Subcutaneous Fluids for Cats

Feline Kidney Failure and Injectable Fluids

Cats can be prone to kidney (renal) disease which can eventually turn to renal failure, where the kidneys no longer function properly. In many instances, this diagnosis requires giving your cat injectable fluids to prevent dehydration and to help the kidneys. Luckily, the fluids are often only needed a few times a week. The process of injecting your cat can seem frightening, and we completely understand any fears. This article from VetRxDirect aims to help you get through those tough treatments.

Subcutaneous Fluids for Cats Supplies and terminology:

  • Needle: The needle is a metal device used to pierce through the skin to inject the fluid. It has a base, called the hub, which is screwed or pushed onto a syringe containing the fluids. The bevel of the needle is the opening at the very tip of it, which pierces the skin. Needles vary by their length and gauge, which is the measurement of the thickness of the needle and it’s opening. The gauge measurement can seem backwards because the lower the number of gauge, the larger the opening of the needle is.
  • Syringe: The syringe is a plastic device used to draw up and push the fluid into the cat. The base of the syringe is called the barrel and the plunger is the part that moves inside the barrel to draw up fluids and push them out. The tip is the very top of the syringe, where the needle will attach.
  • Fluid Bag: The fluids with which you will be injecting your cat will likely come in plastic liter bags. There are several types of fluids such as plasma lyte, normal saline, and lactated ringers solution. There are two ports on the fluid bags: One is an outlet port, where you can place lines in to administer fluids, and the other is an injection point where you can draw fluids from using a needle and syringe.
  • Solution Set: Some veterinarians may want you to use a line from the bag to the cat to administer fluids, called a solution set. At VetRxDirect, we carry the IV Venoset (intravenous) line, which also works for giving fluids subcutaneously. The line allows the fluids to be administered slowly and can be helpful for large volumes.

The parts of the solution set are as follows, working from top to bottom: the plastic, white spike at the top is used to enter into the fluid bag. The dropper chamber is where the drops are formed before they get to the roller clamp which is the plastic piece with a roller that can go up and down to either stop or start the fluid flow. This also controls how fast the fluids will enter your cat. Then, after all of the tubing, you will find an injection port, where the needle will be placed to administer the fluids into your cat.

Below are diagrams I created to help you navigate through the different parts of the sterile products:

Needle and Syringe

Needle and Syringe Diagram for Giving Subcutaneous Fluids for Cats

Fluid Bag and Solution Set

Fluid Bag Diagram for Giving Subcutaneous Fluids for Cats

Sterility is a must when giving subcutaneous fluids for cats:

The fluids given to the cat will be injected using a needle into the cat’s body, usually under the skin (subcutaneously). This means anything on the needle or skin around the injection site now has the chance to enter the body. By injecting your cat, you are breaking the skin’s barrier function which normally serves to keep bad things out of the cat’s body. This is why using sterile products and using antiseptic (or clean) technique is important.

The needles, lines, fluid bags, and syringes are all sterile when you receive them. The sterility is broken, however, when you remove the plastic wrapping, caps, or protective covers. This is when your proper handling is needed most to keep your pet safe from infection. The following tips may help you with this part.

Tips to help reduce contamination while giving subcutaneous fluids for cats:

  • Always wash your hands before handling the sterile products and equipment.
  • Nitrile or latex gloves can protect you and your pet.
  • Do not open the packaging on the products until you are ready to use them.
  • Sanitize your work surface, such as a counter, with isopropyl alcohol or any other sanitizer.
  • Use alcohol swabs to wipe off all surfaces the needle will enter through. Examples are vials, the ports on fluid bags, and possibly even your cat’s injection site depending on your veterinarian’s recommendations.
  • When using a syringe, try to keep your fingers away from the needle attachment site and away from the sides of the plunger. Touching both of these areas can cause contamination of the fluids you’ll be injecting into your cat.
  • Never reuse needles that have been introduced to blood. You should never reuse the same needle placed into your cat to draw up fluids or to re-inject the cat. This takes bacteria and/or blood into the new site. However you may use the same needle to draw fluid from a bag and to then inject the cat as it never touched any blood and should remain somewhat clean. Needles are sharpened when manufactured, designed with the right precision to enter surfaces easily. Every time they are used, the bevel opening is damaged and becomes duller, making it harder and more painful to reuse. This is yet another reason why needles should not be reused.
  • It also not recommended to reuse the alcohol swabs because they can transfer bacteria around.
  • It is sometimes not recommended to recap the needles as doing so can lead to you sticking yourself.
  • Ask your cat’s veterinarian about their specific recommendations.

Getting the fluids into your cat:

Your pet’s veterinarian will probably demonstrate how to give the fluids to your pet, and it is best to follow their guidelines. These are just a few simple tips that may help with giving the fluids to your cat.

  • Your pet’s veterinarian may want you to simply draw fluid out of a bag using a syringe and then inject it into your cat.
  • You can also use a tube between the syringe and needle in the cat and push the fluid through the syringe.
  • The last way is to use a line between the bag itself and the needle, which is placed into the cat.
  • When drawing up fluid from a vial, it is important to pressurize it. To do this, you simply inject the amount of air equivalent to the fluid needed into the vial before drawing up the fluid. This helps ensure the pressure on the inside and outside of the vial are equal.
  • To make sure you don’t hit any other tissues, you can pull your cat’s skin straight up and make a tent-like shape. Then with your other hand you can insert the needle right into the tent structure you made and slowly release it.
  • Most cats need the fluid injected into their backs, but follow the recommendations of your cat’s veterinarian.
  • The injection will likely form a pocket of fluid under the skin that may migrate downward as the day progresses.
  • Always check for existing fluid pockets before making a new one because they should be completely gone before the next injection.

Please share your experiences and tips and suggestion when giving subcutaneous fluids for cats by leaving a reply below. Also, please feel free to leave any product ratings and reviews on the product pages featured in this article. Thank you.

Renal Failure and Hydration in Cats

Most cats experience symptoms of renal deficiency later in their lives. The chronic or sudden condition occurs when the kidneys can no longer remove waste products from the blood. When these toxins accrete, the buildup can cause uremic poisoning, which is a leading cause of death in domesticated cats.

Causes of Renal Failure in Cats

Sudden renal failure is often the result of a blockage in the lower urinary tract or a bladder defect, most of which are congenital. An injury such as a pelvic fracture or trauma to the abdomen can also cause kidney problems. Rapid dehydration due to shock is another common explanation. And when blood flow to the kidneys is reduced due to heart failure, your feline friend may experience signs of renal failure. Lastly, poisoning, especially from imbibing antifreeze, can result in kidney problems.

There are three main differences between the chronic and sudden forms of the disease: the former takes several years to develop, almost always involves older cats, and can be managed with the right prescription medications. The most common cause of chronic renal problems in cats is nephritis, which is a failure of the renal tubules. Infectious diseases such as feline peritonitis and leukemia are also culprits.

Symptoms of Renal Failure in Cats

Feline renal failure could accurately be described as a silent killer, since cats do not begin to show signs of the disease until irreparable damage has been done. Symptoms of uremic poisoning, for example, are not normally reported until about seventy percent of the cat’s nephrons (the filtering units in their kidneys) have been destroyed.

One of the first and most common symptoms of feline renal failure is an increase in micturition. Even cats that have been be housebroken for decades may urinate on the rug if they have kidney problems. It is not their fault, of course, since the malfunctioning organs rob them of control. Because they are no longer able to conserve water, your feline friend may visit his litter box several times each day. And when the box begins to stink, he may be forced to relieve himself outside of it.

The increase in urination is a result of increased fluid intake, which is caused by the inability of the kidneys to literally hold their water. Bacterial infections are also far more common in cats with renal failure because the vital organs are not doing their job, i.e., removing waste from the bloodstream.

As the disease inevitably advances and renal function deteriorates, your cat will retain dangerous amounts of waste products, such as nitrogen, acids, and ammonia. This may lead to uremic poisoning, which can be fatal. Other symptoms of the disease include sluggishness, loss of appetite and consequently weight, oral ulcers, a dry and/or dull coat, and malodorous breath.  At the last stages, the patient may experience anemia, diarrhea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal bleeding.

Diagnosis of Renal Failure in Cats

Veterinarians utilize a number of effective techniques and tests to determine whether or not your cat’s kidneys are failing, including X-rays, ultrasound, bloodwork, and urinalysis. Although there is no cure for either the chronic or sudden form of the disease, early detection and treatment can slow the progression of renal failure and extend your pet’s life by several years. Let us take a moment to discuss two of the most popular prescription medications for feline kidney failure.

fluid bagsLactated Ringer’s Solution: Also known as subcutaneous fluids or sub-Qs, Lactated Ringer’s solution are fluids administered under the cat’s skin, i.e., with a needle and IV line. As unpleasant as the process is for most pet owners, it is absolutely necessary, since it helps provide hydration after blood flow through the kidneys is reduced. Without it, your pet may vomit frequently, suffer from diarrhea, and even stop drinking. It is important to note that sub-Qs won’t cure damaged kidneys, but they can help your pet get the most out of the remaining healthy kidney tissue.

Most cats respond positively to the treatment and experience few side effects.  More often than not, they feel better after hydration and can survive for several additional years, which is why it is the most popular treatment for both forms of the disease. The only cats that cannot safely take sub-Qs are those with serious or chronic heart problems. Extra fluids can put additional pressure on their already compromised systems and may lead to sudden expiration.

Rebound OESRebound OES: No matter how much your cat drinks, he/she may still experience symptoms of dehydration if the kidneys are failing. Rebound is an effective and easy-to-use electrolyte and fluid replacer administered in liquid form. Formulated by veterinarians and feline nutritionists, it helps combat the symptoms of dehydration that are associated with renal failure, abdominal trauma, surgery, and gastrointestinal disorders.