How to Give SQ (Subcutaneous, Under the Skin) Fluids to Your Pet
- Be Calm When Giving Fluids to Your Pets
- Where in Your House Can You Give Fluids
- The Fluid Bag
- The Needle
- How to Insert the Needle Into Your Pet
- Flow of the Fluids
- When You Are Done Giving Fluids
- How Often to Give Fluids
- How Long Does It Take to Give Fluids to Your Pet
- What Do You Do If You Cannot Give Fluids Yourself
When you must give your pet SQ (subcutaneous or under the skin between the skin and the muscle) fluids at home remain calm. Your pet can tell if you are stressed, anxious, or nervous. This is important when giving medications, cutting nails, giving baths, giving fluids, or anything else you must “do” to your pet. If you are not calm, it will be harder to complete these tasks. Therefore, timing and remaining calm are just as important as the actual task.
To give the fluids the first thing you need to do is find the easiest place to have your pet, you, and possibly another person and everyone be comfortable. The bag of fluids will need to be higher than your pet, using a coat hanger is the easiest thing to use at home to hang the bag of fluids. You can hang the hanger on a shower curtain rod, a towel tack, a door jam or knob, a clothing rod, or anything else in your house that will work to hang the coat hanger and the bag. If you have a cat, small dog, or small mammal (birds and reptiles are very different for giving fluids and normally your veterinarian will give these fluids) you can place them in someone’s lap, between your legs, in a small carrying crate with the top off, or with a big dog just have them lay on the floor or bed. You can use a towel or blanket to put over their face or around them to help them feel safe if needed, just make sure you have access to their back to give the fluids.
Some vet hospitals put the fluid bags together for you before you leave the hospital but if they do not you will need to know how to set it up. You want to make sure that you do not touch any of the pieces that will be in contact with the fluids as this can put bacteria into the fluids and then into your pet. Take the plug out of the bottom of the bag, these can be hard sometimes so pull hard, then take the cap off the line and use the spike to puncture the bag and push the spike into the bag as far as it will go. It will need to be punctured through the thick plastic on the bottom of the bag so push hard but make sure not to puncture the bag. If you puncture the bag you will need to get a new one as the liquid will leak out and bacteria can get in the fluids. Once the line is in the bag squeeze on the tube at the top of the line to make sure air does not get in the line. Once you get some fluid in the tube let the fluid flow through the line and once it gets to the end of the line clamp off the line with the clamp or with the roller by rolling down. Always make sure there is fluid in the line before inserting the needle into your pet since injecting air into the SQ space can be uncomfortable and painful.
You should decide if you will put a new needle on right before you start giving fluids each time or as soon as you finish giving the fluids. This way you ensure that there is a clean needle each time you inject your pet. Having a new needle will make it so it doesn’t hurt as much when inserting the needle. To replace the needle twist it off the line and keep it in a sharp’s container or jar/container to be disposed of correctly (ask your vet hospital the best place in your area to do this), twist off the clear piece of the new needle and twist the new needle onto the line.
When you are ready to give the fluids, pull up the skin around the neck (this area has the most elasticity and extra skin). Make sure to use different areas such as the left side, right side, and middle of the neck each time if you are going to be giving fluids long term as the skin will start to get scar tissue and it will get harder and harder to be able to get the needle into the skin. You want to make a tent or indentation in the skin this is the area you want to insert the needle. You want the hole or bevel of the needle facing up or out depending if you are on the back or the sides when you insert it. So, if you are on the back have the bevel toward the ceiling, and if on the sides have it towards the walls. This will help the needle slide into the skin smoothly with the long side of the needle against the skin. Once you have the needle inserted turn the dial upward or unclamp the line (depending on which you choose to use or what your line has) and make sure there is no fluid leaking out of the skin. Sometimes the needle can go all the way through the skin (you can just slide it back a little) or you didn’t get it in far enough (you can just insert the needle a little further). With older, thinner animals that have been getting fluids for a while, this will happen more often. If you are still getting fluid coming out of the skin it is best to turn the fluids off after trying to push the needle in or out a little bit, get a new needle and start over in a different spot. Make sure if you are giving fluids long term to document where you gave the fluids each time, so you know where not to give the fluids the next time. A calendar works great for this.
The higher the bag is from your pet, the larger the needle, and the correct position will allow for a faster flow of the fluids. You can also squeeze the bag to make it go faster if you are using a large needle and your pet tolerates it. Some pets do not like a faster flow when the fluids are first going in since it can be a little cold and they seem to not like it until there is a bubble of fluids under the skin forming. When the needle is first inserted, and the fluids are not flowing you can pull up on the skin since sometimes the skin blocks the flow of the fluids, and once the bubble forms you will not have to hold up the skin anymore where the end of the needle is.
The best thing to do when you are done (when you get to the line or number on the bag you need to get to so your pet gets the correct amount of fluids which is normally for cats and small dogs they get 100ml or cc or 1 number depending on the type of bag) is to stop the flow of the fluids with the roller by rolling it down or clamping the clamp, then pinch around the needle with your fingers as you pull the needle out, apply pressure to the skin where you pulled the needle out for about a minute until the fluid stops coming out, put the cap back on the needle, change it if you do it right after each injection, put the needle in your disposal spot and give your pet a treat, hugs or whatever you decide is special for your pet when they are done. This helps with the anxiety of getting fluids the next time. If they will let you make sure to give them extra attention after giving the fluids. They should also be calm for a little while after getting the fluids to allow the fluids to be absorbed and if the bubble of fluids is large it can be uncomfortable if they move around too much.
Be aware that the fluid bump (bubble) can stay on your pet for hours, sometimes falling to one side or still being there the next time you go to give fluids. If they still have a pocket of fluids DO NOT give more fluids. They have not absorbed all the fluids from the last time, and you may need to increase the time between injections. Also, if you notice that they absorb it quickly talk to your veterinarian about how often you give fluids, and the intervals may need to be increased for a while, and then once they seem better hydrated you can go back down to the original time in between giving fluids. Normally pets that get fluids for long periods of time get SQ fluids every other day to one to two times a week. You and your vet will decide how often your pet should be getting fluids and as your pet’s health issues change the amount you give and the time between getting fluids will change.
If everything goes well, you only have to poke your pet once, the fluids are flowing well, and your pet is staying still and not trying to run away, then it normally takes about ten minutes to give 100ml of fluids. The more fluids you must give the more time it will take to give the fluids, for large dogs getting 500ml can take 20 minutes or longer. Some days it may take longer and some days it can go faster. Just make sure you are comfortable while giving the fluids because you might be there for a while. If your pet does move around a lot, try to keep them as still as possible because the more they move the more likely it is the needle will come out. Therefore, sometimes it is better to have two people so one person can keep the pet still and occupied and the other person can give the fluids.
If you ever have questions about how to give subcutaneous fluids, are not able to give them for whatever reason (your pet doesn’t corporate, you are too nervous), and/or your pet doesn’t like getting them, make sure to talk to your vet. Some clinics/hospitals will give the fluids for you (normally at a cost) and there are technicians sometimes that will come to people’s houses (at a cost) to do tasks like giving fluids or medications. Just ask the staff at your vet hospital/clinic) and they can help you to find a solution that works best for everyone.
Giving SQ fluids to your pet can be scary for you and your pet the first few times you give them, but it does get easier and as you get better at it your pet will relax more while you give the fluids too. This can be a special bonding time with your pet too where they get all your attention for ten minutes or so.