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General Practice & Preventative Medicine


Everybody needs water, the most important of all nutrients. Humans are lucky; we can usually drink fluids when we need them. But when animals don’t feel well, they stop drinking. During illness your dog has a greater need for water and can become dehydrated rapidly. In fact, a loss of just 10 percent of body fluid can cause your pet some trouble. It is most important, therefore, that you replace the lost fluids and prevent dehydration.

Fluids can be given in a number of ways. In a hospital setting, intravenous fluids through an intravenous catheter is the most common method. And in emergency situations, fluids are sometimes administered into the abdominal cavity. Your dog can also receive fluids subcutaneously, in the area just under the skin and on top of the underlying muscle. In animals with loose skin over their backs this area works well for fluid administration. The advantages of subcutaneous fluids are the ease of administration, convenience and low cost. Most commonly, they are used in home treatment of mild to moderate kidney disease. However, they are not appropriate for treatment of shock or severe dehydration.

Your dog will probably receive subcutaneous fluids at a veterinary clinic. Then you can take your pet home while the fluids absorb slowly throughout the day. If he needs repeated doses, you can learn to administer subcutaneous fluids at home.


Injectable fluids come in various forms, but only a few should be used for subcutaneous administration. Lactated ringers, 0.9% saline, Ringer’s, Normosol-R, and Plasmalyte are most commonly used. Fluids containing dextrose or sugar solutions should be avoided. These can result in infection at the site of injection or severe skin irritation resulting in possible necrosis (dead tissue).


In order to administer subcutaneous fluid, you will need a bag of fluid, fluid tubing and a needle. The fluid bag and tubing can be used repeatedly but the needle should be changed frequently.


Subcutaneous fluid administration relies on gravity. Connect the bag to the tubing and suspend the bag from an area above the pet. Attach the needle to the tubing. In order to clear the air out of the tubing, open the clamp and allow the fluid to run through the tubing to the outside.

Once the air is removed, close the clamp. Fluids are usually given in the area between the shoulder blades. Clean the area of the skin you have chosen with alcohol. Pinch the skin and insert the needle into the skin fold. The needle may appear quite large but using a larger needle makes the fluid administration go significantly faster and reduces the time your pet must stay restrained in one area.

Once you have placed the needle correctly, let go of the fold and open the clamp on the tubing. The fluid should begin flowing under the skin. If the fluid is dripping very slowly, reposition the needle.

When fluids have been administered, remove the needle and hold gentle pressure on the site for one or two minutes. You may see some of the fluid leaking out of the needle hole, but this is normal and won’t cause any problems


The amount of fluid you should give depends upon the severity of dehydration. Your veterinarian will tell you how much fluid to give. Try not to exceed 100 milliliters per site unless directed by your veterinarian. If your pet needs 200 mls of fluid every three days, you should give 100 mls in one area, remove the needle and place the needle a little further down on the back and give the second dose of 100 mls.

If the skin becomes tight, stop giving fluids in that area. If your pet is due for another dose of fluids and you think you can still feel fluids under the skin, do not administer more fluids until you consult with your veterinarian.

With patience and practice, you and your dog can become used to the routine of subcutaneous fluid administration. Your pet will stay comfortable and hydrated without the stress of the veterinary clinic.


Easier said than done. I've done this procedure twice without a problem, but last night my dog yelped, which ended it for me. The vet techs "told" me how to do the procedure, but I'd rather have "seen" it done. If you love your animal, you know that causing pain makes you wince, then witness the procedure prior to doing it yourself.
Posted @ Sunday, August 26, 2012 6:35 AM by Eric Butler
Eric, it would be no problem at all if you would like to bring your pet in and have a technician physically show you the best ways to administer sub-Q fluids. If you would like give us a call at 217-877-4393 and we would be happy to set an appointment up for you today! 
Let us know if there is anything else we can do to help! 
-Anthony @ NPC
Posted @ Monday, August 27, 2012 10:46 AM by Northgate Pet Clinic
Hello I have been searching for an issue with my dog. She was pregnant and at vet for 5 days just over 3 weeks ago. She is finally feeling spry again and nursing her 1 puppy that survived today. When she came over to me I started massaging her with both hands. Fingers from either hand running down from her neck to her tail and I felt the weirdest thing ...AND HEARD IT! It is popping like there is air or fluid just under her coat, all along her back and sides. 
It sounded like wee pieces of bubble wrap popping and I am frantically searching for causes and found your site.  
I called the vet today and no one was available to talk to and haven't heard back yet. I am beside myself with worry.  
Since she had fluids at vet and it has been 3 weeks I figure it shouldn't be from that. 
Do I need to rush her in to another vet? Can you help me with ANY Suggestions Please?  
THANK YOU! Rhonda 
Posted @ Thursday, December 12, 2013 7:59 PM by Rhonda
We have had the same issue with feeling bubbles under the skin and are also in the dark as to what it is!
Posted @ Friday, January 31, 2014 3:32 PM by Carine
My baby girl a 3yr old shih Tzu is diagnosed with CRF and my vet said that she will not last long. He said to give her subq 2x a day. I am concerned that with at much poking in her back it will make it sore. Is that too much? her BUN level is 168. She cried when I tried it on her thigh. Please advise - Thank you!
Posted @ Sunday, August 03, 2014 1:07 AM by Terry
Although CRF is terminal, it can be managed. When administering fluids, do you lift the skin first before inserting the needle? Do you have the smallest size available? We used #18. There is a very helpful forum on Facebook which can give you more tips: Canine Kidney Disease.
Posted @ Sunday, August 03, 2014 9:54 AM by Carine
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