Administering Subcutaneous Fluids for Pets at Home

Administering Subcutaneous Fluids for Pets at Home

There are several scenarios where a pet may need at-home fluids administered under their skin. Pets that have chronic kidney disease form the most common of these cases, as these patients need extra fluids on top of what they are already drinking to help wash down dangerous renal toxins through their systems. Sick pets also do not drink enough water, so fluid administration will usually be required.

If you are reading this, you should have already received a demonstration on how to properly administer fluids—this article will simply function as a tip sheet for you to use while you are at home with your pet.

Here Are Some Safety Tips

Before you become comfortable with this entire process, additional help may be necessary. Ask someone to help you hold down your pet or try confining smaller pets to a box or pet bed and surround them with towels to keep them from moving.

• Loose skin near your pet’s neck has fewer nerves, which will help make this process less painful when you give your pet fluids in this location.

• Always remember to keep fluids at room temperature for the sake of your pet’s comfort.

• Refrain from using needles twice due to the loss of sterility and sharpness. When you are finished using a needle, replace the cap, place it in a thick plastic container and tape a lid over the top of the container. Ask us about disposal options.

How to Assemble the Fluid Therapy System

Fluid therapy systems are composed of a fluid bag, drip set, and a needle. The fluid will contain the sterile solution and will be labeled in 100 mL increments. The drip set has clear tubing which connects the fluid bag to the needle. A roller clamp on the tubing will let you stop or start the fluid flow, while the drip chamber at the top of the tubing will let you see the speed of the flow. Here is how to assemble the system:

• Remove the fluid bag and drip set from the packaging. Check to make sure the roller clamp is closed.

• With the sealed end up, hold the fluid bag and remove the rubber seal.

• Remove the cap from the sharp end of the drip set. Do not allow the sharp end to touch anything, to maintain sterility. Now insert the sharp part into the open port of the fluid bag and twist it in place to prevent leaks.

• Remove the cap from the other end of the fluid line, and make sure not to contaminate the tip of the line.

• Unscrew the plastic cap from the needle, which exposes the needle’s hub. Then firmly seat the hub over the end of the fluid line.

• Hang the bag and open the roller clamp to allow fluid and air bubbles to run out the end of the needle. Now close the clamp.

• Squeeze the drip chamber until it’s half full of fluid. If the chamber gets completely full, turn the chamber upside down and squeeze it to force fluid back into the bag.

How to Administer Subcutaneous Fluids

• Hang the fluid bag approximately three feet above your pet and make sure the roller clamp is closed.

• With your nondominant hand, 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 to parallel to the spine with the tip aimed at your pet’s head and with the needle hole facing up.

• Pull the skin away from the spine and push it toward the needle. Now firmly insert the needle into your pet’s skin—you should feel a slight pop. Release the skin.

• Open the roller clamp, which should make the fluid in the drip chamber flow quickly. If the fluid is either not moving or dripping slowly, reposition the needle until the fluid flows as quickly as possible.

• If you see fluids on your pet’s coat, it is likely that the needle isn’t in their skin. Reposition the needle so it is in the space under their skin.

• While you are administering fluids, a fluid pouch will swell under their skin. This is normal and will gradually be absorbed. The elasticity of your pet’s skin will determine how much fluid you can place in one location. If you feel the area tighten, remove the needle and administer the rest of the fluid in other locations.

• Close the roller clamp, withdraw the needle then recap it. A small amount of fluid may leak from the injection site, which is common. Also, don’t be concerned if the fluid is slightly tinged with blood—pinch the site closed, and hold it for a few minutes until the leaking stops.

• Depending on how hydrated your pet is, it may take several minutes or even hours for the fluids to absorb. The fluids may be drawn down to your pet’s lower abdomen or legs. If fluids haven’t been absorbed by the time the next fluid administration is due, do not give them any more fluids and consult us.


If you have further questions about administering subcutaneous fluids to your pet, please contact us at 907-479-0001.