Why Does My Dog Need Injectable Medication?
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. They can be given through direct injection into a vein (known as intravenous, or IV injection), injection into a muscle (known as intramuscular, or IM injection), or injection directly under the skin – a procedure known as subcutaneous (SC or SQ) injection. It is very important that you understand how your pet’s injectable medication needs to be given; for example, if you accidentally give a medication intravenously instead of subcutaneously, complications can result. Most injectable medications given at home are intended to be given subcutaneously.
Before you start, ask your veterinary health care team for training and advice to make sure you know how to give injectable medication without injuring yourself or your dog. If you aren’t comfortable or need additional training sessions, don’t be afraid to ask!
Here are a few things to consider:
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. Your veterinary care team will show you how to properly open a syringe and draw up injectable medication without breaking sterility. Be sure to use a new syringe, plunger, and needle for each injection. Reusing syringes and needles can cause infection. Additionally, a used needle is dull and therefore more painful than a new needle.
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 small dogs may do better on a smooth surface, such as a table; the surface of a washing machine can simulate the smooth metal table at your veterinarian’s office and encourage your dog to remain still during the procedure. Additionally, some dogs do better with two people administering the injection – one person to hold the pet and the other one to give the injection.
Giving a Subcutaneous Injection
Your veterinary care team will show you how to administer an injection before you have to try it alone at home:
Giving an Intramuscular Injection
There are a few precise areas on the body that are commonly used for giving intramuscular injections. You will need to find “landmarks” on your dog so that you know where to give the injection. Your veterinary care team will show you how to find an appropriate injection site and administer an intramuscular injection before you have to try it alone at home:
Ask your veterinary team to teach you how to administer medication injections safely. If you aren’t comfortable giving injections, ask about scheduling outpatient visits for the injections to be given.
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