I have a seven-year-old cat, Macy, who is in early stage kidney failure. Her condition was first diagnosed when she was almost five, so obviously the treatment prescribed by our vet has been somewhat effective.
In addition to feeding her prescription food, we give her subcutaneous fluids at home. This provides adequate hydration to keep her kidneys flushed out and slow her decline. At first, the vet suggested we do this once every three weeks. Now, he says biweekly is ideal.
I never thought I would be capable of inserting a needle into my cat. I’ve never worked in a medical field—with humans or animals. However, our wonderful vet patiently showed me how to do it, and it’s really not been too big of a deal. I used to have my husband on hand to assist, but now I can do it confidently on my own.
We buy a bag of fluid, a line, and needles from the vet clinic. Inserting the needle into Macy is not as difficult as one might think. Using the skin in between her shoulder blades seems to work best.
Pull up the skin and insert the needle horizontally. You cannot hurt the cat if you make sure the needle is HORIZONTAL. This is key! Either you will not push the needle all the way into the skin, you will push it in correctly, or you will push it in too far and it will come out the other side. I don’t know why, but I’ve never seen a cat bleed during needing insertion. Actually, I’ve never seen cat blood throughout the whole process.
Once you have the needle in, allow the fluids to start dripping. I usually hang the bag of fluids so gravity will speed the process. Your vet will advise you about the amount of fluids needed because this depends on the size of your pet. It usually takes about 7 minutes for Macy to get the needed amount of fluid.
After giving fluids, it is not unusually for there to be a lump at the insertation site. This doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong! It simply means the fluid needs a few minutes to disperse.
Although I have a friend who gives her 18-year-old cat fluids and reuses the needles, I use a new one every time. I find that used needles are much more difficult to insert, and the process becomes more traumatic for both my cat and myself. If you should reuse needles, it’s advisable to clean the skin before insertion with alcohol.
This procedure is more difficult if you are working with a long haired cat. My youngest cat, Alice, had a urinary tract infection a while back and the vet suggested I give her fluids. Alice has much longer fur than Macy, and I found it more difficult to determine if the needle was inserted correctly. However, I kept the needle horizontal, so a few erroneous insertions didn’t hurt the cat.
Your cat’s personality is also a key factor in how challenging this procedure will be for you. Once the needle is inserted, Macy isn’t pleased, but she is resigned to staying put. Alice, however, is another story. If you have a spunky cat, giving him or her subcutaneous fluids might be more of an adventure! Reward them with their own interactive cat scratcher
If we were to pay our vet $25 each time for giving Macy subcutaneous fluids biweekly for a year, we would be $700 poorer. In addition, giving fluids at home saves the time and stress of bringing Macy to the vet. If your cat regularly needs fluids, I highly recommend learning to give them at home.