Preventing Hot Vaccines and Risky Protection

One of the biggest frustrations in raising animals is trying to ship vaccines safely. The situation is complicated further when vaccines arrive in everything from a padded envelope to a Styrofoam cooler. What is the best way and how do we know when we have a problem shipment?

Most vaccines for companion animals are modified live viruses. These are very stable in the powder or cake form, but both temperature extremes will shorten the shelf life of the vaccine. The trick is to ship them and have them arrive cool - not frozen. In the winter, keeping them from freezing is tough, and cooling them in the heat of the summer is difficult at best.


  • Ship vaccines on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, not the end of the week.
  • Avoid Thursday or Friday unless it is shipped overnight to your door.
  • Add one ice pack if it's under 80° F with 2-day shipping or less. If it's over 80° F, add another ice pack, and if it's over 100° F, overnight shipping is the best.
  • Ground shipping? Good luck! You cannot reliably ship vaccines ground in the winter or summer.
  • 10 dose vials of liquid are the least stable, so be generous with the shipping and ice.
  • Dry ice cannot be used since it will freeze the vaccines early in shipping. It's great for frozen food, but we don’t ever want vaccines to freeze.
  • Have UPS or Fed Ex drop off the vaccines in the same place every time, and talk to them about your preference. Maybe you have a refrigerator inside the garage door, or a cooler spot on the porch that always stays out of the sun. They do their best to accommodate you if it does not take extra time.


  • Refrigerate them as soon as possible. On 100° F days, you should watch for the vaccine. A perfect shipment of vaccines can be destroyed after sitting on the front porch for a few hours.
  • It's ideal if the ice pack is melted when it arrives - we don't want the vaccine to freeze.
  • Freeze dried vaccines are stable to 78° F, so if it is cool to the touch when it arrives, it's good.


  • Once you mix a vaccine, use it as soon as possible. Even 30 minutes after it is mixed, the number of live vaccine viruses in the vial is decreased.
  • Take out just the vaccine to be mixed and return the tray to the refrigerator. Manufacturers are more concerned about the vaccine getting warm repeatedly than getting a little warm in shipment once.
  • Place a re-frozen ice pack from shipment in the bottom of a tray with a towel over it. Set the mixed vaccine on the towel to maintain the constant cool temperature. I prefer a tote with compartments to put everything you need, including a place to put used syringes and vials.

We protect our animals' lives with the vaccines that prevent disease, so we need the modified live vaccine to arrive safely. If you take time to prepare for the shipment and help the shipping company understand your temperatures and schedules, you can be sure your animals get the insurance they need against disease.

If you need help, call us at 1-800-786-4751.

-Dr. B
Don Bramlage, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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