Shelter and Rescue Resources, Vaccines

How to Vaccinate a Dog or Cat

If you want to know how to give a dog a shot or cat a vaccine, it’s important to first know the different ways pet vaccines can be administered. The three most commonly used methods of vaccine administration are subcutaneous injections for dogs and cats, an intramuscular injections for dogs and cats, and intranasal vaccines for dogs and cats. Always make sure you know what type of vaccine you are using, so you administer it to your pet properly. Administering a feline or canine vaccination in its unintended form can lead to complications. If this happens, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Subcutaneous Injections for Dogs and Cats

This is the most common and safest method for administering vaccines. The best place to give Subcutaneous (SQ) vaccines is the loose skin over the pet’s shoulder, because it’s the least sensitive area. Avoid the area between the pet’s shoulder blades. Lift the skin and insert the needle into the tented area. Pull back on the plunger to make sure the needle isn’t in a blood vessel or out the other side of the skin – if it is in a blood vessel, blood will enter the syringe and you will have to find a new location. If you pushed the needle out the skin on the other side, you will get air – reposition so you inject the dog, not their hair. If the needle location is okay, gently administer the vaccine.

How to Give Your Dog or Cat a Shot
How to Give a Cat An Injection

Intramuscular IM Injection Sites for Dogs and Cats

If you have the choice, the SQ method is the safest and easiest way to give vaccines, but some vaccines can only be given intramuscularly. IM vaccines are generally given in the thick muscle at the back of the thighs. Gently and quickly push the needle into the muscle at a 90 degree angle. Avoid the area over the long bone of the thigh or in front of the bone. Just like SQ vaccines, pull back on the plunger slightly to check for blood, then administer the vaccine. You should have a veterinary professional show you how to give an IM vaccine before you try it for yourself.

Intranasal Vaccines for Dogs

An intranasal vaccine is dripped or squirted in the nose. Most intranasal vaccines are mixed like injectable vaccines, then a dropper or adapter is placed on the end of the syringe to administer the vaccine intranasally. Give the entire dose to your pet. Your pet will probably shake his head or sneeze afterwards, but don’t worry – the vaccine will still be effective.

Cats are actually better about putting nose drops in than dogs. Intranasal vaccines for both dogs and cats serve a great purpose, they do a much better job of controlling some upper respiratory infections because immunity is gained right at the local level.

Watch “How to Give an Intranasal Vaccination”

How Do You Administer an Intranasal Vaccine?

Shop Vaccines For Cats & Dogs

After you have given a vaccine, it is very important to dispose of the needle and syringe according to your state or county’s regulations. In addition, always make sure you’re giving your dog or cat the proper vaccines they need to stay healthy. Use Revival’s Vaccine Finder to choose the best vaccines for your dog.
Vaccine Finder Button

If you have more questions on how to give dogs shots or how to give cat shots, call us at 800.786.4751.

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.