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Posted: 09/13/2022
Assortment of needles and syringes

Selecting the Right Needle and Syringe Combos

Do you often feel like your head is spinning when it comes time to shop for needles and syringes? You’re not alone. Understanding injectable products – and the proper administration of those products using the proper tools – can feel like a chore most days. But correct administration is important for minimizing tissue residue, lesions and reactions in your livestock. Successful and safe injections start with a solid understanding of the needles, syringes and other resources available to you. PBS Animal Health is here to help simplify the selection process and share some key information to keep you in the know but not overwhelmed.

Types of Livestock Injections

Livestock can receive injections for vaccines, antibiotics, vitamins/minerals, anti-inflammatories and more. Each product comes with unique instructions for administering the injection, so it’s important to read packaging carefully. Even if you use the same product for long periods of time, these labels get updated regularly and injection sites or even the dosage can change.

There are several routes of administration for livestock injections, including:

  • intramuscular (IM): often delivered in the neck or shoulder muscle
  • subcutaneous (SQ): delivered to the space under the skin
  • intravenous (in the vein, IV): this is the most difficult injection technique and is usually administered by or under the direction of a veterinarian
  • intranasal (IN): delivered through the nose
As always, consult your veterinarian about proper and safe injection administration.

A Spectrum of Supplies

Syringe and needle sizes vary based on the species, size of animal, amount of fluid needed and by the injection itself. For example, a thicker viscosity injection requires a larger bore/smaller gauge needle (in cattle, that’s often a 16 gauge needle). Intramuscular injections call for longer needles (1-1.5 inch) than subcutaneous injections (0.5-1 inch) because IM applications must go deep into the muscle. We know it’s a lot of information to keep straight, especially if you have several animals of different ages/sizes, but PBS Animal Health is here to help. Our new chart of needle sizes by species details exactly what you need for each animal.

Needle Chart

After figuring out the size, decide between polypropylene (poly) hub needles and aluminum hub needles depending on the number of animals you need to inject. Poly hubs work for single injections, but many producers and vets alike prefer aluminum hubs because they’re more durable for large animal applications. These also allow you to inject multiple animals with less concern of breaking the needle off the hub. We also sell plated brass hub needles that are detectable in metal-detection systems in the event the needle breaks off in an animal's skin.

Hard and soft pack syringes
The range of syringes on the market can make the selection process even more complicated. The barrels of each syringe may look similar as they share markings for cubic centimeters (cc) and milliliters (ml), but we carry both luer lock and luer slip tips. The lock option provides a more secure connection because the needle twists on and locks into place. The luer slip option is not as secure as its locking counterpart. It is however more affordable, though usually only used for quick, single injections.

All of the products mentioned above can be purchased individually, but PBS Animal Health also carries combo products with the needle and syringe already assembled. Luer lock syringe combos are available in soft pack or hard pack (individually wrapped in a tearaway package vs. plastic tubes). This category as a whole has been affected by supply chain issues for some time, so hopefully now you know what to use when, and have backup products in mind if your favorites are unavailable.

How to Give Cattle Injections

Proper administration of injection products is important for both the safety of the animal as well as the safety of meat product consumers. This Hereford How-To Series article provides excellent information on administration methods specific to cattle. They mention the importance of giving most shots in the neck to avoid injecting parts of the body that later become meat products (any scar tissue in the neck is usually trimmable and not as critical as it would be in the rump, where injections are not acceptable for this reason). Hereford also talks about the need to restrain cattle before any injection to avoid wasted product and/or animal injury.

There’s also a chart on page 58 of this manual that shows recommended needle size based on animal size, injection site, and viscosity of the product (Source: National Beef Quality Assurance Training Manual). Once again, consult your veterinarian about proper and safe injection administration.
BQA Needle Chart

Helpful Tips About Giving Injections

Be aware of these tips regarding cleanliness, needle handling, spacing, etc. before you start administering your animal injections:

  • Gauge number in needles gets higher as the diameter gets smaller (an 18 gauge needle is bigger than a 20 gauge needle).
  • Don’t mix injection products. Mixing these items can damage tissue and ruin the product.
  • Clean your animal’s injection site to avoid potential infection from mud or manure getting in with the shot.
  • If injecting multiple animals, change your needles every 10 or so heads. This helps avoid bent and/or dull needles.
  • Use a separate needle to draw up additional doses from the bottle (not the needle that's delivering injections to your animals).
  • When giving one animal multiple injections, space them out across several inches, or inject the other side of the neck.
  • If you aren’t already, consider becoming Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certified. BQA provides important training about injection protocols that reduces damage to valuable cuts of meat and ultimately saves the cattle industry millions of dollars.
Please be aware of these shipping restrictions that apply to hypodermic syringes and needles for residents of the following states:

  • New York livestock owners must provide a Certificate of Need to purchase needles and syringes. If you do not have a Certificate of Need, you may download the application here. Complete the application and mail to the address shown on the application. When you receive your Certificate of Need from New York, submit a copy to us via fax, email or mail. Once we have your Certificate on file, you may order your needles and syringes from us.
  • Needles and Syringes cannot be shipped to companion animal and horse owners in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, and Minnesota. Livestock owners with an agricultural exemption on file with us may purchase needles and syringes in those states.
  • We cannot ship needles and syringes to New Jersey.

Find Your Syringe and Needle Supplies at PBS Animal Health

Whether you’re injecting cattle, horses, goats, sheep, or swine, PBS Animal Health has all the best needle and syringe products and combos you need. Browse our full inventory online or call our Customer Care team at +1 (800) 321-0235 if you have questions. After more than 80 years in the animal health industry, we can help simplify this selection process to make your shopping a breeze.

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