Giving your animals inoculations – part 2

Some medicines and vaccines can only be given to animals by injection. But you must know what you’re doing, otherwise you can hurt the animal.

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To protect yourself and your animals, it’s important to keep everything as clean as possible:
Wash your hands before and after handling veterinary products. Use disposable syringes whenever possible. With reusable syringes, use only hot water (no soap or detergent) to rinse them before injecting modified live virus vaccine – chemicals may destroy the virus and make the vaccine useless.

Use hot water and mild disinfectants to clean syringes for other types of injectable products. After cleaning, reusable syringes need to be sterilised before reuse by autoclaving. This is a high-temperature, pressurised steam-cleaning technique involving equipment many small-scale farmers are unlikely to have – another reason why it’s better to use disposable syringes.

Choosing needles
Make sure the needle is sterile for each animal. Single-use disposable needles are best, as reusing needles can transmit infections from animal to animal. Occasionally, the same needle can be used for multiple injections, such as when giving many doses in a short period of time, as with worming products in feedlot cattle. But change the needle after every 10 animals.

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Needles must be the right length for the type of injection you’re giving and suitable for the size of animal being injected. Shorter needles can be used for subcutaneous (SQ) injections, those given under the skin. Longer ones are needed for intramuscular (IM) injections, which enter muscles. Smaller animals, such as calves, have smaller muscles and should be injected with needles of the right length to prevent injury to nerves and other tissues. Ask your vet for advice.
Restraining animals
Good animal restraint prevents injury to you and the animal. It also prevents needles from breaking off and accidental self-injection, and allows you to target the injection sites.

How much to inject

  • Read the label. Never exceed the recommended dosage.
  • Split large volumes into smaller amounts and inject at different locations. Generally, for IM injections, inject no more than 10mâ„“/site. For SQ injections, inject no more than 20mâ„“/site.

Mixing products

  • Don’t mix vaccine or other medicines in the same bottle or syringe, unless the label clearly says so.
  • Shake products as directed on the label before use to mix them properly. 

Source: Giving Medication to Animals by Injection, by Dr Ann Godkin of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.