Fluid Therapy in Animals—Part 2 • Long Beach Post

Part 1 of this article covered informational background on fluid therapy.

Many ill pets need supplemental fluids on a long-term basis, especially cats with chronic kidney disease. Giving these fluids at home in such cases is equivalent to a human with kidney problems having dialysis treatment.

If your pet is amenable to it and is not vomiting, giving supplemental fluids orally is one of the best ways to administer them. Your vet can give you a syringe that is equivalent to a teaspoon, and by putting your pet on your lap and petting it, giving it some of these fluids throughout the day is a good way to give a sick pet the TLC and fluids it needs. Any amount of fluids given this way is a help to correct dehydration.

In cases of chronic diseases involving organs such as the kidneys, oral administration cannot give your pet enough of the fluids it needs. This method, however, can be used in conjunction with giving subcutaneous (SQ) fluids.

SQ fluids are fluids you give at home with a needle and an administration set. The fluids are injected under the scruff of your pet’s skin. When the fluids go under the skin (the subcutaneous area of the body, hence the name), they are slowly absorbed over the next several hours.


Fluid bag with the IV set that will be used to give fluids. Photographs courtesy of Long Beach Animal Hospital (LBAH).


The fluid is injected under the skin of a live animal.

Giving fluids subcutaneously is a tremendously effective way to administer them, whether you’re giving any orally or are not. The time it takes to give them is minimal, the amount given is precise, and the absorption rate of the fluids into the blood stream is steady.

In many cases, these fluids are given once per day. Depending on the age and weight of your pet, the progression of kidney disease, and any other organ disease, these fluids are given up to 3 times per day. The amount your vet directs you to give them will be individualized based on these parameters and your lifestyle.

SQ fluids are given with a needle, and it is understandable that some people might be queasy about this or unable to do it. Your vet should help you overcome this in the following ways:

  • The first time your pet is given SQ fluids, they should demonstrate it to you. All you need to do is watch. You will learn plenty, especially regarding how confidence is the key and how your pet will have minimal reaction to the fluids. When you see how good your pet feels after it gets its fluids, you will see how beneficial they are.
  • When you are ready, our own veterinary administers the fluids with you, holding your hands and going over proper technique. We will do this with you until you realize how easy it is and start doing it on your own at home.
  • Anytime you are giving your fluids at home and having difficulty, call your vet and make an appointment. LBAH offers a no-charge appointment with one of our technicians—bring your fluids, and we will do it for you. This also applies to times when you are out of town and someone else, like a friend or a house sitter, is doing this and having problems.

In the next article in this series, I will go over the specific technique, with photos, of how to do this.

To learn much more about chronic kidney disease from our detailed web page—the most common reason we give fluids, follow this link. To learn more about fluid therapy at LBAH, follow this link.

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