HOW TO GIVE INJECTIONS
Raising livestock is different from owning dogs, cats & horses. It’s different because much of their care is administered by you. With market animals, to make money on your project, you’ll need to administer as much of their care as you can. It’s too hard to make money if you are paying for multiple vet services. Save the vet call for serious issues. Because of this balance of dollars, it’s important to manage your livestock’s health from day one to avoid additional expenses. But, like all living creatures, they can get sick with bacteria and viruses, which starts the conversation about vaccinating and medicating your livestock.
Vaccinating and administering medicines by needle should always be performed with the advice of your experienced leader, breeder, fellow showman or veterinarian.
As time and experience grows your knowledge, you’ll begin to identify common ailments early and take steps to fix the situation! Even after all of my experiences over the years, I still consult with my breeders and or vet when evaluating an illness. Simply put, two heads thinking about the symptoms is better than one at figuring out an appropriate solution. It never hurts to have this conversation and it always teaches you another facet of livestock management! At this point, you’ve performed a health evaluation and have figured out that your animal needs a injection of medicine.
How to Select the Right Needles & Syringes
Before you decide to give an injection, have the following questions answered:
- Type of Medicine – Medicines have different thickness or viscosity & the needle must match for a proper injection.
- Needle Gauge & Length – width and length of needle.
- Syringe Type – Syringes come in a variety of styles & sizes for different species.
- Type of Injection – Intramuscular, Sub-cutaneous or Intravenous
- Type of Animal – Goats & Sheep use smaller gauge needles over Swine and Cattle
Thickness & Viscosity
When picking up the recommended medicine, ask what gauge needle is required. For example, the antibiotic LA-200 is thick and is best administered to goats and sheep using a 16 gauge needle. Other medicines are more water like and can be administered using a finer 18 gauge needle.
MARKET ANIMALS & INJECTION SITES
All injections on animals considered as food should have shots given in specific areas to prevent damage to key meat sections. Some medications can leave damage to the meat caused from tissue irritation.
- All injections should be given in the neck area using the folds of the skin.
- NO injection should be given in the hind quarters or along the loin muscle. Intramuscular shots into the butt are only for NON-Market Animals.
Gauge & Length of Needles
Gauge: Gauge is the diameter of the needle.
Higher the number = Smaller needle diameter.
This is important because different species have different skin thickness, muscling, & hair/wool. Too thick a needle will result in added pain while too thin a needle will bend during administration and potentially cause an injury & stress. Gauge should be considered as it relates to the thickness or viscosity of drug.
Length: Needles come in various lengths.
Longer Needles (1” – 1.5”) are best suited for intramuscular injections
Short Needles (1/2”, 5/8” & 1”) are suited for subcutaneous injections or swine intramuscular injections.
There are a variety of syringes with different applications & uses. Injection syringes are for administering medicines with a needle. Here are several types.
Oral Syringes / Drench Guns –
These type of syringes do not use needles and they are not for injectable vaccine use – but they are handy in the barn! They can be used for flushing wounds, administering pills or liquid supplements.
Types of Injections
The instructions on the vaccine or antibiotic box or container will suggest the most efficient way of administering the injection. The 4 types are:
- Intramuscular (IM) – deep in the muscle (shoulder, neck)
- Subcutaneous (SQ or SubQ) – under the loose skin is easiest (scruff of the neck or armpit area)
- Intradermal – Under the top layer of skin.
- Intravenous (IV) – into the vein (Vet or Professional Required)
Intramuscular – is the most common and the injection site for a market animal is usually in the triangular neck area or the front of the shoulder. Intramuscular are good for animals that are harder to contain or animals with large muscles (like horses). The injection administers the medicine into the muscle which is then absorbed into the system.
- Never give an injection near the spine to prevent accidentally causing nerve damage.
- Gently tap/hit the muscle two or three times with your fist to accustom the sheep/goat/horse/cattle to relax (like a firm pat). This does not work for swine! With swine, a short, 16 gauge needle on a heavy duty syringe is required for a quick injection in the neck area behind the ear. Swine do not give you a chance to perform the steps below.
- Before injecting, draw the plunger out slightly to check if the needle has entered a blood vessel. If blood enters the syringe, withdraw the needle slightly and redirect into the muscle.
- When a correct spot has been entered, slowly press the plunger down.
- Insert the needle quickly, straight into the muscle.
- Remove the needle from the animal and rub the injection site or press with cotton to prevent excess bleeding. This will also help the medicine to stay in the muscle.
- Sub-Q is also easy to administer to animals that are contained. The injection administers the medicine under the skin using a short needle (1/2’, 5/8”, and 1”). You may have seen this type of injection for your dog, cat or goat.
- Grab some loose skin, lift up making a tent shape and insert the needle into the skin being careful not to pierce or go through the other side. Depress the syringe slow & steady. Do not administer more than 2-3mm in one site. Perform 2 injections at different areas if more than 3mm needs to be given.
- Massage the injected area to help distribute the medicine evenly. A lump may show if you do not rub the area.
- Sub-Q injections are best using the skin just behind the elbow, although they can also be given in the triangular area in front of the shoulders between the top and bottom of the shoulder blade.
Intradermal – This injection is just under the top layer of skin and is reserved for specific medicines. Most antibiotics do not use these method.
Intravenous – The injection administers the medicine directly into the vein. This is to be performed by a veterinarian. Vaccines and antibiotics are never administered intravenously.
Injection Sites by Species
Clean up Tips
- Do not use disinfectants when cleaning syringes used for modified live vaccines (read the medicine label for this information). It’s best to use new syringes after each use of modified live viruses.
- Use different syringes for modified live vaccines and for killed products. Mark syringe with a permanent marker and keep them separate.
- Do not mix products. If traces of prior medicines are left in a syringe, it could alter the vaccine.
- 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 used to vaccinate. If the needle is contaminated from an infected animal, you will also contaminate the vaccine – and possibly the remaining animals vaccinated.
- If vaccinating several animals, change the needle frequently, every ten to 15 head or every syringe full of vaccine. Also, if a needle develops a bend or burr, discard it immediately as it will tear the tissue.
Giving shots can be a nerve racking task. But education and practice will enable you to develop the skills to get it done! If not you, then ask your advisor for help. There is always someone around that can help. Your job is to make sure the shots are given in the correct areas. Never let anyone give a shot in the butt/leg area of your market animal. It will leave a mark or damage to the meat in that area.
- Syringe – for Injections
- Syringe – Oral/Flushing
- Drench Gun
- Needles – Aluminum Hub
- Alcohol or Betadine for Cleaning and disinfecting