How to Give Your Pet Fluids at Home

A pet may need subcutaneous fluids at home depending on their disease or treatment plan. It can be daunting to poke your pet at home with a needle, but we are here to say that you can do it!! 

Subcutaneous fluids come from a bag and fluids flow down a line into a needle and into your pet. The fluids do not go into their bloodstream, they simply sit under the skin and form a fluid bubble that will eventually be absorbed into your pet’s body to hydrate them. Being hydrated is extremely important for us and our pets too. This is the easiest way to hydrate a pet at home when they are too ill to drink or don’t drink enough water. 

  1. First, you will need a bag of fluids, a fluid line, and a few 18 gauge needles. If you are giving fluids to a cat, a towel could be helpful to restrain them in a burrito! 
  2. Next, put together the fluid system. Open up the bag and the line, but make sure to leave the needle closed until you are ready to use it. Many fluid bags have two openings at the bottom for the line, some only have one. If the bag has two, take off one of the caps and insert the fluid line after removing the plastic covering. Try not to let anything touch the top of the line before inserting it and twisting it into the bag. The fluids will start to flow immediately, so bend part of the line and let the top vial fill slowly. Then tip the bag right side up until fluid comes out the end of the line. To stop and start the fluids roll down the clamp. To attach the needle, open the end where the line attaches to the needle and twist it on. You can use a smaller needle, but it will flow much slower into your pet, making this experience more stressful. Always use a new, clean needle! 
  3. Now it’s time to give your pet the fluids. Gently grasp a nice loose part of their skin behind their neck and make a tent. Remove the cap from the needle and insert the needle into the skin bevel side up. Now this will be uncomfortable for your pet, they may jump or yelp during the initial poke. Some are more sensitive than others. Roll down the clamp to let the fluids start hydrating your pet.
  4. Your veterinarian will tell you how many milliliters to give to your pet each time. Each dash stands for 100 milliliters of fluid and the bag has 1000 milliliters in total. It is important not to overload the pet with fluids, so be sure to only give the prescribed amount. Your pet will develop a fluid pocket under the skin and it can move around. In general, it should be absorbed within a couple of hours.
  5. It can be helpful to have another person nearby to help you distract the pet and give them a lot of love and treats while they receive the fluids. Hang the bag of fluids up high or squeeze the bag to speed this process along.
  6. When you remove the needle from your pet, do so quickly and hold the area with some gauze or tissue. There may be a little blood or fluids that leak from the fluid pocket, which is okay. Put pressure on the area for a few minutes or until it is no longer leaking. 

Watch our tutorial below for a walkthrough with Technician, Julie, and one of our blood donors, Quinn the Black Lab! 

Treats are important before, during, and after this experience to make it a positive one. Go slow and don’t rush the process, your pet will need time to get used to this if they need fluids every week or every day. Please let us know if you still have any questions, our team is here 24/7 to guide you through this process.