What is Subcutaneous Fluid Administration?

Subcutaneous fluid administration for dogs is the act of injecting a solution of sterile fluids directly underneath the canine’s skin. The medical term for underneath the skin is subcutaneous, with “sub” meaning underneath and “-cutaneous” referring to the skin. Subcutaneous fluid administration may be required for a number of circumstances in which the dog has inadequate body level fluids. The procedure is usually performed by a veterinarian, but some treatments have been performed by dog owners. Delivering subcutaneous fluids at home is not advised, as fluids overload or improper needle placement can result in fatality. 

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Subcutaneous Fluid Administration Procedure in Dogs

Subcutaneous fluid administration requires a fluid bag, fluid drip set, and needle. The amount of fluids to be administered to the dog are based on the dog’s physical state, health, and past conditions. A review of the canine’s medical history, a physical examination, urinalysis and blood analysis will likely take place before fluids administration begins. 

The veterinarian or veterinary staff will begin by assembling the equipment, including the fluid bag and drip set. 

  1. The fluid bag and drip set will be removed from the sterile packaging. 
  2. The fluid line will be locked by rolling the lock gauge upward, preventing fluid from leaving the bag during assembly. 
  3. The protective cap will be removed from the bag of fluids and the fluid set will be pushed into the fluid bag’s exit port. 
  4. The bulb located at the top of the drip set will be squeezed to allow fluids from the fluid bag to collect in this small, flexible cylinder. The bulb will be approximately ½ full with sterile fluids. 
  5. The protective cap at the end of the fluid set’s tubing will be removed and the rolling lock will be opened. Fluid will be allowed to freely flow through the tubing, removing air from the fluid line. 
  6. Once all air bubbles are removed from the line, the fluid set will once again be closed and protective caps will be placed back on the line. 

Once the fluids are assembled, the veterinarian or member of the staff will choose a location to administer the fluids underneath the dog’s skin. Common locations for subcutaneous fluid administration include the level of the shoulder blades, just left or right of the midline, or at the level of the back legs. A roll of skin will be pinched and pulled upward, then the needle will be inserted into the skin. The doctor may choose to tape the needle into place or simply monitor the location after fluid administration begins. 

After the needle is in place, the fluid line will be attached to the placed needle and the lock will be opened. The fluids are released from the bag at a drip rate per minute, delivered over a time of 10 to 15 minutes. The veterinarian will calculate this drip rate based on the dog’s weight and hydration needs. 

Efficacy of Subcutaneous Fluid Administration in Dogs

Subcutaneous fluid administration is highly effective in restoring hydration to the canine patient. 

Subcutaneous Fluid Administration Recovery in Dogs

Subcutaneous fluid administration is prescribed to patients for a number of conditions and the recovery time, as well as how long fluids are needed, depend on the specific circumstance. 

Cost of Subcutaneous Fluid Administration in Dogs

Subcutaneous fluid administration costs about $80 in most veterinary clinics, but emergency care providers may charge higher than the average vet. 

Dog Subcutaneous Fluid Administration Considerations

Subcutaneous fluid administration for dogs should only be administered by a licensed veterinarian or member of the veterinary staff. This therapy is highly beneficial, but can affect the heart, lungs and kidneys if administer incorrectly. Older patients should be closely monitored during subcutaneous fluid administration, as older dogs are at a higher risk for adverse effects. 

Subcutaneous Fluid Administration Prevention in Dogs

Dehydration is a common and easily preventable condition that is treated with subcutaneous fluid administration. Allowing a dog to drink freely and stay hydrated during warmer months of the year can easily prevent dehydration.