Vet Tech Expert Advice: How To Give Your Pet Subcutaneous Fluids

by Sara Unverfehrt on May 18, 2016 in

This article will help you give your pets subcutaneous fluids. Subcutaneous (or SQ) fluid treatments are most commonly recommended for pet’s with chronic renal disease (CRD) or kidney failure. As a Certified Veterinary Technician, I have worked with many families, teaching them out to perform these treatments at home to help them manage their pet’s disease. Although it sounds overwhelming, it can be very manageable with the right information, help, and practice.

First and Foremost:

SQ fluids should only be administered under the direction of your veterinarian. They’ll be able to easily provide you with what you need, as well as directions on how much to give. There are a few situations where your pet may react adversely to fluids, especially if they have an advanced heart condition.


Every pet is going to be different! I’ve developed a comfortable routine that works well for me, with a number of tweaks and adjustments that can be made depending on your comfort level, your pet’s comfort level, and what is needed to set you both up forsuccess. Here are a few tips from my playbook!

How I Give Subcutaneous Fluids

In the previous segment, I discussed how to set up your fluid line. At this point, you have that set up and just need your pet! You can use the same drip set for every bag of fluids, but make sure you change the needle to a clean one before each administration.

If you have a partner it tends to go faster, as they can hold your bag and squeeze for you. If not, you can use a clothes hanger and/or door hook to hang it. Remember, the higher the bag, the faster fluid will flow (have to love gravity!).

First I make sure the my line is still clamped shut to prevent a mess until I am ready. I then start to scratch the area where I will be poking; this helps to desensitize the skin so that your pet does not feel the needle as much.
Giving a pet subcutaneous fluids
The ideal area is right in between the shoulder blades, where you are able to easily pull up skin and have room for the fluid to go.

After a minute or two of scratching, I pull up the skin with my thumb and middle finger, while using my index finger to create an indentation. It is in the middle of that indentation that I will put my needle.

Since needles for SQ fluids tend to be a bit larger than those for injections, I like to shake my skin tent as I poke, using that as another distraction. Once I’ve poked through the skin, I let go of my tent and pull up slightly on the skin around the needle, making sure I haven’t poked through. Once you’ve had a little practice, you get the feel for a ‘good poke’. Once the needle is settled, I unclamp my line and let the fluids run, using the chamber to see how fast they are running.

If I don’t see a steady flow of fluid in the chamber, I can correct in a couple different ways:

1. Pull the tent back up, pull the needle out just a bit (without removing it completely).

2. Pull the tent back up, pull the needle out just a bit (without removing it completely),
and redirect my needle.

3. Try a different location.

If you see fluids coming out of the skin once you start, don’t worry! That just means that you’ve pushed the needle a little too far and poked through the skin a second time. Clamp your line, pull back slightly on the needle and redirect, then try again.

Each number on your bag is equal to 100 milliliters of fluid, so watch your bag to make sure you give the amount that your veterinarian recommends. As long as it is comfortable, you can squeeze the bag to help the fluids run faster. SQ fluids will create a bulge in between your pet’s shoulder blades, and it can float/fall down one side with gravity. Nothing to worry about, it should be absorbed over the next 6­12 hours!

I hope that both parts of this lesson helped you as families just learning this process, or maybe refining your technique!

About the author:

Alex has been working in the four-legged industry for over 10 years. After spending some time as a Veterinary Technician in General Practice and Emergency and Critical Care, she became a Certified Professional Pet Sitter through PSI. In 2015, she and her husband founded A&R Critter Care, LLC, a professional pet care service in North Denver. ARCC offers quality pet sitting services, specializing in special needs and medical needs pets. You can learn more about ARCC by visiting