Subcutaneous Fluid Administration at Home

Safety Tips

  • Until you are comfortable with the procedure, ask someone to hold your pet, or confine smaller pets to a box or pet bed and surround the pet with towels to prevent movement.
  • Because the loose skin near the neck has fewer nerves, it will be less painful to give your pet fluids in this location. Be sure to vary the injection site each time you give fluids.
  • Always keep fluids at room temperature for your pet’s comfort. If the fluids are unusually cold or hot, they will be uncomfortable.
  • Dispose of needles by replacing the cap, place in a plastic container and tape the lid shut. Be very careful when you replace the needle into the cap, as this is when the majority of injuries and “needle sticks” occur.

Assembling the Fluid Therapy System

A fluid therapy system consists of a fluid bag, drip set, and needle. The fluid contains sterile solution and is labeled in 100mL increments. The drip set includes clear tubing (the fluid line) that connects the fluid bag and the needle. A roller clamp on the tubing enables you to stop or start the fluid flow. The drip chamber at the top of the tubing lets you view the speed of flow.

  • Remove the fluid bag and drip set from its packaging. Make sure the roller clamp is closed.
  • Hold the fluid bag with the sealed end up, and remove the rubber seal.
  • Remove the cap from the spiked end of the drip set. To maintain sterility, do not allow the spiked end to touch anything. Insert the spike into the open port of the fluid bag, twisting it in place to prevent leaks.
  • Remove the cap from the other end of the fluid line, making sure not to contaminate the tip of the line.
  • Unscrew the plastic cap from the needle, exposing the needle’s hub. Firmly seat the hub over the end of the fluid line.
  • Hang the bag and open the roller clamp to allow the fluid and air bubbles to run out the end of the needle. Close the clamp.
  • Squeeze the drip chamber until its half full of fluid. If the chamber fills completely, turn the chamber upside down and squeeze the chamber to force some fluid back into the bag.

Administering Subcutaneous Fluids

  • Choose a location where both you and your pet can be comfortable for about 10-15 minutes.
  • Hang the fluid bag about 3 feet above your pet. Make sure the roller clamp is closed.
  • Using your nondominant hand (e.g. Your left hand if you are right handed), lift an area of loose skin near your pet’s neck.
  • With your dominant hand, hold the needle near its hub (where it attaches to the fluid line). Position the needle parallel to the spine with the tip aimed toward your pet’s head and the needle hole facing up.
  • Pull the skin away from the spine (tenting the skin) and push it toward the needle. Firmly insert the needle into the skin (you will feel a slight “pop”), then release the skin.
  • Open the roller clamp. The fluid in the drip chamber should flow quickly. If the fluid is not moving or is dripping slowly, do not remove the needle. Try to gently reposition the needle (back and forth, or twisting) until the fluid flows as fast as possible. In most cases, only a minor adjustment is needed.
  • If you notice fluid on your pet’s coat, chances are the needle isn’t in the skin, or you have gone through. Reposition the needle so it is in the space under the skin.
  • A fluid pouch will swell under the skin where you are administering fluids. This is normal and will gradually be absorbed. How much fluid can you place in one location depends on the elasticity of your pet’s skin. If the area begins to feel tight, remove the needle and administer the remaining fluid in other locations (e.g. a couple inches away).
  • Watch the level in the bag, and when it drops to the level you want, close the roller clamp, withdraw the needle and recap it. Its common for a small amount of fluid to leak from the injection site. Do not be concerned if the fluid is slightly tinged with blood. Simply punch the site closed with your fingers and hold it for a few minutes until the leaking stops.
  • Depending on your pet’s hydration status, it could take a few minutes or several hours for the fluids to absorb. Gravity may cause the fluids to be drawn down to your pet’s lower abdomen or legs. Don’t be alarmed if this happens. The fluids will still be absorbed and your pet will not be in any pain or discomfort. If the fluids have not been absorbed by the time the next fluid administration is due, do not give additional fluids. Call the office for further instructions.

Final Notes

When you are finished giving fluids, close the roller clamp firmly or the fluids may leak out. Do not leave the end of the fluid line open between treatments. Either replace the cap or put on a fresh needle to prevent bacteria from migrating into the fluid bag.

Store the fluid bag and needles in a safe place, out of the reach of children and pets.

Most pets become quickly used to fluid administration. Your pet may seem nervous the first few times, but should become comfortable with it after a few treatments.

If any cloudiness or discoloration develops in the fluids, do not use the bag. This usually means that the fluids have become contaminated with bacteria and are no longer safe to use.