How To Give Your Pet Fluids

Why Give Your Pet Fluids?

There may come a time where it will benefit your pet (either cat or dog) to receive fluids under the skin (e.g., subcutaneous fluids, Sub-Q, or SQ). Fluid is a generic term used for lactated ringers solution or sometimes a saline solution.

Perhaps your pet has been ill and is dehydrated. Another common reason to give your pet fluids is when the kidneys start to fail. Pets in kidney failure benefit from the extra fluid to help the kidneys be able to flush toxins from the blood stream.

Regular sub-q fluid therapy can improve your pet’s daily life and perhaps extend overall lifespan in some cases (as can specific diets and/or medications). Your vet can obviously do this for you, but for many families time (or cost) may be a factor. Learning to do fluids at home with your pet can save you time, money, and stress on the pet.

It’s Easier Than You Think!

Ask your vet to show you how to do this. And don’t just watch them–you need to do it yourself! Ask questions. Repeat steps until you are comfortable.

The big road block is usually the needle. How on earth will I be able to stab my beloved?!? If you feel strongly about this, are squeamish, faint in the presence of needles, then don’t force yourself to do this! Have your vet do the fluid therapy for you (usually monthly, perhaps weekly towards the end).

If you want to grab the bull by the horns, don’t worry, giving fluids will be much, MUCH easier than a rodeo. Even with a cat.

And here you can see the same steps for a dog.

How to Give Your Pet Fluids


Gather all your supplies and have them ready. You will need a bag of fluid (from your vet) and a new needle each time. Make a note of the level of fluids in the bag before you start so you can monitor how much you are giving.

You can reuse the line for a few bags of fluid, but do keep the end that goes into the fluid bag from touching anything. It doesn’t hurt to have a squirt bottle with some isopropyl alcohol to squirt on the injection site. And of course, grab your pet. Until everyone is comfortable, having a human helper is a good idea.


Finding a quiet location where your pet will be comfortable, but not run away can be a challenge. Keep in mind that you may want to hang the fluid bag higher than your pet (gravity is your friend). An easy solution for cats and small dogs is to give the fluids on the floor and use a nearby chair or couch to place the fluid bag.

The Needle

Grab a bit of skin usually between the shoulder blades. You will gently lift up to make a little tent with the skin. Youskin tent for fluids will place the needle into the skin at the bottom of the tent. Insert the needle keeping it parallel to the body. This will make sure the fluids are going under the skin.

bevel of needleWhen you are ready to use the needle, have the bevel side up.

You want to have a little “jab” to get the needle in. This is particularly so for cats. Their skin is tough!

If you slowly press the needle in, it will actually be more difficult, and may not actually go in. We mistakenly think it won’t hurt as much if we gently or slowly insert the needle. Remember you want a quick, little “pop” as you insert the needle. This is quick and firm, but not a hard poke or stab.

Once the needle is in place, you will need to open the wheel keeping the line shut. You will start to see the fluids drip from the bag into the line. If they are not dripping (e.g., not flowing into your pet), you may have to adjust the needle under the skin just slightly so the fluids can flow.

giving fluids to a catDepending on how much your vet wants your pet to receive, a small bulge will appear under the skin. This is normal and will be absorbed by the body.

If you don’t keep the needle parallel to the body at the bottom of the tent, you can poke through the tent of skin and the fluid will pour out of your pet. This will make you feel horrible at using your pet for a pin cushion, but in all reality, it isn’t that bad. You will also gain greater respect for the ease with which your veterinarian and veterinary technicians do this day after day.

Lots of Love Afterwards

Your vet will prescribe how much fluid to give at a time and how often. Most of the time giving fluids takes 10 minutes or so. This is a great time to talk to your pet, pet him, and try to enjoy the time together. When done, clamp the fluid line shut then remove the needle. Put the cap back on the needle and remove it from the line. Give your pet a big hug and a treat. You get one, too!

If giving fluids at home becomes too stressful for either of you, we don’t recommend continuing on your own. Anything you are doing that changes the relationship you have with your pet for the worse is not a good idea.