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    How to Vaccinate Animals Using a Syringe and Needles

    If you own livestock, you have probably learned already that there are many tasks you can do yourself once you have gathered the information you need and become more experienced in dealing with common pitfalls. With the advice of your veterinarian, administering vaccines and antibiotics using a syringe and needle is something you can do yourself. The advice in this article is general, and if you are unsure of how to proceed, contact your veterinarian for more advice.

    Animal biologicals are products designed to stimulate the immune system of an animal in response to an invasion of viruses or bacteria. Make sure to read product labels and avoid off-label use of products. Also be aware of the withdrawal time after administering animal biologicals, that is, the length of time you must wait after using a vaccine or antibiotic before you can safely use milk or meat from the animal.

    There are three types of injections:

    • Intramuscular (IM) - deep in the muscle
    • Subcutaneous (SQ or SubQ) - under the skin
    • Intravenous (IV) - in the vein

    Remember the following when giving injections to animals:

    • Do not use disinfectants when cleaning modified live vaccine syringes. The disinfectant could destroy modified live vaccines that you later put in the syringe.
    • Do not mix products. If traces of bacterin are left in a syringe that is later used for a modified live product, the bacterin could destroy the modified live vaccine.
    • Mark and separate syringes. Use different syringes for modified live vaccines and for bacterin or killed products. It helps to mark the modified live syringes with red paint or tape and keep them separate.
    • Clean the infection site on the animal. Injecting into a spot that is damp, muddy, or covered with manure greatly increases the risk of infection.
    • Don’t spread infection by going back into the vaccine bottle with the same needle you use to vaccinate. If the needle is contaminated from an infected animal, you will also contaminate the vaccine - and possibly the animals you vaccinate next.
    • Change needle frequently, every ten to 15 head or every syringe full of vaccine. It might seem expensive at the time, but the alternative could be much more costly. Also, if a needle develops a bend or burr, discard it immediately as it will tear the tissue.

    Needle Sizes

    Needles are measured two ways: length and gauge (diameter). When determining the correct gauge, remember that the higher the number, the smaller the diameter. For example, an 18-gauge needle is smaller than a 16-gauge needle.

    Longer needles are used for intramuscular injections (1 1/2”) and shorter needles (1/2” to 1 “) for subcutaneous injections.

    • Cattle, Hogs, and Sheep - generally 18 or 16 gauge with a 1” or 1 1/2” length.
    • Sows and Boars – (usually given IM) 18 or 16 gauge with a 1 1/2” length.
    • Small Pigs – 18 gauge with 1/2” length.
    • Horses – 18 gauge with 1” length

    Needle Sizes

    Needles are measured two ways: length and gauge (diameter). When determining the correct gauge, remember that the higher the number, the smaller the diameter. For example, an 18-gauge needle is smaller than a 16-gauge needle.

    Longer needles are used for intramuscular injections (1 1/2”) and shorter needles (1/2” to 1 “) for subcutaneous injections.

    Needle Gauge and Length for Animals

    Needle Gauge and Length for Animals
      Cattle Hogs Sheep Sows Boars Small Pigs Dogs, Cats Horses
    Gauge 18 or 16 18 or 16 18 or 16 18 or 16 18 or 16 18 20 or 22 18
    Length 1” or 1½” 1” or 1½” 1” or 1½” 1½” 1½” ½” ½” or 1” 1"