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What is Fluid Therapy?

Fluid therapy is the act of replenishing a canine with adequate fluids when they have been depleted due to mediated disease or trauma. Fluid therapy can be administered to a dog intravenously (through the vein), subcutaneous (under the skin), intraosseous (through bone marrow), or intraperitoneal (through the abdominal wall).

There are three different types of fluids that are used in canine fluid therapy:

  • Fluids containing isotonic crystalloids match the same solute concentration of blood and therefore will mimic the osmotic pressure.
  • Colloids supply oncotic pressure, found in both natural and synthetic norms. 
  • Hypertonic saline, which is a fluid therapy element that creates a high osmotic pressure within the vascular space.

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Fluid Therapy Procedure in Dogs

Fluid therapy is individualized and tailored to each condition, as well as the canine. The location in which the fluid is infused, fluid composition, rate, and fluid volume are dictated by the needs of the patient. Fluid therapy can be administered to a dog intravenously (through the vein), subcutaneous (under the skin), intraosseous (through the bone), or intraperitoneal (through the abdomen). In general, the procedure for administration of fluid therapy is ideally the same with the placement of a catheter and rate of administration being the only differences. 

  1. The veterinarian will determine the site of administration (intravenously, subcutaneous, intraosseous, or intraperitoneal).
  2. The type of fluid will be determined based on the dog’s condition (Isotonic Crystalloids, Colloids, Hypertonic Saline) and an IV bag will be prepared. 
  3. The fluid rate will be calculated. Maintenance fluid therapy for dogs is 132 x body weight (kg) per 24 hours. 
  4. The size of the catheter will be determined, placing the largest catheter possible to provide adequate rates of fluid.
  5. The fluid therapy catheter will be prepped for placement. Saline solution is run through the port (the connective device for the catheter) and it is swabbed with alcohol.  
  6. The hair will be clipped and cleansed to perform a sterile preparation. 
  7. The catheter used for fluid therapy is equipped with a needle to allow penetration of the skin. The catheter will pierce the skin, the plastic catheter will be pushed into the skin (or vein) as the needle is pulled out.
  8. The end of the catheter is capped off to prevent bleeding as it is taped into place. 
  9. Once the catheter is taped into place, the cap is removed and the IV line is connected. 
  10. An IV bag full of the pre-prepared fluids will be connected to the line and the valve will be opened to the pre-calculated flow rate. 


Efficacy of Fluid Therapy in Dogs

Fluid therapy can achieve adequate resuscitation rapidly and the retained fluid can aid in intravascular expansions for up to 12 hours (colloids). Isotonic Crystalloid fluid therapy is inexpensive and readily available for emergencies. Fluid therapy is also beneficial in encouraging the canine to eliminate, which removes excessive solutes from the body. A hypertonic saline solution in fluid therapy improves cardiovascular function, stimulated myocardial contractions, and peripheral blood flow, which is needed in shock patients. This type of fluid therapy also helps to normalize cell function, benefiting those with circulatory shock, penetrating wounds, and brain trauma.

Fluid Therapy Recovery in Dogs

Fluid therapy treatment, in itself, does not typically require a recovery period, but the catheter site should be monitored for signs of irritation or infection.

Cost of Fluid Therapy in Dogs

The cost of fluid therapy depends on the type of fluid used during therapy, the duration and volume of fluid used. A dog placed on fluid therapy will require professional monitoring, which requires hospitalization and adds to your expense. Additional drugs, emergency care, and procedures will also be added onto your veterinary bill. However, the average cost of fluid therapy is roughly $70-$100, though these numbers will vary by clinic. 

Dog Fluid Therapy Considerations

The use of synthetic colloids as a fluid therapy poses a risk for acquired coagulopathy. Isotonic Crystalloids can cause pose a risk for the absence of clotting factors in the blood, diluted red blood cells, and interstitial edema. Hypertonic Saline is fast acting, but short-lived to less than one hour. The administration of this fluid therapy poses a risk for abnormal heart rhythms and can’t be used in dehydrated patients. The solutions actually pulls water from the intracellular and interstitial sites in the dog’s body, creating a disturbance in electrolyte values.

Fluid Therapy Prevention in Dogs

Fluid therapy is used to treat a number of conditions and may be used in conjunction with numerous other treatments and procedures. Your ability to prevent conditions that lead to the use of fluid therapy will depend on the condition at hand, but good care practices, including providing a safe environment, adequate nutrition and access to clean water, can help keep your dog in good overall health.

Fluid Therapy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

14 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Brown vomit/diarrhoea. Bleeding gum

Medication Used

Buprecare.Ranitidine inj. Amoxicill

My 14yr yorkie has stopped eating and drinking for 2 days..vomitted Brown fluid and some diarrhoea. Previous removal of melatonic melanoma from mouth and one lymph node 1 year ago. C/o ranitidine and buprecare on oral abx but not toleration oral fluid.Also aneamic. Would iv fluids benefit?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1406 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Without seeing Clyde or knowing more what is going on with him, it is hard for me to comment on what might be going on with him, but if he is vomiting and not eating, he is so little that he is probably getting dehydrated. Often IV fluids do help just to keep these kids hydrated, while your veterinarian figures out what is actually wrong with him. I hope that he is okay.

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American Pit Bull Terrier
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Gagging, drive heaving, gulping swalloong

Will fluid therepy improve and provide and extend her life several more months as she is in stage four I believe renal failure. She eats once a day ( picky and very little), stares, seems confused, dropped weight from 57 lbs a year ago and 40 lbs now. Creatine is 6.8 and Bun is 180. I know there is no cure but she doesn't appear to be in pain, just not herself and scared of any kind of steps

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2992 Recommendations

Staging of renal failure using creatinine usually means that levels above 5.0mg/dL are stage IV. Fluid therapy is a cornerstone of management of dogs with azotemia (increase in nitrogen containing products in the body) as it will ensure that the dog remains hydrated, increase blood volume and will increase hydrostatic pressure. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Will this treatment be a lot uncomfortable or painful ? Does he have to spend the night at the lab ?

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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
10 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Congenital renal dysplasia

Medication Used

Aluminum hydroxide
Pepcid 10mg 1/4 4x day

Hello, can you explain why you cannot use a peripheral venous catheter type needle while giving subcutaneous fluids to a dog. We have a wiggly puppy that we try to keep secure and calm, but can only do so for so long. Sometimes he will not stand the 10 minute procedure and having the metal needle in him is very scary. Any advice. Thanks.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2992 Recommendations

Venous catheters are not very strong and can easily be kinked and damaged when not used for their intended purpose; having a wiggly puppy would probably cause the catheter to move too much and may impede the flow of fluids. Venous catheters are usually placed in a vein and then secured to a limb (usually) with bandage and tape or sutured into position. Whilst a needle may seem scary, there is little to go wrong; Bentley can move around and the needle will stay in the same position unless something or someone knocks it into him, if he runs away the needle will just fall out. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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