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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. 

Subcutaneous Fluid Administration Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Gracie
Miniature Schnauzer
14 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
anorexia
Nausea
Lethargy

Medication Used

amlodipine
Pimobendan
Amlodipine Aluminum hydroxide gel

Gracie has kidney disease and very high levels of phosphorus. Her vet gave her sub-a fluids today and advised us to administer them at home for 6 more days. We have instructions, but I’m terrified of accidentally harming her or worse with these. Is this even advised? If so do you have any advice on how to do it properly? So scared and heartbroken about my girl.

My puppy is 8 wks old and he recently went to the vet and got SQ Fluids yesterday. It is now the next day and He is urinating excessively. Is that normal?

My dog revived this injection, and now a week later he has a solid plate of flesh where the fluid was injected on his back. Is that normal?

SO sorry to hear about Gracie's troubles. We administered sub-q fluids to our cat years ago daily for a period. Actually today I administered to our 15 year old Shepard who is dehydrated. You get used to it and it is easy to do. I agree with Rachel have a tech show you or do walk you thru it the first couple of times. Good luck. Hope she gets better soon!

Hi Gracies owner. So sorry to hear Gracies not feeling well. I also have one in renal failure. My husband and I have been administering sub-q fluids ourselves every other day for about 6 months. It’s not hard but have a tech teach you and have someone that can hold her for you. The first few times are overwhelming but it gets better. She may need it on a weekly basis going forward like ours has due to kidney disease. Also, if she wasn’t put in a phosphorous binder ask about one. High phosphorus can make them feel bad and isn’t safe. Hope Gracie gets to feeling better!

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Bella
Border Collie
14 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Weakness

My 14 yr old 46lb dog has stage 3 kidney disease last creation was 3.1. A month ago we were giving her 200ml a day. We had to switch her food a couple times and last week I was feeding by hand. Vet said ok to increase to 400ml a day. Vet said nothing more can be done and she not in pain but feels like a bad flu. We give the 400ml in evening in one sitting. How does fluids make her feel immediately after? Meaning is there an immediate relief of hydration? Should we split it into 2 200ml doses instead of one? To help w feeding is there a better time to give the fluids? Thank you

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
The fluids that you are giving Bella probably don't cause immediate relief, but are keeping her hydrated so that she doesn't feel sluggish and terrible otherwise. If she is doing well on 400 mLs once daily, that is less poking for her than twice daily. Maintaining appetite is an ongoing battle with kidney disease, and she may benefit from phosphate binders or appetite stimulants, which you can discuss with your veterinarian.

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Kent
German Shepherd
14 Years
Mild condition
1 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss

Can subcutaneous fluid gives nausea to my dog?
Also, he is now a 60 pound 14yo German Shepherd , how much should I give to him just to keep him hydrated? He is not eating and drinking as much now.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
The amount of fluids given isn’t based purely on weight, but also the percentage of dehydration; this is something which is evaluated by your Veterinarian. The article below covers the process of calculating fluid therapy but you should visit your Veterinarian to determine dehydrated, any underlying conditions and if any other treatment is required. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM http://veterinaryteam.dvm360.com/fluid-therapy-calculating-rate-and-choosing-correct-solution

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J
mongrel
5 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

Medication Used

Sucralfate

Hi J has kidney disease and got dehydrated from not being able to keep food or water down. I was advised to give him sub-q Nacl twice a day from once a day. 10 hours after he threw up a clear mucus-like fluid with white foam about 5 times. It contains food bits. Each time it's quite a large amount of fluid but he has not drunk that much water. What is he throwing up? Is this related to the subcutaneous fluid? We are keeping him off food for 24 hrs to rest his system. But keeping him on probiotics antacid and anti vomit meds as prescribed.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
The stomach produces fluid whether there is food or water in it or not, and the fluid he is producing isn't related to your SQ fluids. Those fluids are probably helping to replace that fluid loss. I hope that he does well.

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Diesel
Boxer
10 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Darting eyes head tilt off balance

Diesel was given sub q fluids for dehydration after being diaganosed with vestibular diesease due to a ruptured eat drum causing an inner ear infection. He was given the fluids around 5pm it is now 130 am and he still has not urinated. Is this cause for concern? The fluid "pockets" have since been absorbed or so it appears as they are no longer visible yet he still has not used the bathroom. I am growing more concerned but unsure as to whether it is a cause for concern or if that is normal and may take a while. The vet and her techs all said he should have to use the bathroom soon after getting the fluids. Please help!

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
Generally once fluids are given and absorbed, urination soon follows; however if he was very dehydrated and the fluids given were not enough to balance the fluid deficiency, then urination may not be so rapid. Keep an eye on Diesel, but if he hasn’t urinated by morning you should return to your Veterinarian for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Eli
Mastiff
8 Years
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

I had my dog on sub Q fluids for dehydration from apneumonia caused by his condition megaesophagus. aspiration is what caused it.
I was told I could inject the meds for the shots he needed into the IV port instead of poking him another 3 times but after I did that his condition worsened and he stopped breathing and died.
Could giving the meds that way killed him?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
I am sorry that that happened to Eli, that is very sad. Without knowing what medications were given, I don't have any way of knowing the effect, but if they were given subcutaneously through the line port vs subcutaneously into his skin, there should not have been any difference. He likely succumbed to his pneumonia, as that can be a very serious condition. I am sorry for your loss.

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Eddie
Miniature Pinscher
13 Years+
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Kidney
Mild Incontinence

My 13 yo MinPin was diagnosed with kidney disease 10 months ago, and the Vet recommended SC fluids about 4 months ago. We have to have the Vet administer, and she recommended 2x a week, "to get his numbers down". My question is, should we be seeing changes in energy level if we go to 1x a week, or is the effect not that noticeable? I ask because schedules sometimes don't leave time in a week to go to the Vet twice. Thanks, Steve

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
It really depends on the severity of Eddie’s kidney disease and his response to treatment, fluid therapy is an important aspect of care; the blood test values and Eddie’s general condition will have an indication but each case is different and I cannot comment, you should discuss this with your Veterinarian to work with them on this. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Charlie
Dachshund
16 Years
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Lethargic
Rapid breathing
cant stand

Medication Used

Vetmedin
Furosemide

MY dog has CHF,has been ok on meds for 2 yrs. Lately has been listless,anorexic, not drinking water. Blood tests show parasite neg. High kidney enzymes Etc. Today had 2nd day of fluid therapy subcutaneous. Both times,he has gotten worse hours after. Heart rate increased, can barely walk, almost non responsive. Last night coughing increased, heart was failing fast. Have him diuretic, hours laher he got better. Today, hours after fluids, he's getting bad again. Vet says he needs the fluids but this seems wrong bc he's getting worse after.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
The problem is that Charlie needs fluids for some physiological functions but the fluids are causing issues for other physiological functions, the body needs to keep hydrated but need to have increased renal clearance of urine; if Charlie doesn’t get fluids he will become dehydrated, his blood will become more viscous causing the heart to work harder causing other issues, he also needs fluids if his kidney values are high. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Ellie
Pit bull
4 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

none

How long should it take for the fluids to absorb into the body? She got hers done around 12pm today and she still has quite a bit of fluid still left in her shoulder area.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Thank you for contacting us about Ellie today. Depending on the amount of fluid administered, it can take between 1 and 24 hours for the fluid to completely absorb. I can't say that I've ever seen a time when the fluid didn't absorb eventually. if you are still concerned tomorrow, please book a recheck with your veterinarian to make sure everything is okay.

My 11 year old terrier mix was given Subcutaneous fluids by a vet who was new to the practice. When my fur baby was brought back to me she was definitely terrified of both the vet and tech. On the way home I noticed she became agitated and seem to be losing strength in her hind quarters. That was on a Sunday. Twelve hours later she was getting worse. She started bucking her back legs and then lost all control of her legs. As we rushed her to emergency she was fighting for her life. We could not save her and I honestly believed the vet either game her too much or placed the needle incorrectly and perhaps it her central nervous system. I blame myself for not waiting until the next morning to see our personal vet. Jewell was diabetic and the reason we went is that she all of a sudden was not keeping down any water and had no appetite. I did not want it to get any worse so my vet was not working that day and decided to see this new vet. We paid for my mistake dearly by losing our fur baby.

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