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In many cases, dog owners are willing and able to administer these medications at home. Certain medications, such as insulin, can only be administered by injection. Depending on the formulation and the type of medication, injectable medications can be given by several routes.

Dogs themselves don’t have needle phobias, so they don’t fear the injections and thereby make it difficult to administer them. They may flinch initially, especially if they’re puppies, but they get over it very quickly. A big reason for that is that the shots are subcutaneous — given under the skin rather than directly into muscle or other tough tissue — and are therefore less painful. That makes the whole process simpler.

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.

Types of Injectable Medications For Dogs

The two main types of shot a dog will be given are:

Subcutaneous injections

These are the type of shot injected under the skin. They do not go deep into the muscle and only seep into the tissue just underneath the epidermis. There are much fewer veins in this area and so you shouldn’t be able to inject intravenously, even accidentally. They are most commonly injected in the neck at the withers, the part between the shoulders at the top of the spine.

Intramuscular injections

While you have to pierce the needle under the skin, you go beyond the layer just under the skin (subcutaneous) and go deeper into the actual muscle. These shots are usually injected in the hip as this is usually a very accessible area. They work faster than subcutaneous injections because there is more blood to absorb the medication.

Getting Started

Make Sure Your Dog is Relaxed

Introduce your dog to the syringe beforehand. If your dog has previously been given shots at a vet’s office, they probably associate syringes with pain and discomfort. To combat this, allow them to look at, sniff, and paw at an empty syringe (with no attached needle) at a comfortable place in your home

Basic Equipment

The “syringe” is the clear (usually plastic) cylinder that holds the medication to be injected. The “needle” is the sharp, metal tip that is injected into the skin. The “plunger” is a stem that moves inside the syringe. Pull the plunger backward to fill the syringe and push it forward to empty the syringe. A new needle/plunger and syringe are sterile until they are opened. The bottle of injectable medication is also sterile. It is important to handle these items properly to avoid contaminating them.

Preparing the Injection Site

When you find the right spot, always clean it before the injection — and clean the top of the bottle with the solution as well. Use vet-recommended disinfectants and cleaners. Regardless of where the spot lies, you may not want to get too comfortable with using the same spot for every injection. This can cause soreness, which can make your pet more uncomfortable with each regular stick. Find multiple intramuscular or subcutaneous injection sites.

Proper Restraint

A small dog may be happy lying or sitting on your lap while you administer an injection. For a larger dog, you may need to sit in a chair next to the dog or sit on the floor with the dog. Some dogs do better on a smooth surface, such as a table. Placing a small dog on top of the washing machine can simulate the smooth metal table at the veterinarian’s office, encouraging the dog to remain still during the procedure. You may find it easier still if you have a partner to help: One person can hold the dog while the other gives the injection.

Administring The Shot

Press the needle into your dog’s skin. Before injecting, pull the plunger out a little bit. If you see any blood being draw, you’re in a vein. This could cause harm to the dog. Pull out, refill the syringe with fresh medicine, and insert it again.
Once you find a safe spot, slowly push the plunger down until all the liquid is gone.

Reward Your Dog

When you’re finished, give your pet a reward with some playtime or a tasty treat. This should make it much easier to administer injections in the future.

Recap the needle and dispose of the entire syringe into a “sharps” container. If the medication requires refrigeration, put it back in the refrigerator.

Ask for help

If giving your dog injections isn’t going well, consult with your veterinarian, who will be able to help you come up with a routine that minimizes discomfort and maximizes your pet’s health.


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