There are an array of conditions that may require a prescription for subcutaneous fluid injections. Injuries and conditions affecting the dog's jaw, like a broken jaw or trigeminal neuritis may impair drinking ability, making the injections necessary to maintain proper hydration. Other dogs require subcutaneous fluid injections due to kidney problems. Dogs suffering from chronic kidney failure are often prescribed subcutaneous fluid injections, as this allows the body to more effectively flush toxins from the system. In cases where a pet requires regular fluid injections on a chronic basis, many veterinarians will opt to send the pet owner home with the necessary supplies, rather than schedule the dog for daily or every-other-day visits.
Subcutaneous fluid injections should only be given to your dog per a veterinarian's recommendation. The equipment necessary to perform subcutaneous fluid injections in a dog is only available by prescription. So begin by purchasing an IV bag of Ringer's Solution, IV tubing and a supply of 18-gauge needles.2
While at the vet's office, request a demonstration of the assembly process for the IV components, in addition to a demonstration on the actual injection process. If necessary, take notes during the demonstration.3
Remove the IV bag of Ringer's Solution from its protective bag and remove the rubber covering form the port at the bottom of the bag, as this is where the IV line will be connected. The IV bag typically has a "female" connection port, while the tubing will have a "male" connector component. Connector styles do vary slightly, so pay attention to the assembly process during the veterinarian's demonstration. There are typically several ports near the bottom of the IV bag, with the other ports used for injecting medications into the IV, so it's vital that owners understand which port should be used for connecting the IV line.4
Remove the plastic IV tubing from its bag. Before connecting the line to the bag of fluid, check the clamp on the IV tubing. There will be a small device with a rolling wheel, that will cinch down and clamp the tube to stop the flow of fluid. If the clamp is not in place, fluid will begin flowing from the line when the connection is made between the line and the bag of fluid.5
Once the IV line is clamped, remove the protective cap over the connector that will join the tubing to the bag of Ringer's Solution. Connect the bag and the line immediately after removing the protective cap from the IV line, as it's vital to avoid contamination from bacteria. Again, double check the clamp to be sure that the line is cinched.6
Locate the reservoir on the IV line, situated just below where the tube connects to the bag.This is where you can monitor the flow of the fluid. To ensure that there is a steady flow of fluid, gently squeeze the plastic reservoir and release. The reservoir will partially fill with fluid. Do not fill the reservoir completely or you will be unable to monitor the flow of fluid. Maintaining fluid in the reservoir is important to avoid air bubbles in the line in the event that the flow of fluid is momentarily interrupted.7
Remove an IV needle from the protective wrapper or plastic case, but do not uncap the needle. Place the needle on the end of the IV line. Some IV lines come with a small plastic nut that screws over the spot where the needle connects to the line to better secure the needle in place. Other lines do not have the plastic nut and the needle stays in place with friction.8
The injection process will be much more comfortable if the fluid is warm. Cold fluid will chill the dog during the injection, whereas warm fluid is not as noticeable and the dogs tend to react much better to the warmer injections. So fill a sink or large mixing bowl with very warm water and place the bag of fluid in the water for about ten minutes, occasionally changing the water as it cools.9
Once the IV is assembled and the fluid has been warmed, "test fire" the IV to ensure that the flow of fluid is unobstructed. Uncap the needle and aim it at the sink. Then, loosen the rolling wheel that forms a clamp on the line. The fluid should begin to flow. If the fluid is not flowing, double-check the connections and look for any sections of cinched tubing. Once the flow is unobstructed, you're ready to give the injection. Tighten the clamp on the IV line and re-cap the needle.10
Hang the IV bag on a coat rack or place the bag at another location above the dog to ensure a good flow of fluid.11
Wash your hands using an anti-bacterial soap like Dial.12
Soak a cotton ball or cotton pad with an antiseptic solution like rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Select a location on the dog's scruff, in the area between the shoulder blades, and cleanse the skin in that area. For long-haired dogs, it helps to trim a little bit of hair to allow for better access and a better view of the site.13
During the first few days of injections, the dog will often jump, yelp and nip. So it's best to have a friend or family member assist for the first several days. It typically takes between one and two weeks for the dog to become acclimated to the injections. At this stage in the game, you'll need a second person to soothe and distract the dog, while holding him still as the injection process is performed. This second person should also have control of the dog's head in the event that he attempts to nip. If a dog is prone to nipping, it's best to muzzle the dog until he's become accustomed to the injections.14
Using your thumb, pointer finger and middle finger in a triangular formation, grasp the fleshy skin at the back of the neck, in the vicinity of the shoulder blades at the same location that has been disinfected. Pull the skin up into a "tent," with the fingers still in a triangular arrangement.15
Uncap the needle and inject the entire length of the needle into the skin, just under the pointer finger. Inject the needle with one firm, swift movement. Hesitation or injecting the needle slowly is more painful. Be prepared that the dog may jump from surprise, so keep your elbows bent and ready to move with the dog. The goal is to perform the injection on the first try, because mishaps only mean more needle sticks for your dog.16
Once the needle has been inserted into the skin, release the "tent" and place a finger atop the needle and hold it in place, right at the point where it enters the skin. With your other hand, roll open the little wheel that clamps the IV tubing to begin the flow of fluid. Ideally, the fluid should flow in a steady stream. If the fluid is not flowing, or if it's flowing in drips, rather than a stream, spin the needle slightly. If this does not do the trick, check the section of tubing where the clamp is located. Sometimes the tube will remain slightly compressed, even when the clamp is removed. If a steady flow is still not occurring, clamp the line, remove the needle, troubleshoot the problem and then try again.17
Hold the needle in place and speak soothingly to the dog. Generally speaking, the time when the fluid is flowing under the skin is not painful or uncomfortable, but the experience of being pricked can be scary for some pets. Continue to soothe the pet and monitor the fluid flow.18
Once the prescribed volume of fluid has been injected subcutaneously, clamp the IV line and then remove the needle from the dog's skin. Immediately cap the needle. Leave the needle in place until the next injection and then replace with a fresh needle during the preparation process for the next injection.19
Next, apply pressure to the dog's skin using a cotton ball or cotton pad with hydrogen peroxide. This will help to disinfect the wound site, while stopping any bleeding. Note that some bleeding is not uncommon, and often, the volume of blood appears to be much more than is actually present because the blood will be mixed with the fluid.20
When the injection is complete, the pet will have a bubble of fluid beneath his skin. It's not uncommon for this bubble to shift, to the chest and upper legs. By the time the dog is scheduled for his next injection, the bubble should be completely gone. If the bubble is still remaining to some degree, this means the dog's body did not absorb the entire volume of fluid. If this occurs, speak with your veterinarian who will likely recommend reducing the volume of fluid that will be injected.
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