Dehydration is often seen in the veterinary industry. We see it with older pets with chronic diseases and younger pets who have acute illnesses. We sometimes recommend Subcutaneous (Sub Q) fluids to help rehydrate the patient and generally make them feel better. Occasionally once is enough, but there are many cases where pet parents must give Sub Q fluids at home. We will have a technician demonstrate to owners how to give fluids so that they are comfortable when they have to do it on their own. Sometimes owners are unable to give the Sub Q fluids at home because they are uncomfortable or their pet doesn’t cooperate well. In these cases, we recommend making an appointment at the clinic for our technicians to administer the fluids.
Regular administration of Sub Q fluids can greatly improve, and often extend a pet’s life when they have a chronic illness. An example of this is one of our patient’s named Tilly. Tilly is a Domestic Shorthair Tabby born in 2001. Tilly’s owner first noticed something was different when she started drinking lots of water and urinating more in March 2017. Bloodwork and urinalysis showed signs of early kidney disease. Previous blood work from her Annual Exam in December showed a trend towards high kidney values, but at that time the urine concentration was good.
Two days later Tilly was hospitalized at the emergency clinic for inappetence and pain. She had a 4-day hospital stay with further workup and intravenous fluids and antibiotics. After several follow up appointments, Tilly was finally diagnosed with the chronic renal disease after acute injury due to E. coli pyelonephritis. So what does that mean? To sum it up quickly, Tilly’s kidneys were no longer functioning at full capacity, and they also had a bacterial infection. Tilly almost didn’t come home from the emergency hospital and had several months of recovery afterwards. She needed to be on antibiotics for a long time to take care of the infection, and then we had to tackle her Chronic Kidney Disease. Tilly’s owners switched her to a renal diet, and we’ve occasionally had to give her medications to stimulate her appetite or prevent vomiting and nausea.
It was also decided that Tilly would benefit from regular Sub Q fluids. Every pet is different, sometimes they need small amounts daily, whereas others are good with a larger volume once a week, or as needed if they aren’t drinking or eating enough. Tilly’s owner found that she does well with subcutaneous fluids, and she has opted to bring Tilly into the clinic and have a technician administer the fluids. We continue to monitor Tilly’s kidney values and her owner is keeping a close eye on Tilly to make sure she is eating. But with keeping up with the Sub Q fluids, we are happy to report that it’s been over a year since Tilly was hospitalized and she is doing well.
Like all of our patients who come in for Sub Q fluids, we weigh Tilly every time to watch out for sudden weight loss and check in with her owner to see if there are any other changes going on. We then give Sub Q fluids the same way you would at home:
• Gently lift the skin at the back of the neck to create a tent
• Insert the needle attached to the sub q fluid bag into the area between the shoulds (we will sometimes rotate the spot that we administer the fluids from left, to center, to the right of shoulders, if the patient is getting fluids regularly)
• Unclamp the fluid line to allow the fluids to flow
• Check the fluid bag volume to monitor the volume being administered (generally for a cat we administer somewhere between 100-200mLs)
• When the desired volume is given, clamp the fluid line
• Remove the needle and gently pinch the skin where the needle was
Before administering Sub Q fluids on your pet, we strongly recommend having a demonstration with a technician. Please let us know if you have any questions regarding your pet and Sub Q fluids.
Written by: Emily Lim, Registered Veterinary Technician