What to Know About Administering Injections to Animals

Veterinarians can provide vital medical assistance for pets, but much of the care will still be left to the owner. This may even include injections, one of the best methods for providing medication to animals. Given the nature of syringes and needles, the procedure can be quite delicate and potentially painful. However, with the right knowledge, anyone can learn how to do this effectively and painlessly. Here is some information on administering injections to animals.

how to give subcutaneous injections

Subcutaneous Injections

Some medications, such as insulin, require a subcutaneous injection — meaning the needle only needs to pierce the skin. With most pets, the best subcutaneous injection sites are located behind the neck and shoulder blades. For easier injections, grab some of that skin to make a “skin tent.”

Standard size needles recommended are 18 to 20-gauge needle from 1 to 1.5 inches long. Avoid pinching the skin too hard with your fingers. If the injections are frequent, like for insulin shots, try not to use the same spot each time. Syringes, extensions sets, and direct lines for fluid bags can be used for SQ injections.

Canine & Feline SQ Injections

SQ medications (non-irritating and water soluble) are deposited in the loose connective tissue just below the dermis. The absorption rate is slow because blood vessels are not richly in this area. The loose skin over the shoulders and neck is an ideal injection location for canines. For felines, the skin over the middle of the back or just behind the shoulders works well.

Intramuscular Injection Sites

Intramuscular Injections

Other medications will only work if administered into the muscles. This is because intramuscular tissue is rich with blood and the medication absorbs more rapidly this way. These intramuscular injections are usually on the neck, chest, glute, or hind leg, though it may differ depending on the animal, there are fewer pain receptors is muscle tissues making it an ideal site for more irritating or viscous medications.

Canine & Feline IM Injections

The standard size needles to use for canine injections are 21 to 23-gauge needle, 1 to 1.5 inches long. IM injections for canines are generally performed in the thigh muscles on the front of the rear limb or the hamstring muscles on the backside of the rear leg. Felines intramuscular injections are mostly recommended to be administered in the quadricep or cranial thigh muscle; alternatively, the dorsal muscles along the spine are also suggested. Be extremely cautious while administering intramuscular injections because the sciatic nerve is located in the middle of the leg. Be sure to direct the needle away from the sciatic nerve to prevent nerve damage.

Intravenous Injections

As for intravenous injections, you usually need to leave those to the veterinarian. Injecting straight into the vein can be tough for nonprofessionals, especially with critters covered in fur. Medications are administered directly into the vein via an IV. Often a restraining device is required because these can be painful and post a risk to the animal and to you.

Vet injection site angles

Recommended Angles for Injection Types

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. We have excellent 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.

Preparing a needle

Preparing a Needle

The veterinarian’s instructions or the label on the container will tell you the volume of medication that needs to be injected. With that in mind, pick the smallest needle you can get that is capable of holding that much volume. You should be especially careful about choosing the right syringe size for intramuscular injections. Needles for these should be longer than those for subcutaneous ones, but if they are too long, they could harm tissue and nerves.

Before filling the syringe with the approved amount of medication, fill it with an equivalent amount of air. Stick the needle into the container and “inject” the air inside. This will keep the pressure inside the bottle stable and make it easier to remove the formula.

Do you ever wonder why doctors on TV point the syringe upward, tap it, and squirt a bit of its liquid contents? This practice removes air bubbles in the formula, which can cause medical chaos during the injection process. Tapping the barrel while it is needle-side-up pushes the bubbles to the tip. A careful push of the plunger should remove the excess air.

Find Syringes and Needles Today

Working with syringes and needles requires great care, and you need to learn how to provide that care for your pets. Always ask your vet for more help if you're not comfortable administering injections and they will be happy to provide more training. California Vet Supply can provide you with more than just the advice in this article. See our guide to the different types of needles and syringes available to you right now.

Our massive online inventory is filled with over-the-counter syringes and needles of all sizes, as well as a wide variety of medications. Get the right information from your vet, then get the right care products for your pet.