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How to administer an intramuscular injection

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"Yesterday's visit was excellent, the dogs were content and I couldn't be happier from the detailed exams and information given. I have been to six vets over the years with Sarah—kept switching b/c the treatment was unsatisfactory. I am thrilled to have found a vet that cares to take the time to be very thorough, and treat the dog as a whole—not just prescribe pills." —Lyndsay, NY

Dr. Kruesi prepared this fact sheet for his clients, 10/2/04. Caregivers may be able to administer injectable medications to their dog at home. Ask a veterinarian or veterinary technician for a demonstration before attempting to do this procedure yourself. A helper or two to restrain the patient is important for everyone's safety. Use just enough restraint to keep the dog still and comfortable during the procedure. Be sure to have good control of the head. Work in a quiet, deliberate manner. Administering an intramuscular injection
With the patient restrained, identify the proposed injection site. Your veterinarian or the product manufacturer may specify where the injection has to be. The illustrations here are for injection into the long muscles of the lower back or lumbar region. There are 3 anatomic landmarks to identify: 1) the thirteenth ribs, 2) the crest of the iliac bones, and 3) the lumbar vertebrae. Feel for the last (thirteenth) rib as shown here. Administering an intramuscular injection
Next, feel the boney prominences above the hips, the iliac crests. The lumbar region spans the back from the thirteenth ribs to the iliac bones (right and left) of the pelvis. Long tubular muscles lie on either side of the spine, or along the lumbar vertebra. The dog may be injected while standing or lying on their sternum (breast bone). Administering an intramuscular injection
The final landmark is the dorsal spinous processes of the lumbar vertebrae, felt as boney bumps on each vertebrae or bone of the lumbar spine. Intramuscular injections are made along the length of the lumbar area, approximately 2 inches to either side of the spine (2 inches off the midline). The distance may be less in small dogs or those with thin musculature. Administering an intramuscular injection
Part the hair at the injection site to visualize the skin. Dirty skin may be cleansed with alcohol on a cotton ball. Let the skin air dry prior to injection. Do not inject into injured or diseased skin, nor into areas where there is obvious pain. If right-handed, the left hand parts the hair. Confirm with the dog handler that you are about to give an injection. Work in an area with good lighting and non-slippery surface. Administering an intramuscular injection
Use a sterile needle and syringe for each injection. Uncap the needle and holding the syringe like a pencil, direct the needle towards the skin. Be careful not to touch the sterile needle. Guide the syringe perpendicular or at a 90 degree angle to the horizontal position of the dog's back. When close to the skin, use a gentle but continuous push to have the needle penetrate the skin and enter the muscle. Continue to insert the needle to its full length before injecting the medication. Always select the length and thickness or gauge of needle that are appropriate for the medication and the patient. If you accidentally needle yourself, wash your hands in soap and warm water, then seek further medical attention. Know the potential health hazards of the medication you are administering. Administering an intramuscular injection
With the needle inserted into the lumbar muscle, grasp the base of the syringe with the free (left) hand. With the right hand, push the syringe plunger to inject the liquid contents into the muscle. An average rate of injection would be 1 ml of liquid per second, perhaps more slowly for viscous or irritating substances. When the syringe has been emptied, withdraw the needle in the direction it went in. Discard needle and syringe together into an unbreakable plastic "sharps" container, properly labeled. Massage the injection site area for a few seconds to disperse the material or ease the patient's discomfort. Keep a record of the medication, dose, date, route of administration, and any adverse reactions. If the patient moves slightly during the injection, move with them. If you are losing control of needle placement, back out and try some other time. Administering an intramuscular injection

William Konrad Kruesi, D.V.M.   802-747-4076

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