Fluid Therapy

Proper hydration is just as critical for our pets as it is for ourselves. When a pet becomes dehydrated for any reason, they tend to feel weak and ill and they usually fail to eat properly or at all. Furthermore, dehydrated pets cannot efficiently fight off illness or disease and they cannot metabolize those medical drugs that are necessary to stabilizing or improving their health. Additionally, dehydration prevents proper blood circulation to the liver and kidneys, which then cannot effectively remove waste products from the blood and body. It is for this reason that fluid therapy is necessary for pets that are suffering from dehydration as well as for pets that require rapid medication distribution throughout their body.

Administering Fluids to Pets

When you bring your pet to the veterinarian because they don’t seem to be acting like their normal, healthy, happy self, one of the first things the veterinarian will check is whether your pet is dehydrated. Some of the most common and noticeable signs of dehydration include lethargy, anorexia, sunken eyes, sticky gums, constipation and just general malaise. To confirm a case of dehydration, or to confirm the extent of a pet’s dehydration, the veterinarian may choose to take a blood sample. If the problem is of sufficient concern and not readily handled by normal fluid intake, the veterinarian will likely recommend fluid therapy. Fluid therapy can also be essential when a pet is ill or experiencing an emergency and they need to get a certain amount of medication into their body within a short period of time.

Fluid therapy is most often delivered through intravenous (IV) catheters which are placed very precisely by trained, knowledgeable veterinary nurses or doctors. This is a critical point because improper IV catheter placement can damage a pet’s small, delicate veins. The catheter is typically placed in either a cephalic vein, which is the most common vein used and runs along the top of the foreleg of dogs and cats; a jugular vein, which is useful when it must remain in place for longer or is needed to deliver larger volumes of medication; or a saphenous vein on a back leg when the cephalic vein cannot be used for some reason. Rarely are other veins used for the administration of fluid therapy. Prior to placing an IV catheter, the hair around the vein will be clipped and the skin thoroughly disinfected. Then, a sterile IV catheter will be inserted. This catheter is flexible, soft plastic and is placed in such a way as to be as comfortable as possible for the pet. The fluid line is then connected to the catheter, and the catheter taped and bandaged to the leg to avoid being shifted or pulled. The amount and type of fluid that is administered obviously depends upon the pet’s specific situation and needs, and of course their fluid therapy is monitored closely.

In some cases, fluid therapy is delivered subcutaneously (under the pet’s skin) between the shoulder blades. Fluids that are administered in this way are slowly absorbed into the body systems over the course of several hours, so it can be ideal for those pets that are not seriously ill but would benefit from fluids in order to maintain hydration, fight a fever or stimulate their appetite.

Certain pets with specific conditions can benefit from regular, even daily, fluid therapy. For example, cats that are suffering from chronic kidney disease may benefit immensely from about 100ml of fluids once or twice every day. In these cases, your veterinarian may instruct you in how to deliver subcutaneous fluids to your pet at home, should you feel comfortable in doing so. That said, most fluid therapy is performed in the office and your veterinarian will only recommend at-home fluid therapy if they feel it will be of immense benefit to your pet and you are willing to administer it.

For more information about fluid therapy, contact La Crosse today.