How to start a subcutaneous saline infusion. Hypodermoclysis. PoTS treatment. Fluid Replacement.
How to Administer Subcutaneous Fluids to a Dog
Your veterinarian may suggest giving your dog subcutaneous (SQ) fluids if they have a medical condition, such as canine kidney disease, that causes dehydration. Given under the skin, SQ fluids can help a dehydrated dog feel much better. If the thought of sticking a needle under your dog’s skin makes you nervous, don’t worry! Most pets tolerate the procedure quite well.To administer the fluids, you will need to learn how to assemble the fluid therapy equipment and get the fluid therapy started.
Assembling the Equipment
Organize all equipment in one area.To administer SQ fluids to your dog, you will need a fluid bag, fluid line (long plastic tube), needle, and metal coat hanger. To make the process more efficient, organize all the equipment in the area where you will be administering the fluid.
- The coat hanger will be used to hang the fluid bag once you have all the equipment assembled.
- In your vet's clinic, the staff would have your dog lay on a table for fluid administration; however, at home, it will probably be more convenient for your dog to sit or lay on the floor, or lay on another piece of furniture (if you allow your dog on your furniture).
Remove all packaging.Your vet may have already assembled the fluid therapy equipment for you. If not, you will need to do this yourself. First, remove the plastic packaging from the fluid bag and fluid line. The fluid line will have a plastic roller clamp, which you will open and close to start and stop the flow of fluid. When you take the fluid line out of the packaging, close the clamp.
- The clamp has a wheel-like apparatus. Roll this wheel with your thumb to close the clamp. The fluid line will squeeze in when you close the clamp.
Check the color and temperature of the SQ fluid.The fluid should be clear. If the fluid looks cloudy or discolored, donotadminister it — it could be contaminated with bacteria.
- The SQ fluid should be at room temperature (neither hot nor cold). Do not refrigerate the fluid bag.Do not warm up the fluid, either — this could make the fluid feel uncomfortably warm as it enters your dog's body.
Connect the drip line to the fluid bag.The fluid bag has a small opening on its bottom where the drip line will go. Turn the fluid bag upside down, remove the rubber seal from the bag, and insert the sharp, pointed end of the drip line into the opening. Twist this end into the opening to make sure it stays in place.
- To prevent fluid contamination, do not allow the pointed end of the drip line to touch anything before you insert it into the fluid bag.
- Turning the fluid bag upside down will prevent fluid from flowing into the fluid line and making a mess on your floor.Turn the bag right side up once you’ve inserted the drip line.
- Closing the clamp will also prevent fluid from spilling onto the floor when you connect the drip line.
Allow fluid to flow through the line.To prevent your dog from receiving a lot of air under their skin, allow some of the fluid to flow through the line first. To do this, open the plastic clamp on the fluid line.To prevent your floor from getting wet, position a small bowl or cup to catch the fluid as it runs through the line.
- You could also hold the bag and line over a sink.
Fill the drip chamber halfway.The top of the fluid line will have a clear plastic drip chamber. Fluid flows into this chamber before flowing through the rest of the line. Before you start administering the SQ fluids, squeeze the fluid bag to fill the drip chamber until it is about halfway full.
Attach a needle to the end of the fluid line.Your vet probably supplied with you several needles to use for administering SQ fluid. The end of each needle will have a plastic or metal hub. Screw this hub into the bottom of the drip line.Keep the needle cap on until you are ready to begin administering fluid to your dog.
- Needles come in different sizes.Your vet will have chosen the size needle that will be most comfortable for your dog.
- The larger the needle, the faster the flow of fluid; however, larger needles to cause more discomfort when entering the skin.
Hang the fluid bag.The fluid bag should hang a few feet above your dog to ensure a good flow of fluid. Take your metal coat hanger and slightly straighten the hook (there can still be some curve in the hook). Next, slide the opening in the top of the fluid bag through the coat hanger hook. Hang the coat hanger on the top of a door in the area where you will be administering the SQ fluids.
Starting the Fluid Administration
Position your dog comfortably.Fortunately, most pets don’t mind receiving SQ fluids.The entire process can take anywhere from five to 15 minutes, so you will want to your dog to get comfortable before you start giving the fluids.
- Pet and talk to your dog to help them become more comfortable.
- Do not ‘prep’ the skin by rubbing it with alcohol. Alcohol does not sterilize the skin. Also, the coldness of the alcohol will feel very uncomfortable to your dog when you insert the needle.
Create a skin tent.Making a skin tent will make it easier for you to place the needle just under the skin. With your nondominant hand, gently pull up your dog’s scruff (skin just behind the neck) with your thumb and index finger.Have the ‘triangles’ of the tent in line with your dog’s spine, rather than going from side to side.
- If you have someone assisting you, have them remove the needle cap while you are making the skin tent.
- If you are administering the SQ fluids on your own, you can remove the needle cap before making the skin tent; however, make sure the needle does not touch anything before you insert it into the skin. Donottry to remove the cap with your mouth.
Insert the needle into the tent.Hold the needle hub with your dominant hand. Position it behind the skin tent so it’s parallel with your dog’s spine (facing one of the tent triangles), with the hole of the needle facing up. Gently push the needle forward as you move the skin tent backward to meet the needle. Once the needle is under the skin, you can release the scruff.
- You will feel a ‘punch’ as the needle enters the skin.
- Do not hesitate when inserting the needle. This will slow the insertion and possibly cause discomfort for your dog.
- Because the needle is extremely sharp, your dog probably will only feel a slight prick, or nothing at all, when you insert it.
Open the clamp on the fluid line.With the needle under the skin, begin administering the fluid. Open the clamp on the fluid line by rolling the wheel on the clamp.
- The fluid should flow smoothly. If it is not flowing smoothly, or not flowing at all, it could be because the needle is not positioned well under the skin. Gently reposition the needle, without taking it out, until you see the fluid flow smoothly.
Performing the Fluid Administration
Administer the prescribed amount of fluid.Your vet will have prescribed how much SQ fluid to give your dog. On average, a dog or cat can receive 50 – 200 milliliters (mL) of fluid at one time. The amount of fluid your dog receives will depend on how dehydrated they are.
- Fluid bags typically contain one liter (1,000 mL) of fluid. The space between the numbers on the bag indicate 100 mL’s of fluid.
- Consider marking the bag with a marker to make it easier to see how much fluid to administer. Or, you could ask one of the vet’s staff members to mark the bag for you.
Watch for a fluid lump under your dog’s skin.As the fluid flows under the skin, a lump will start to form. Do not be alarmed! This is completely normal. When you finish administering the SQ fluids, it will take about four to 12 hours, or as long as 24 hours, for your dog’s body to absorb the fluids and for the lump to disappear.
- If you see the fluid on your dog’s fur rather the lump under the skin, that means the needle has gone through the skin (not that the lump has burst). Gently pull the needle back so it goes under the skin.
- If the fluid lump has not disappeared by the time you get ready to administer fluids again, contact your vet.
- When giving large volumes of SQ fluid, spread it over several different sites.
Pet and talk to your dog.Petting and talking to your dog can help your dog feel comfortable while they are receiving the SQ fluids.Those activities can also keep your dog pleasantly distracted during the process. Below are some things you can say to your dog:
- "You're being such a good dog!"
- "This will be over soon. Just stay still for a little while longer."
- You can also tell your dog about your day.
End the fluid administration.When your dog has received the prescribed amount of fluids, close the plastic clamp, then carefully recap and remove the needle. Do not throw the used needle in your regular trash. Instead, contact your vet for guidance on how to properly dispose of the needles. Your vet may advise you to return the used needles to the veterinary clinic.
- You might a see little fluid leak out when you remove the needle. The fluid may contain some blood. This is normal. If you see the leakage, put pressure on the area until the leakage stops.
- Place a new needle on the fluid line to prepare for the next fluid administration.
Administer the fluids in a different site each time.Choose a different location on your dog’s body to administer the SQ fluids. This will prevent one area from getting too sore from the needle insertion. Whichever area you choose, make sure you can pull up a lot of skin to create the tent. The larger the tent, the more fluid can go in that one area.
QuestionStarted a subcutaneous IV on my 7mo. Dog today, the bag contains a parvo treatment given to us by the vet. Two sessions later, a big bulge developed on her scruff. The bulge is now in front of her neck. It's been several hours and the meds haven't been absorbed. Should we panic?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou should not panic, but you should definitely contact your vet as soon as possible. In some dogs, the bulge of fluid could take up to 24 hours to go down; it could be that your dog is absorbing the fluid very slowly. Since parvo can make dogs very sick, though, your dog's illness could be affecting the body's ability to absorb the fluids. Do not give your dog any more SQ fluids until you have talked to your vet.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I keep the needle in while the fluid is going in?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTape the needle to the skin, gently but firmly.Thanks!
QuestionCan I purchase extension sets from a pharmacy?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou should be able to purchase extension sets from a pharmacy. Call your local pharmacies to ask if they sell them. If they do not, you can purchase extension sets online from medical supply companies.Thanks!
- Contact your vet if you are having trouble administering SQ fluids to your dog. If you’d like, they could administer the fluids for you.
- Consider having someone help you administer SQ fluids to your dog, at least until you are comfortable performing this procedure.The other person can help hold your dog or place the needle under the skin.
- You may see a few air bubbles in the fluid line as you administer fluids. This is normal. Your dog’s body will absorb those air bubbles.
- You may be able to purchase fluid administration packages at your local pharmacy. This may be less expensive than purchasing the equipment through your vet.
- You may need to administer SQ fluids twice a day. Follow your vet’s instructions to know how often to administer the fluids.
Video: Inserting Butterfly Needle for Subcutaneous Fluid Admin
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