In some areas, pet vaccines are readily available from multiple sources, including the internet. Some people like to purchase vaccines and administer them to their pets themselves in order to save money. But are the cost savings really worth the risk? Here are some things to consider:

  • Your veterinarian gets vaccines through a reputable distribution system, which ensures quality control, tracking of products and proper shipping and storage conditions. When buying elsewhere (especially the internet), you don’t have the same level of assurance. Vaccines that have been improperly handled or stored may not be effective.
  • Vaccines and drugs from some sources are of questionable quality, and you can’t always be sure that you’re actually getting what you wanted. Ineffective vaccines or contaminated products are a big concern. It’s not saving you money if the vaccine doesn’t work!
  • While uncommon, vaccine reactions do occur. If your pet has an anaphylactic (severe allergic) reaction at a veterinary clinic, the chances that your pet will survive are much greater because the needed expertise, drugs and equipment are readily available. You don’t have these things at your house.
  • If your pet develops a problem associated with a vaccine administered by your veterinarian, the vaccine manufacturer may get involved and assist with the problem. This will NOT happen if you buy the vaccine from another source and give it yourself.
  • Rabies vaccines MUST be given by a veterinarian. (In some areas it’s illegal for a non-veterinarian to even possess rabies vaccine.)  A pet that has received a rabies vaccine by a non-veterinarian is considered unvaccinated by public health authorities.  If an unvaccinated animal is exposed to rabies, the repercussions may be much more severe, and may even include euthanasia.
  • Vaccination is just one part of your pet’s "wellness program." Some of the pressure for people to vaccinate their own pets is a failure of the veterinary profession to adequately emphasize the importance of preventive medicine, of which vaccines are just one component. Simply charging an owner for "annual vaccines" leads people to want to vaccinate their pets themselves because they can get the vaccines for much less money.  Veterinarians need to emphasize that what they are charging for (and what is the most important component of the preventative medicine program) is an annual physical examination and health consultation, and that only a small portion of the fee is for the vaccines.

Vaccination is a minor component of your pet’s preventive medicine program. A careful physical examination and consultation about potential, developing and ongoing health issues are the most important parts of this program. Even if you vaccinate your pet yourself (which is still not recommended for the reasons above), it is still critical that your pet has an annual examination. It’s better for your pet’s health, and it can be easier and cheaper in the long run because problems can be detected and treated early.