Preparing Subcutaneous Fluids - DogsMost dogs with K9 OSA tolerate being given subcutaneous fluids (SQ), fluid given under the skin, with no problem if/when needed. It will be absorbed into the blood stream and can be used to correct or prevent dehydration when a dog is unable to drink enough water on his or her own

The most frequent disease for which fluids are given is chronic kidney failure. Dogs with chronic kidney failure pass large amounts of urine and may not feel well enough to drink enough to prevent dehydration. For this ailment, subcutaneous fluids are generally given a few times a week to supplement the water your dog is drinking in order to prevent dehydration and help flush waste products through the kidneys.

But dehydration can also happen with a rapid detox, as a reaction to chemotherapy, and when a dog is vomiting and/or has diarrhea.

It usually takes 6 to 8 hours for all the fluids to be absorbed. So, before giving more fluids, check to see if the previously administered fluids have been absorbed. Even though fluids are given on the back, due to gravity fluids will accumulate on the belly, so check for residual fluids on the tummy before giving more. If the fluids are not being fully absorbed, check with your veterinarian.

Your vet will supply you with what you need and tell you how much fluid should be given daily or weekly relative to your dog’s weight and particular situation. There is a safe amount that is able to be given to a dog or cat on a daily basis if need be. A nine pound cat, for instance, can be given a total of 200 ml. daily: 100ml, 2Xs a day for CRF. (After a time on this schedule, potassium supplementation might be needed, so it’s important to work closely with your vet.)

I have a number of pets and always keep a bag or two of Lactated Ringers, a set up, and needles handy. One day, when I felt Nikki needed extra fluids, despite drinking water incessantly for a couple of days while on his Ayurvedic program. I called my vet to see how much fluid a dog his weigh could be given subcutaneously. He gave me the amount. The next day, Nikki was sufficiently hydrated, so I didn’t repeat the procedure. Still, I took him in for a blood profile to be sure he was doing okay.

The first time I gave sub-Q fluids to my cat, I admit, it was a “white knuckle” procedure. I am not a techy type of person and have to “feel” what I am doing regardless of accepted protocols. So if you’re doing this for the first time, just grit your teeth and stay relaxed in the eyes of your pet. If you’re feeling weird, they, of course, will sense it.

Once you do this a couple of times, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. It’s really easy to do. Just hook everything up, keeping things sterile, release some fluid from the line so you don’t have any air bubbles, and you’re set to go. (I confess to having a couple of air bubbles in the line myself. Don’t panic. This is going under the skin, not into a blood vessel.)

Supplies used in giving subcutaneous fluids will vary by manufacturer and may differ slightly from the videos below, but there’s not that much of a difference to cause confusion.


What you will need:

  • A bag of fluids: Lactated Ringers or Sodium Chloride (usually your vet will give you Lactated Ringers)
  • An administration, or drip, set (this is the tubing, or line, that runs from the bag to the needle)
  • Needles: one of two types: 18 gauge (larger); 20 gauge (smaller) (my vet generally recommends the 18 gauge even for cats. The needle is not that much larger and the flow is faster causing less stress for your pet)


Setting Up

Remove the bag from its wrapping. There should be a notch on the side or top so you can easily rip the wrapper away from the bag.

Once free from the wrapping, you’ll notice that the tip of the bag has a tab on it which easily comes away with a tug. The end will be sealed so fluid doesn’t flow out of the bag, but don’t touch the area or allow it to contact anything so as to keep it sterile.

Remove the administration (drip line) set from its wrapping, At one end, will be a covered spike. Remove the sheath, being careful not to touch the sterile spike. Insert the spike into the end of the bag by gently twisting the spike back and forth as you insert it. Make certain you are inserting the spike perfectly horizontal with the bag or you could pierce the bag.

Drip line inserted, hang the bag in a high place over the area where you will be giving the fluids to your dog. Since the drip will be working with gravity, hang the bag as high as possible while still being able to read the hash marks on the bag.

Prime the chamber (this is the clear plastic area between the bag and the actual tubing). You will want it half filled with fluid so you can see how fast your drip is moving. If it is less than half full, gently squeeze and release the plastic chamber until you are at the half full mark. If your chamber is overfull, hold the bag upside down and squeeze the chamber to release some of the fluid back into the bag.

Next release any air in the line by releasing the clamp on the line to allow some of the fluid to drain into a sink or pan. This will clear the line of any air bubbles.

Replace the sheath on the end of the tube to keep it sterile.

Remove the sheath from your needle by twisting it to expose the hub and place it on the end of the tubing. Your setup is now complete.

Looking at the bag, you will see that each hash mark is 50 ml., except for the first which is 100 ml. So as you administer the fluids, you will be able to check on how much you pet is being given.

This video will give you a clear visual for setting up.



Administering the fluids:

Once your set up is complete and bag in place, you are set to administer the fluids. Either place your pet on a table or wherever it is comfortable for you to work. If your pet needs a little distraction, a snack or a toy should work.

Positioning your pet: If you’re left handed, have your pet face right. This will allow you to slip the needle in easily. If you are right handed, reverse the position. Feeling over the shoulder blades, make a little tent by lifting the skin in the shoulder blade area. There is a good deal of excess skin in this area to allow for the fluid pocket you will be injecting.

Note: If your dog has an abnormal immune system, e.g., is on anti-cancer drugs, several areas of hair may be shaved and injection sites scrubbed with an antiseptic solution like Novalsan or Betadine before inserting the needle in order to avoid  pushing bacteria under the skin.

Insert the needle (as per video) into the tent, keeping the needle parallel with the body. Don’t aim the needle down, sideways or up, easing the skin over the needle. When the needle is totally inserted (no metal showing), open the clamp to allow the fluid to flow.

When the correct amount of fluid has been given, close off your clamp and remove the needle by pulling it straight out, while pinching off the area in which the needle had been inserted, to prevent leakage of the fluids.

Recap the needle and replace the used needle with a new one for the next treatment.

While this clip demonstrates administering Sub-Q fluids with a cat, it is excellent


And this video will show you how casual administering subcutaneous fluids for dogs can be.



For osteosarcoma in dogs, especially if you’ve chosen chemotherapy, it’s good to have a Sub-Q set up at home. Emergencies always seem to happen at night or on the weekends when only the ER is open.

More ways to administer Subcutaneous Fluids for Dogs.

Filed under: Dehydration in Dogs

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