, the rabies vaccine must be given by an approved provider, such as your vet. In some areas, the vet must then submit proof of vaccination to the local animal control agency. Depending on where you live, you might need to vaccinate your dog against rabies every year or every three years. Consult your vet and your municipal authorities to find out more.

Vaccination Schedule

Vaccines are divided into two groups: core and non-core. Core vaccines are those that protect against common fatal diseases; dogs should receive them whether they're law or not. Core vaccines include those for canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus and canine adenovirus.

Non-core vaccines are optional; you should discuss with your vet whether your dog needs them, depending on his level of exposure and risk. Non-core vaccines include those for canine parainfluenza and influenzs virus, Lyme disease and leptospira bacteria, among others. Puppies must receive three doses of the core vaccines between 6 and 16 weeks of age. Puppies must receive boosters one year after the initial round of vaccines. After that, dogs will need a booster either once a year or every three years, depending on the vaccine.

Something to Keep in Mind

Vaccines are usually subcutaneous -- given under the skin -- but they can also be intramuscular or intranasal. Intramuscular vaccines can be painful to some dogs and can be difficult to administer, especially with dogs prone to snapping or ultrasensitivity. If you have never vaccinated your dog personally, your vet can explain the correct procedure, including the best areas to inject.

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