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Client Education

Administration of Subcutaneous Fluids

Many of our patients require periodic administration of fluids under the skin for a variety of metabolic conditions. Some clients elect to have the fluids administered here at the hospital, which we are more than happy to do.

However, many clients are willing and able to administer these fluids at home, saving time, money, and stress on the pet. Prior to the at-home administration of subcutaneous fluids, we like to instruct owners on how to do this. You have received a demonstration from one of the veterinary technicians on how to administer these fluids, but the following is the information we like to provide as a reminder.

We will supply you with the following materials:

  • Bag of fluids - usually Lactated Ringers solution 
  • Administration set - long clear plastic tube to connect the bag of fluids and the needle
  • Needles - usually 18 gauge

How to give Subcutaneous fluids:

  • Have everything you need ready to go. Make sure that you have a new, sterile needle. Some people like to attach a new needle as soon as they finish the procedure, while others like to attach a new needle just before the procedure. Either way is fine as long as you are consistent so that you know that the needle you are using is sterile.
  • Suspend the fluid bag. This can be on a cabinet, the ceiling, or by using the hanging hook from a coat hanger! Try to have the bag hanging on something higher than where your pet is, so that gravity will help pull the fluids down, and make for a faster administration.
  • Pick a quiet location where both you and the pet can be comfortable. Place the pet in your lap, on the floor, or on a table, whichever is most comfortable.
  • Grasp the skin over the shoulder blades, so that it makes a triangle or “tent”. With the opposite hand grasp the needle at the base and direct it towards the pet’s head keeping it parallel to the pet’s spine.
  • Quickly insert the needle through the skin staying perpendicular to the skin. Visualize your target as the empty space created by the skin tent. Hold the needle in place, allowing it to lay flat along the pet’s back.
  • Note the starting amount of the fluids in the bag. The numbers on the bag of fluids represent 100s of milliliters. For example, if the fluid level drops from 100 to 200 on the bag you have administered 100 ml to your pet.
  • Open the clamp on the administration set by rolling the plastic wheel upwards allowing the fluids to flow through the tubing and into your pet. You should be able to see the fluids flowing from the bag through the cylindrical clear plastic chamber at the top of the administration set. If fluids begin running off your pet’s skin you have likely run the needle completely through the skin and have come out the other side. DO NOT PANIC! Stop the flow of fluids by rolling the wheel clamp down thereby pinching off the plastic tubing. Reposition the needle under the skin. Restart the flow of fluids.
  • Once the fluid in the bag has reached the final target volume, stop the fluids by rolling the wheel clamp down thereby pinching off the plastic tubing. Pinch the skin around the needle and gently remove the needle from the skin. Continue to pinch the skin for several seconds to encourage the hole in the skin to close. It is normal for a small amount of fluid to leak from the hole in the skin.
  • Carefully recap the needle and either dispose of it in an approved sharps container or a plastic bottle with a tight-fitting lid. You can return your used needles to us for proper disposal.
  • After giving the fluids, your pet will have a large lump under its skin where the fluid has collected. This is normal. The fluids will be absorbed by the body over the next few hours.

Here is a helpful Youtube video that can walk you through the process.

*If your pet ever shows signs of difficulty breathing, coughing, or open-mouth breathing – discontinue giving the fluids and call us at 585-265-0030.*

Repeat the administration of fluids according to your veterinarian’s directions.