When we think of fluid therapy we tend to think of oral electrolytes and intravenous fluids. But how often do we think of subcutaneous (s/c) fluids? For many of us this is a much under used way to provide addition fluids and electrolytes, but it’s worth considering. It easy to give, painless and can help significantly with mild dehydration.
Posted: 11 February 2019
All animals are amenable to this, including rabbits, cats, ferrets, guinea pigs and mice. The opportunity to use s/c fluids are certainly there if you look for them.
It’s important to be aware that this approach is great for helping with mild dehydration or preventing dehydration in patients with chronic conditions such as renal failure. It isn’t however a safe way to treat shock or attempt diuresis. In these situations, the intravenous route is preferred.
In reality, fluids can be given as often as is needed. This could be daily, on alternate days or even just once or twice a week.
The volume of fluid at each treatment is limited to what the animal will tolerate. For most cats and rabbits, between 50 and 150mls works best. Each animal will have to be assessed, and the volume adjusted and balanced against the benefit and frequency required.
Maintenance requirements are higher in rabbits and small mammals when compared to dogs and cats. This is due to their higher metabolic rates. As a guide, the maintenance fluids are as follows;
Luckily, problems associated with repeated s/c fluid administration are uncommon. The procedure is generally safe, and many owners are, with a little training and reassurance, happy to learn and give this at home. In fact, in a recent study, 85% of owners said it was an easy/no stress/okay experience for them and 89% said it was an easy/no stress/okay experience for their cats, i.e. the majority of owners gave positive feedback. Some of the problems to look out for include;
Limitations – the rate of fluid absorption is the main restriction of using s/c fluids. It’s therefore not appropriate for hypovolemic or severely dehydrated patients and therefore only reserved for those with mild dehydration.
In order to give the fluids, you’ll need a few consumables and measuring tools. Our suggestions include;
Most cats and rabbits tolerate the process of being given s/c fluids extremely well, especially if the fluid is warmed first. It takes just a few minutes to give 60-100mls, so in almost all cases there is minimal stress. Keep the animal settled on something comfy, allowing someone to cuddle and stroke at the same time.
There are some very helpful YouTube videos which you could share with your clients to demonstrate how to give the fluids effectively.