How awful is it to give a cat fluid injections?
May 3, 2013 5:04 PM   Subscribe

My aged (but still quite lively!) kitty has had kidney disease as long as we've known him. We've switched him to K/D prescription cat food and we've done everything we can think of to convince the stubborn little dope to drink more water, but on our last vet visit the vet told us that unless he shows signs of improvement soon, we may need to start giving him regular fluid injections. I'm hoping for a little more info about the process, and our options...

Of course I'll ask the vet for more info the next time we see her, but I'm hoping somebody with experience doing this can tell me a little bit about what the injections are like. Are the supplies expensive? How much do cats freak out during the injections?

I read the info on this page and it scared me half to death. It sounds like we'd be giving him an IV drip a couple of times per week, and in the past it's been a real chore just to give him topical meds. I have read that drugs can be an alternative to the injections. Does anybody have experience giving their pet drugs for their renal problems? Can you tell me anything about that process, and how effective the drugs are, compared to the injections?

I've kind of been in denial the last few months, just assuming he's getting better, but he'll be due for his next vet visit soon and the it's not unlikely that the vet will say it's time to start giving him injections. Yikes. Of course YANMV, but any info or advice about what we should do next would be much appreciated.
posted by Ursula Hitler to Pets & Animals (35 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
We did this with my old kitty, he didn't like it at first (and probably never really liked it) but at the end we gave him a shot a night and it just became something we did.

We gave our cat some pills in a "pill pocket" every night, but these were to help keep his blood pressure down. They helped but we needed to do the shots as well.

We would wrap him in a bath towel, get his neck and give him the shot. It took less than 5 minutes.

It expended his life for years with little stress, I would recommend it.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 5:12 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mrs. Example and I had a cat a few years ago that had kidney problems, and we had to give her fluids at least once every couple of days. I don't remember the supplies being that expensive, but I don't remember any exact figures I can give you.

The good news is that it really improves their quality of life quite a bit, and it's nowhere near as scary as it sounds. The fluids are subcutaneous (under the skin) instead of intravenous, so you don't need to be as precise as you might think, and the whole process goes pretty quickly.

Individual cats will vary as to how they react to being given fluids, but ours seemed to figure out that she felt better afterward, so she started being pretty okay with it. You may need to do the "kitty burrito" thing with a bath towel like bottlebrushtree mentioned at first, though.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:19 PM on May 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Depends... I've never seen someone try to do a pet IV at home, but usually you would just SubQ a few CCs here and there, which takes almost no skill, and cats don't react to minor pain the same way dogs or humans do - It pisses them off, but they just stoically scowl and take it. Pin him to the floor, make it quick, and give him a treat after.

Any reason, though, that you can't orally force-feed him a bit of water once a day? An irrigation syringe slips nicely in the corner of a cat's mouth and bam, 10-20CCs for a cat amounts to you or I drinking our daily eight cups of water all at once.

Also, what have you tried to get him to drink? Cats prefer fresh, moving water. I actually let my cats drink right from a small aquarium (they don't actually care about the fish, oddly enough), and I see them at least a few times a day lapping up the water - But again I stress, CLEAN water, cats really hate stale water. The motion of a filter/bubbles/fish will help with that a lot, but you still need to do a water change weekly (far, far more often if you don't have the water moving). They also don't like chemical smells, so if you have heavily chlorinated water, you might try buying bottled water.
posted by pla at 5:20 PM on May 3, 2013

Subcutaneous means under the skin, it's completely different than IV which means intravenous, going into a vein.

I had to give my old dog subq fluids. It was totally totally fine. He didn't even feel or notice it. I put the needle into the loose skin in between his shoulder blades, where apparently dogs don't have many nerves. I bet it's very similar for cats, that they have areas of their body like the scruff where they wouldn't feel a needle.

I could do it while he was napping and he wouldn't even notice it at all. I totally know what you mean about how giving topical meds can be a pain. I would way way wayyyyyyyy rather give a dog or cat subq fluids than say, try to put an ear infection gel into their ears. Talk about a battle. That is a million times harder. I wish I could give all pills and medications subcutaneously. That's how much easier it is.

You will be just fine. The only hard thing is, if you're doing it by yourself, keeping the needle from slipping out while at the same time keeping the bag elevated so the fluids can drip down. If you arrange things so you're sitting next to a shelf or something where you can put the bag, while you hold the needle in, that will make it way easier.
posted by cairdeas at 5:22 PM on May 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Omigosh no. Giving an elderly cat fluids isn't really a big deal. I worked for a vet for quite a while and am now a zookeeper.
I gave my own personal cat fluids when he was wounded in a house fire as well as when he was 19 to 20 years old.

I have given them to elderly cheetahs in the same way and we actually have an old man serval who is in renal failure and he was getting fluids so regularly we ended up getting a port installed so we don't even have to jab him any more.

The supplies are not too expensive and once you get good at it the process became more of a bonding time for us. Just sitting there as the fluids ran.

The needles are quite small and you can just give them subcutaneously under the skin near the shoulder blades. The actual injection doesn't seem to freak them out as much as the fluid filling up under the skin. Which is probably just weird. They get used to it. You can drip very slow if they don't mind being still for a while and they probably won't notice it as much. You can get the process over with quicker with a fast drip but then it fills faster and thus feels weirder.

We actually just follow the serval around in his yard holding the bag as he goes about his business. no biggie.

I recommend it. It can certainly add years to life and life to years.
Cats being obligate carnivores almost always succumb to this if they live into old age. The high protein just does their kidneys in.

posted by fogonlittlecatfeet at 5:24 PM on May 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

First, it's subcutaneous -- not intravenous -- which means you don't really have to be able to aim. (If it's IV you have to be able to aim.) We did this for several months with our cat, first weekly and then daily. The needle is somewhat large for a cat, and that was a little tough for me at first -- I am not good with needles to begin with and the first couple of times I placed the needle for the subQ fluids, I felt sick to my stomach. I embroider, and what it felt like, to me, was putting a too-thick needle into a fine-woven fabric stretched very taut in a hoop. Like I said, the first couple of times were upsetting, but it rapidly became routine.

We would snuggle the cat, pop the needle in the scruff at the back of his neck, and then open the fluid bag. It was DEFINITELY a two-man, four-hand undertaking at first, but as we got better at it, and the cat got used to it, I could manage it alone (as could my husband). It helps to have something to hang the fluid bag from -- we honestly just hung it from a lamp's arm, worked fine.

The cat was really not bothered by it after the first or second time, when he didn't know what was happening. He would come find us around fluid time and hang out very happily during the treatments. He liked all the attention and I think the fluid helped him feel immediately better as well as better in general.

My cat had had diabetes for about two and a half years (with daily insulin injections) before he developed renal failure, so we only did fluid treatments for about six months near the end of his life. But the fluid treatments extended his life about four months, I'd guess, and they really dramatically improved his quality of life. It's hard to tell you quite how much they improved his quality of life, but he went from seeming old and sick to acting like a fairly healthy middle-aged cat again, wrestling with his buddy-cat and following his sun-spots around the house and enjoying his life. Again, my cat was diabetic so the progression of issues was different, but the fluids really made him feel so, so much better and really improved his quality of life so that he was living a good and comfortable life right up until the end (when his decline was rapid and obvious and it was clear when the moment had arrived).

It was EXTREMELY stressful for me at first -- I broke down sobbing in the vet's office when they were demonstrating what to do, and then I had a full-blown panic attack, and I kind-of freaked out the not-so-good-with-people vet who works with cats instead of humans FOR A REASON -- but I learned what to do and it became no big deal when we were doing it weekly or twice-a-week. When it became daily, it felt like a chore, but we knew he was pretty near the end then. But anyway, it's easy enough that when my mother's cat developed kidney disease, I strongly recommended she do the fluids at home instead of taking the cat to the vet for treatments all the time, because going to the vet for it is stressful for the cat, and it really isn't a very big deal to learn to do at home.

I am a super-giant medical wuss who is easily emotionally overwhelmed by medical issues. So if I can do it, anybody can do it!

I seem to remember paying around $6.50 for the 1000 mL bag of fluid (I think we gave 100 mL at a time, so it lasted 10 treatments?), plus some amount for the tubing and needles, which only had to be changed every so often. It wasn't hugely expensive, but it was an ongoing cost.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:28 PM on May 3, 2013 [9 favorites]

Have you tried mixing a little bit of lukewarm water with your cat's food? I have read that it ideal for a cat's water intake to come from/with food, so this would kill two birds with one stone in that your cat would be getting extra water in general, and also she'd be getting it with food, which is best.
posted by kitty teeth at 5:29 PM on May 3, 2013

By the way, just to give you more of a sense of how not-a-big-deal this is, I am a pretty squeamish person and don't even want to watch fake movie gore a lot of the time. When I had to do this my mindset was like, "Oh fuck, I can't believe I am going to actually stick you with needles but I will do it just for you!!" Like it took all this drama and bravery in my mind. By the time I had done it like twice, it was like nothing for me, it was just another thing on my chore list like doing the laundry and I couldn't believe how dramatic I had been over it.
posted by cairdeas at 5:30 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, also, if you give a large amount of fluid at once, it makes a super-creepy bolus that might make the cat lopsided, and it may feel cool to the touch. But the cat totally doesn't care, although he walks funny until it absorbs down some. As soon as the treatments were over, his buddy cat would leap up on the couch and lick the site of the treatment (could taste the fluids, I guess) and nudge that sick cat's bolus curiously. We used to giggle about it because sick cat would be pretty lopsided and buddy cat was determined to FIX IT.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:31 PM on May 3, 2013

It takes a time or two to get used to, but it is completely not a thing. I am on my second kidney kitty now. It can extend their life and more importantly their quality of lift immeasurably.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 5:47 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

The only thing weird about it is that your kitty has a kind of water balloon under its skin while the fluid absorbs. It's bizarre, but the cat doesn't mind too much generally. Oh, and if they pull away while you're "watering" the cat, they'll leak.

Okay, so it's really kind of weird.
posted by xingcat at 5:51 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

My own psychological freakout over "omigod I am sticking a needle into my little boy and hooking him up to an IV bag and AAAAAA" was the worst bit of it. My vet was really patient and showed me how to pinch up a sort of tent of skin that you stick the needle into - it's not intraveneous, it's subcutaneous which is a lot easier.

When my vet first showed me how to do it, Zach was NOT having with it at all - but that was when he was diagnosed from the very very first with kidney failure, and the vet prescribed that AND food AND a supplement, and the sub-q was a just-in-case thing. But Zach really, really didn't need it - and he was hell to keep still, and I gave up. But that was very early on and so it was fine. Then about 6 months later when he got colon cancer and stopped eating, he also stopped drinking - and the sub-q fluids kept him a lot more comfortable in the time he had left. So work with your vet - but also listen to your cat a little, too. Try it a couple times, and if you notice a difference in him for the better, then fair enough; but if he's his usual, active self whether you do it or not, can maybe let it slide a bit.

This section of this web site had a LOT of good advice about giving sub-q fluids to a cat - including an illustrated how-to guide. Their links page also has links to sites where you can find various supplies.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:02 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh - and usually, it only takes a few minutes once you get used to it. It's not like it takes an hour for the fluid to slowly drip in. Honestly, the first few times I tried this, it only took as long as it did because I was all freaked out and squeamish; once I managed to take the deep breath and get over the "eek" and get the needle into him, it was only about 3-4 minutes for the right amount of fluid to be all in. Sometimes not even that. Then pop the needle out, dispose of it safely, give Zach a kiss on the top of the head and open the bathroom door so he could get the hell out (I usually corralled him on top of the bathroom sink because it was the smallest enclosed space).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:07 PM on May 3, 2013

It generally doesn't hurt them at all. If your cat will sit still while you pet him, he'll probably tolerate this pretty well. Think of ways to get him to sit with you: petting, treats, cushy warm surfaces, whatever he likes. You will have to hold him a little. The important thing is that you not get too tense -- you know he'll sense it, and it will make him nervous.

Consider the gauge of needle you want to use. Thinner is easier to get in (cat skin can be a little tricky to penetrate), so that might be good.

Look for YouTube videos of giving a cat fluids -- there are some good ones out there, and they will make you more confident.
posted by amtho at 6:10 PM on May 3, 2013

The great thing is that pulling a cat by the scruff releases endorphins that relax a cat. So I'd just grab my diabetic girl by the scruff and put her in my lap. Pop in the needle and give her a nice five minute ear scritch.

I'm not sure how well she'd handle it in her prime. She wasn't for forced cuddles. But by the time she needed subq fluids, she was pretty mellow about just hanging out. She still wouldn't tolerate baths or pills. But she couldn't see the fluids and didn't react when I'd poke her. Being forced to hang out with the owner was just fine.

Sometimes she'd try to wander off and it would spirt out. So 100% weird. But it was the easiest of all cat treatments that girl put me through over 18 years.
posted by politikitty at 6:41 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

You've probably done this, but I'll mention it anyway - have you tried wet food? Like, the sopping in gravy type? My girl doesn't get around to her water much, but will eat the heck out of food slathered in drippings and gravy. I feed her the pouches or cans and she certainly pees enough to make the litter full quickly, so it might be an idea if you haven't gone that route yet.
posted by skittlekicks at 6:58 PM on May 3, 2013

Response by poster: Skittlekicks, we feed him nothing but wet food (no crunchy stuff ever) and we tried adjusting his diet with different foods, but finally our vet told us we had to switch to K/D. He won't touch it by itself, but if we mix in just a little bit of regular cat food we can trick him into eating it.

A few responses say that doing the injections will improve his quality of life, but the weird thing is that you'd never know he had a problem. He is an old, sick cat, but he is very energetic and playful, his appetite is fine, etc. We keep having to remind ourselves that he is sick. (Although we know he is actually sick, the vet's not scamming us or anything.)

As for how we've encouraged him to drink, we've tried burbly fountains and other things, and he's not interested. So we have little bowls of water all over the house, and about once per day he likes to hop up on the bathroom counter and take a very long drink from running sink water we cup in our hands. It's an annoying/cute routine, but when he hops up there and does his "water now!" face, we take advantage of it to get some fluids in his system.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:24 PM on May 3, 2013

I have to chime in and say that it isn't even a fraction as scary as I thought it would be. I am a very, very squeamish dude, who hates needles and injections and all that stuff. But my ex-girlfriend's cat needed subcutaneous fluids, and it was remarkable how no-fuss it was. If we got him at the right time, he didn't even notice; honestly I realized after a bit that he was much more scared because I was scared than because of anything else. Once I was able to relax and just do it, he didn't much notice or care, and I have a feeling with an older cat this would be even more true.

Oh, and you asked about expensiveness of supplies. They shouldn't be expensive, particularly from a vet. My vet gave me the supplies for free after our cat's incident; all you really need is the fluids, a bag for the fluids, the tube, and some extra disposable needles. Cheap and easy.
posted by koeselitz at 7:35 PM on May 3, 2013

Everyone I know with elderly cats has done this, and since all my friends and female in-laws are devoted cat people, that's a lot of and cats. If you are reasonably calm about it and give him a kitty treat before and after, he will totally play along. Pilling and ear cleaning are way more stressful - there aren't many pain nerves around the scruff where you do the infusion (which makes sense when you think about it - innervating the area where your sharp-toothed mother grasps you would be a mistake.) Even the weird fluid lump doesn't seem to bother the cat.

I know what you mean about the lively sick cat, but you are really trying to keep him that way. Kidney disease in cats can disable them fast, and that is traumatic for all involved. It's worth it to keep him feeling good.
posted by gingerest at 7:39 PM on May 3, 2013

No big deal at all -- I've been doing this every day for close to a year (17-year old cat, chronic renal failure). When he sees me preparing the IV rig, he'll come running over and sit next to the chair until everything's ready and I pick him up to put him in my lap. (He used to jump up as soon as I sat down, but he's gotten a little more frail since then and doesn't jump much.) He seems to value the cuddling time much more than he minds the needle jab (which he usually doesn't react to at all).

We do this sitting in a recliner so he can sit in my lap, with the bag hanging from an IV stand. This helps a lot -- when we started out, we'd put him on a towel on the kitchen counter, and it would take two people to hold him in place while he tried to get away. The current arrangement is much more comfortable for him, so it's a matter of finding what works for the particular cat.

Sticking the needle in takes a little getting used to, but you'll soon be a pro.

As far as supplies go, the two places I've found useful are MedVetSupply (for IV sets and injection needles), and ValleyVet for the prescription stuff (they'll call your vet to get the prescriptions). I also bought the IV stand for about $30 off of Amazon, and it's been a lifesaver. MeMail me if you want a painstakingly detailed shopping list of what we use.

I was pretty panicky when our vet told us we were going to have to give him fluids every day, but it's much easier than it sounds and has become a comfortable daily ritual. It also seems to have made a bigger difference than anything else in keeping him active and healthy.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 7:48 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

We've been giving our kitty subcutaneous fluids off and on (these days it's on) since 2005. I can't really speak to the expense, since it's covered by Royal Canin (look up the food recall from 2005; I think she's one of the few survivors left). She's generally a patient kitty, but for us it's a two-person job; one to hold her (Mr. Koko) and one to administer the fluids (me).

There are many ways to go about it and you'll have some trial and error before you hit on what's right, and it will take a while to get over your nervousness about hurting your kitty. You just have to keep reminding yourself that it will make him feel better. Be sure to watch while the vet tech does it, but here are a few tips:

The bigger the needle, the better. Really. With a smaller needle, you get a more forceful flow, which hurts more. Hang a fluid bag on the wall above the spot where you plan to always do it, and leave it there.

Our cat has medium-length fur, and I find it helpful to wet it down a little at the scruff of her back (where there's the most skin) with a very damp (not dripping) cloth. This helps me to see the skin better.

Our vet tech also likes the side, right behind the front leg, for administering sub-Q. YMMV.

You'll see that the end of the needle is cut diagonally, to allow more fluid to flow. When inserting the needle into kitty's skin, make sure the opening faces down, towards kitty. I found this out through trial and error; facing up constricts the flow too much.

Don't prick more than twice with the same needle. They get dull quickly.

Your cat may flinch when the fluid starts to flow; try not to be startled. Hold him a little extra firmly for the first few seconds.

Don't worry if you see a few drops of blood after you take the needle out. It happens sometimes and it's nothing to worry about.

There are special jackets you can buy to wrap kitty in to keep him still, or you can use a towel. Our kitty is too small for these methods to work, but it does work for some.

We have to give her pills as well, and she is an EXTREMELY DIFFICULT cat to get a pill into. Again, it's a two-person job, and we use a pill shooter with cream cheese on the end, and two small pills stuck inside. Works like a charm!

Our kitty periodically has to go in to the vets for a day or two of diuresis (IV fluids); our vet says this is common with cats with renal issues.

That's all I can think of now; feel free to me-mail me if you want to talk! And good luck ... sorry you have to go through this, but you can make it work!
posted by Koko at 7:59 PM on May 3, 2013

Individual cats will vary as to how they react to being given fluids, but ours seemed to figure out that she felt better afterward, so she started being pretty okay with it. You may need to do the "kitty burrito" thing with a bath towel like bottlebrushtree mentioned at first, though.

I agree with this. Cats are pretty smart, and on average, I think they know that they injection makes them feel better.

The great thing is that pulling a cat by the scruff releases endorphins that relax a cat. So I'd just grab my diabetic girl by the scruff and put her in my lap. Pop in the needle and give her a nice five minute ear scritch.

Yes. They have lots of loose skin back there and it's a great place to do the job. YMMV, ask your vet, etc.
posted by gjc at 8:16 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just want to add to the pile on that this is no big deal. My sister and I just started doing it with our elderly cat about two weeks ago. We do it in the morning and it takes so little time that I haven't had to change my morning routine at all. Our kitty purrs while she gets fluids and then happily hops right up to get her treats. One piece of anecdata: it was really easy to do the first few times and then suddenly became harder and we panicked a little bit. Have no fear if this happens to you! We theorize that it was a combination of soreness from previous needle sticks and her skin becoming firmer because she was actually better hydrated, which was a good sign. We try to change up the site a little bit more and are also just a little bit braver about the kitty making a little noise. Definitely use a partner until you get really comfortable with it, but it is overall incredibly easy. Good luck!
posted by Polyhymnia at 9:38 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

We too have to give our elderly kitty sub C fluids and everyone above has covered most all aspects of the procedure well. The only things I can think to add, are that I use a lanyard, like you'd get at a convention, with which I use a cow hitch to attach to a curtain rod in the room where we give her her fluid and then clip the bag to that above a small sofa. It's a good height and we just leave it there all the time.

It used to take three of us to give her fluids and now we can do it with just two. A friend of mine lent me this contraption, which I call the kitty bondage bag. We zip her in and then unzip just enough so I can get to her scruff. I handle the needle while my son operates the bag, opening and closing the valve. It only takes a few minutes and we are usually successful. She is not crazy about it and does struggle sometimes, but we can really tell a difference in how she feels afterwards.

My husband used to hold her on his lap wrapped in a towel but that was hit or miss as she would sometimes squirm free and we'd have to just give up for that night. Now I put a towel down on the sofa, put her in the bag on top of that and just go for it. I think it helps to have her on a firm but not hard surface.

As for her food, I could not get her to eat the canned prescription stuff so I started mixing one can of that with one can of regular cat food in my small food processor. She will eat it at that ratio and seems to be doing well. She's 18, so I know any time she has left with us is just gravy at this point, so I'm not too concerned that she get 100% prescription food. I do have to feed Other Cat in a separate room from her or she will hoover up the "good stuff" in a NY minute.
posted by jvilter at 11:40 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Joining in to say that I did this for about 18 months with one of my cats--I was terrified before I tried it the first time but quickly developed a routine and, while I can't say that I ever looked forward to the procedure, I very quickly learned to not dread doing it. It never appeared to be painful to my cat, and it definitely gave him a much better quality of life for an additional 18 months.

I'm sorry that you're going through this--but please know that you CAN DO IT and it will make a positive difference to your cat's life!
posted by bookmammal at 4:27 AM on May 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

We're doing this right now for our elderly cat. It's pretty straightforward. He squirms a little if you let him, but he doesn't seem to really mind. Just jumps down off the table when it's over and totters away. Vet gave us some B12, I think it is, which we add to the shot, and all this appears to have increased his energy and body weight. I think the little dude could die without this intervention and it's not much of a hassle at all.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 6:00 AM on May 4, 2013

Hmm. Upon your followup - I would again advise to do a before/after comparison (he's active now, but if he gets more active after doing the fluids), and see if there is any improvement. If he's pretty much just happy-as-a-clam either way, and he puts up a huge struggle when you try to give him them, then...I personally wouldn't think you were a bad pet owner if you sorta kinda let that slide a little bit just for now maybe.

Anecdotal evidence - when Zach first had his diagnosis, my vet told me it would improve his quality of life and all that. He took easily to the K/D food and snarfed his pill, but he DID. NOT. LIKE. THE FLUIDS. So I gave up altogether for six months, until he stopped eating and really did need them. And - what finally did him in was colon cancer, but we also did some blood work and discovered that he had gotten back to normal kidney function levels by that point anyway. So, because it really, really didn't seem like it was making any difference, I think it was okay.

Listen to your vet, but also pay attention to your cat. Still try it a couple times and see if it makes a difference; don't take my advice as a blank check to "whee I guess we can blow it off then" - I tried it first and realized that for Zach, it really wasn't making any difference whether I did or didn't. Your cat may be different.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:20 AM on May 4, 2013

Some services will come and hydrate your cat at home so you don't have to do it. With the financial help of my friend, that's probably gonna be the route for my dear little Trudles, who hates me for a week if I try to push a single pill down her throat.
posted by angrycat at 6:23 AM on May 4, 2013

Late to the party, but nthing that it isn't a big deal. My cat had cancer and during treatment wouldn't eat or drink much, so we did subcutaneous fluids once a day to keep him from getting dehydrated. He loved sitting on our laps, so we'd plop him into our lap, grab some loose skin near his shoulders, pinch it, and put the needle in. Wouldn't take more than a few minutes and he never reacted to it at all. In fact, he would purr and knead my knees while I was doing it (which was his standard lap behavior). If I remember correctly, my vet gave me the supplies for free.
posted by bedhead at 6:42 AM on May 4, 2013

You're feeding the canned k/d - you could see if he will - um this is gross - but if he will tolerate a "meat shake" - basically whisking in a tablespoon or so of water with his food. My cat has had two surgeries and when he's looped out on painkillers, he doesn't care about water - but we could get him to drink this mixture and he was perfectly well hydrated.

If you are particularly dedicated you could do cat-safe broth at home (just chicken in it, and chicken that's not been cooked w/ onions or anything - straight up meat broth) and use that but water's always worked for us.

If your kitty doesn't seem to improve on subq fluids, if he will take water this way, at least it's a little something more.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:30 AM on May 4, 2013

We did this to a young kitty we'd rescued (several generations feral, born in the wild). He'd eaten a lily and it really messed his kidneys up. When we started the infusions, he'd been tamed down a bit, but he was still basically wild. After a short stay at the vet's office, we brought home some drip bags and arsenal of needles. We had been instructed on techniques and tactics at the vet's office, and we actually did the deed there once before trying it at home. Although he was very weak at the time, we took the precaution of putting a towel under his body so that he would have something to hook his claws into besides our skin, should he panic. But he never panicked.

Pretty much the only difference I noticed between what we did and the page you linked was that the vet advises us to hold the fluid bag under our armpit while administering the liquid--we could accelerate the flow rate a bit that way, and it helped to warm the fluid a bit. Please discuss this with your vet before you do it that way.

I second the suggestion to use a larger needle. I know--that sounds counterintuitive. The skin between the shoulder blades seems to lack those nerves which would make insertion painful to the kitty. It hurt me more than it did him.

We had to do this daily for two weeks. We also fed him a kidney-friendly diet (ask your vet).

Poor little guy would sometimes close his eyes and put his face in the crook of RedBud's arm when he saw me approach with the needle. I guess he was willing to tolerate it, as long as he didn't have to watch.

Good luck with this. If you continue to have a problem doing it, you might evaluate the stress related to hauling your kitty to the vet to have them do it over just girding up the loins (in this case, the kitty's loins) and doing it yourself. Alternatively, maybe a friend with a steady hand can be helpful.
posted by mule98J at 12:36 PM on May 4, 2013

BTW: the kitty I told you about is called Jorji (his brother is Porji). He's alive, well, beautiful, and approaching the 5th anniversary of his original capture (and surgical attitude adjustment). He's an indoor/outdoor guy, and when he sees me pick up his brush, he purrs at approximately 60 decibels.
posted by mule98J at 12:42 PM on May 4, 2013

My old guy took fluids for his last two years. Warming the bag in a bath of warm water, so that the fluids didn't feel cold going in, made the experience much more comfortable for him. During winter he especially loved having the extra warmth. The fluids definitely boosted his energy and helped his health for quite a while.
posted by SakuraK at 9:39 PM on May 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all the advice, folks. Sometime in the next month we'll probably be taking him in for his 6-month follow-up vet visit. I've bookmarked this thread, and if we get bad news I'm sure I'll get plenty of use out of these suggestions.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:11 PM on May 4, 2013

Good luck. As everyone else has said, not hard at all. Make sure you use a new, sharp needle every time, and that it has a somewhat larger diameter, which will speed up the fluid delivery in case your cat starts to squirm. It might be a wee bit uncomfortable for kitty, but will not hurt at all.

One thing that definitely made things easier was to set up a little "treatment station": I hung the bag from a clothes hook on the bedroom wall and put the ironing board just underneath it to provide a flat surface for our cat to lie on while I administered the fluids. It took about 10 minutes to give 100 CCs, during which time there was lots of cuddling and whispering of kitty endearments. Sometimes my cat would let out a brief yowl if the fluid was colder than room temperature, although he settled down very quickly after that.

For various reasons, my cats were in pretty advanced stages of CRF when they started getting subcutaneous fluids, so they didn't last more than a few months. But the fluids really, really improved their quality of life during that time--their appetites improved, their fur became glossier, and they were a lot more energetic.
posted by tully_monster at 3:11 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

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