Subcutaneous Fluids at Home

We will begin by assuming that the drip set, needle, and fluid bag are already connected and the patient has been placed on the work surface (floor, table, counter, back of sofa, etc). The fluid set should be hanging from a location higher than the level of the patient.

Either a second person can hold the fluids, or a wall mounted towel or coat hanger can work.  The bag can be set on its side at a level higher than the patient, but you will not be able to see the drip flow if the bag is not hanging vertically and you will probably get lots of air in the line.

Pick up a handful of skin at the patient’s scruff.  This area has a sparse population of nerve endings and the needle is likely to hurt the least in this area.  The farther toward the tail you go with the needle, the more the patient will feel the stick.  Note that a “triangle” is formed in the skin when you pull up on the scruff.

Uncap the needle and boldly stick it through the skin, right in the center of the triangle.  You should feel a slight punch as the thick skin is penetrated.  You may relax your grip a bit depending on your confidence that your pet will continue to sit still.

Open the drip set clamp and let the desired amount of fluid run in.  A small bulge will appear under the patient’s skin as fluid accumulates there.

  • If the needle has gone through the skin and out the other side, a stream of fluid will be seen coming from the patient’s skin. If this occurs simply pull the needle slightly back toward you but not all the way out so that the needle will again be positioned under the skin.  If this is too hard, simply close the drip set clamp and start over.
  • If the drip rate in the chamber seems slow, change the angle of the needle insertion slightly with your fingers until you get a better drip rate.

When the proper amount of fluid has been delivered, close the clamp, withdraw the needle, recap it and dispose of it.  Replace with a fresh capped needle.  If a relatively large amount of fluid is to be delivered, you may have been instructed to administer fluids in two locations.  If so, repeat the procedure for the second area.

  • After fluid administration, the bulge of fluids will tend to droop down around the front legs or chest.  This is normal but if this bulge has not resolved by the time you are supposed to give fluids next, do not give the next fluid dose.  This would mean that your pet’s circulation is not good enough to absorb the fluids or that your pet simply does not need the extra fluids.  In either case, report this to your veterinarian and your instructions will probably be revised.