Giving subcutaneous fluids to my cat

rivkadrMay 29, 2011

We've been giving subQ fluids to my cat for a couple of months now, and it's getting increasingly difficult. We always give him treats beforehand and hug and kiss him, and try to make it a pleasant experience, but he's starting to fight more and more. He's always been an excessively skittish and freaked out cat (the kind that jumps and hides at the slightest noise), so the tiniest movement/change during the fluid process makes him go crazy.

I'm not sure what to do at this point. We tried wrapping him in a towel this last time, which made things more difficult (hard to get to his neck when he's wrapped up), and he ended up just trying to bite my husband (and he's normally the sweetest of cats; never bites or scratches us). I'm going to try putting him in a box next, I guess, but I'm not holding out much hope.

Anyone else dealt with this? Got any suggestions?

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One critical question before I type out the whole fluid admin spiel ...

Are you warming his fluids before admin?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 8:35AM
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spedigrees z4VT

Most cats typically relax and seem to enjoy their fluid treatments. Are you using size 20 gage needles? For some odd reason, vets typically dispense the larger size 18 gage needles and these are painful for a pet. I'd request 20 g. needles and see if kitty is more cooperative. This could be the problem.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 11:06AM
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Are you warming his fluids before admin?

No, how do you do this? Our vet didn't say anything about that, but I'm willing to try anything.

He doesn't really do much of anything when I first poke him, so I don't think it's the needle size. It's when I first start the fluids that he starts to go really ballistic, so maybe laurie's suggestion to warm up the fluids may help...

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 12:33PM
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It makes me CRAZY when vets don't tell clients to warm fluids before admin. Cats have a higher body temp than humans, so when room temp fluids are administered to a cat, it is comparable to throwing a human into an ice cold shower - a literally bone-chilling experience! The only time room temp fluids should be administered is when they are being used to reduce a high fever, in which case the chilling effects of room temp fluids serve a necessary purpose.

So, you will very likely see a HUGE improvement in your cat's acceptance of fluids when you warm them to match his body temp. There are several techniques for warming fluids that different people employ. The only technique you should NOT use is a microwave oven. A microwave can easily overheat fluids and/or heat them unevenly, so do NOT use one for this purpose.

Here's how I heat fluids before subQ admin. I place the bag and most of the IV line in a sink or large bowl, being VERY CAREFUL to keep the connections of line to bag and line to needle OUT of the sink or bowl so that the connections will not get wet. Then I anchor the bag in position by putting something weighty on the line on the counter outside of the sink or bowl so that the connection of line to bag won't slip under the water when I add water to the sink or bowl. Then I add enough very hot water to the sink or bowl so that the bag is mostly submerged. I leave the bag in the hot water until the water cools enough so that it feels comfortably warm when I dip my wrist into it. Once the water cools to wrist-warm, I remove the bag and line and rock the bag end-to-end a couple of times to make sure to evenly distribute the heated fluid in the bag. Then it's ready to admin.

If you are uncertain whether your fluids are the right temp, it's always best to err on the side of a little too cool rather than any too warm. That said, you can experiment a little to find the temp that your boy seems to prefer. Some do like fluids slightly cooler or slightly warmer than the average cat.

A few more notes:

When starting the admin, open the wheel gradually so that there isn't a sudden rush of fluid through the line. Give your cat a few seconds to adjust to the sensation of the warm fluid before opening the wheel all the way.

Some fluids sting, and even if the fluid itself doesn't sting, some vets add medications or supplements to the fluids that DO sting. What type of fluids are you using, and have you or your vet added anything to the fluids?

It's important to vary the admin site slightly from time to time. If you always use the same site, the tissues can eventually become scarred and/or more sensitive. Try pointing the needle tip in a different direction under the skin.

Don't administer more than 100 ml in one spot during one admin. As the fluid lump gets larger, it can also get more uncomfortable. If you need to admin more than 100 ml at one time, remove and replace the needle after 100 ml, and inject the rest in a different site.

As a general rule (and as you've already noticed), most cats are more compliant with less restraint. I use several chairs lined up in one corner of my diningroom for admins. That way, there are two walls preventing movement of the cat in those directions, and my body blocks a third side as I sit on one chair and stretch my legs across the other two. I use one hand to hold the needle in place, while the other hand either gently holds and massages the scruff or cradles and rubs the cat's chest to prevent movement in the one remaining escape route. Many years ago, I used to give my first CRF cat, Pea, her fluids in the bathtub (dry, of course) with her between my legs. She was too feeble to be able to jump out of the tub, so the tub itself provided all the control I needed.

I also recommend giving fluids first thing in the morning. I found with my last CRF cat, Billy, who never particularly appreciated fluids but didn't fight them, that he would try to avoid me all day if I waited until later in the day to admin his fluids. If I gave fluids first thing in the morning, though, he would get over it quickly and spend the rest of the day resting comfortably out in the open, happy to accept my lovin's throughout the day.

Billy wasn't skittish, but like your boy, he would object and fight fluids if I disturbed him in any way during admin. He didn't want food, petting, talking, NOTHING! He just wanted to sit there with both of us in motionless silence until it was over, so that's what we did. Some cats do better with distractions, some do worse. It's really just a matter of figuring out what works best for your own cat and being able to make adjustments if he changes his mind and wants something different along the way.

Now get those fluids warmed up for your boy, and give your vet a STERN SCOLDING from me next time you see him!


    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 1:47PM
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Something to keep in mind ...

Your boy has probably been dreading those chilling fluids every time you've administered them over the last couple of months, so it may take a few days receiving warmed fluids before he starts to trust that the procedure won't cause him discomfort anymore. Be patient and give him time to learn that fluids can make him feel better, not worse. He'll make the connection soon enough.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 6:40PM
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