Trouble Giving SubQ Fluids

Cat Fighting or Resisting Fluids * Fluids Not Flowing * Leaking * Needle Problems * Can’t Read the Bag
Collapsed Bag

Cat Fighting or Resisting Fluids

Some cats will fight against or resist fluids. If that happens to you and your cat, there could be things to change about the process to make things more comfortable for both of you.

  • Try giving fluids at a different time of day
  • Try a different room
  • Give kitty a heating pad or a non-slip carpet/bath mat to lay on
  • Give treats or food before, during, and after
  • Try spraying the area with a calming spray or adding a calming diffuser like Feliway or Comfort Zone
    • Find Feliway Multicat formula at Amazon or Chewy
    • Find Feliway Classic formula at Chewy
    • Find Feliway hard surface wipes at Chewy
    • Find Comfort Zone Calming original formula at Amazon or Chewy
    • Find Comfort Zone Calming Multi-Cat formula at Amazon or Chewy
  • If your cat loves being brushed, brush them during fluids (just be careful to not brush the needle out of them)
  • Try a different position for the cat
    • standing
    • laying on their side
    • sitting on your lap
    • perched on a couch
  • Try a different needle location
    • Rotate from saddle area to flank
    • Try different spots in the saddle area
  • Timing
    • If fluids generally go slowly, try giving them faster
    • If fluids generally go fast, try giving them more slowly
  • Warm the fluids closer to your cat’s body temperature
    • Average body temperature for cats is 100.5 – 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit or around 38.6 Celsius
  • If you give any extra medicines along with the fluids, try doing fluids without them
    • Some medicines, like B Complex, can sting. Try doing fluids without any possibly stinging medications to see if that makes a difference
  • Give a smaller volume of fluids more often
    • If your cat gets 100 ml once a day try giving 50 ml twice a day instead
  • If you normally restrain your cat, try giving fluids without restraining them at all
    • If your cat really likes to move around you can try the EZ IV Harness
  • Try putting kitty in an open-top carrier
  • Cats love boxes! Try putting kitty in an open-top cardboard box
  • Make a “purrito” and wrap your cat in a towel to restrain them (don’t do this if your cat hates restraint, it will only make things worse)
  • If the “purrito” doesn’t work, try just covering your cat with a blanket or towel without any restraint
  • Recruit a helper to hold or distract kitty while you’re doing fluids if you’ve been doing them alone
  • Try doing them alone if you’re currently using a helper
  • If your cat is the type to try and hide when they see you getting the fluids ready try hiding the preparation process from them
    • If you can distract them with toys or treats in different room from where you prepare the fluids
  • Start every session believing you can easily get through it. A “can do” attitude and confidence is about 85% of what you need to succeed in giving subq fluids

Fluids Not Flowing

  • Check the drip chamber on your line. The chamber should be about half full. If the chamber is completely full
    • Turn the bag upside down (so the chamber is at the top of the bag instead of the bottom)Squeeze the chamber to push some of the fluid back into the bagTurn the bag right side up again
  • Change your needle position
    • Pull it out slightly or push it further in
    • Rotate or turn the needle
    • If those don’t work, pull the needle out, put a fresh one on your line, and stick your cat in a different spot
  • (Syringe Method) Try pushing the syringe plunger against a hard surface like a wall or table for extra force
  • Hang the bag up higher
  • Check the line you’re using
    • Line speed is measured in drops per ml
    • the more drops it takes to make 1 ml of fluid, the longer it will take
    • A 10 drops/ml line will be faster than a 15 drops/ml line
  • Try using a larger needle


The Bag

  • If your bag was immersed in water to heat, be sure to dry it off completely
  • If any part of your bag is leaking (and it’s not outside water from heating it) you should immediately discard it and start again with a fresh bag. A leaking bag is no longer sterile

The Line

  • If the leak is at the needle, make sure the needle is fully locked into place
  • If the leak is at the spike try pushing the spike further into the bag
  • If the leak is anywhere else in the line you should discard that line and use a new one because a leaking line is no longer sterile

The Cat

The most common leaking problem is that the fluids leak out of the cat.

During Fluids

  • Make sure you haven’t poked the needle in one side and out the other
    • Try backing the needle out slightly and see if the leak continues
  • Check that your needle is lying parallel to the cat’s body under their skin
  • Double-check that the needle is completely connected
  • If you’re giving fluids very quickly, try slowing down

After Fluids

Some cats will leak fluids after the session has ended.

  • Immediately after removing the needle, pinch the skin closed around where the needle was inserted and hold for 30 seconds or more
    • If your cat is very underweight you may need to hold the spot a little longer
  • Try a smaller gauge needle to see if making a smaller hole in the skin will help (e.g., if using a 21g needle try a 23g needle instead)
  • Poke the needle into a different point in the cat each day to reduce the risk of leaving a bigger hole or creating scar tissue
    • Remember, you have the whole saddle and flank area to work with
  • Some cats don’t have much space under their skin and need a lower volume of fluids. Oliver is like this. He’s impossible to “scruff” and making a tent in his skin is very hard to do. For his size he would get 150-160 ml of fluids per session, but he will leak constantly if I give more than 80 ml at a time because his skin can’t fit back together to close the hole.

Needle Problems

Can’t get the cap off the needle

  • Pull the cap straight off, don’t twist
    • The inside of the cap is designed like a little wrench that grips and twists the needle.
    • To uncap the needle you pull straight off
    • To remove the needle from something it’s attached to you’ll twist the cap counterclockwise

Can’t get the needle off the line

  • Re-cap the needle before trying to remove it from the line
    • Push the cap straight on and hard enough that you hear it click into place
    • Twist counterclockwise to remove the needle
  • When you put the needle on the line tighten it clockwise only until you feel resistance
    • Don’t over-tighten the needle

Can’t get the needle in the cat

  • Inspect every needle before use to make sure there are no barbs or hooks at the pointy end
  • Insert the needle in the bevel up position
    • If you lay the needle horizontally and look at it from above you should see the hole at the end
  • Try poking the cat in a different area
    • If you haven’t been rotation locations you may have hit a very small patch of scar tissue
  • If you’re not using Terumo (the best) or Nipro (second best) needles, try switching brands. Terumo are the sharpest needles on the market, so they should go in easily.
  • Use swift and steady strokes to insert the needle. Don’t try to slowly force the needle in.
    • Practice by sticking a needle through the skin of a citrus fruit or a banana – they feel surprisingly similar to a cat’s skin

Can’t Read the Bag

  • Try hanging a white shirt or towel behind the bag to better see where the fluid is
  • Put a strip of masking tape at the target you want to reach by the end of the session
  • Use a scale or burette/buterol to measure the amount of fluids

Collapsed Bag

A collapsed bag is one that doesn’t have any air in it. All fluid bags should have a small amount of air in them, which helps the fluids to flow properly, and keeps the measuring lines on the bag accurate.

The plastic bags that IV fluids come in are designed to collapse as fluid is removed, but the bags are always supposed to have some air in them. If your bag has no air at all you will not be getting accurate measurements when you are giving fluids to your cat, because the fluid level won’t be changing properly.

To put air back into the bag you will need to re-spike it. Basically, invert the bag so that the part with the IV tube connected is pointing up, pull the spike out, wait 1-2 seconds, then put the spike back in. That should have put enough air back into the bag that your fluids will flow and measure properly again.