Administering Subcutaneous Fluid at Home

Veterinarian Reviewed on January 31, 2008 by Dr. Janice Huntingford


In addition to a variety of other illnesses, animals suffering from chronic kidney disease will often require subcutaneous fluid administration. Essentially, subcutaneous fluid administration is the delivery of fluids below the skin of an animal (or human). Fluid administration is aimed at providing a sick patient with the necessary water to maintain bodily functions and to promote the recovery of healthy vitals. Regardless of the reason your pet requires subcutaneous fluid administration, you probably have questions about the equipment you’ll need to use as well as techniques for successfully administering fluids.


There are 3 basic tools you’ll need in order to administer subcutaneous fluids to your pet: a needle, a drip set, and a fluid bag. Needles come in a variety of sizes and tend to be colour coded depending on the gauge of the needle. Higher gauges are associated with smaller needles (i.e. an 18 gauge needle is larger than a 20 gauge needle) and smaller needles tend to be less painful for your pet. Usually a veterinarian will recommend the best size of needle for your pet. Disposing of needles needs to be done carefully. You should have a plastic container at home where you can deposit used needles. Uncapped needles disposed of in bags can be dangerous and cause injury.

The drip set constitutes a long plastic tube that attaches to the fluid bag and the needle. Bags are available in a variety of drop sizes which indicate the speed in which fluid will be administered. Larger drop sizes indicate faster fluid administration. Most vets will recommend a drop size larger than 20 drops per cubic centimetre. Drip sets have a small valve along the plastic tube that will allow you to open and close the line to fluids. Be mindful of kinks in the plastic tubing as this will impede the flow of fluids. In addition, drip sets will have a transparent cylinder that will show you the pace of fluid administration. If this cylinder is completely full it indicates that there is a problem with the flow of fluids.

Finally, fluid bags are the bags which hold the fluid. Pretty simple, isn’t it? Basically, the fluid bag connects to the drip set which connects to the needle which is inserted under your pet’s skin.

Procedure for Administration

Assuming that the drip set, needle and fluid bag are connected, you are ready to insert the needle under your pet’s skin. First, hang the fluid bag above the level of your pet so that gravity can force fluids down the drip set. Next, remove the cap from the needle and pinch a sizeable fold of your pet’s skin along the back of its neck. Firmly push the needle through the fold of skin at the centre of the fold and then relax your grip on your pet’s skin. Finally, you will need to open the valve on the drip set so that fluid can begin to flow. Once your pet has received the desired amount of fluid, remove the needle, replace the cap, and dispose of it.

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Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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