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The vet has instructed us to give our cat subcutaneous fluids, but unfortunately we're having a lot of struggles with this. It's very stressful for us to have to intentionally hurt the cat doing a procedure that could even harm it if we make some sort of mistake. One of our main concerns at the moment is after you have lifted the skin up from the shoulders, making the "skin tent" to put the needle in, how deep should the needle be? We're afraid of putting the needle in too deep due to the concern of harming the cat, but now we're having a problem where we think we've got the needle in, but then when we turn on the flow, the fluid gets all over instead of in the cat. Could the needle not be in deep enough, and that's what causing the fluid to go all over? Can you harm the cat by putting the needle in too deep? And is there a way to reliably tell how far the needle has gone in? All the fur is making it hard to tell.

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    For how long are you supposed to give the fluids? In my personal oppinion, the vet (or a vet nurse) should have taught you how to do it properly or you should bring the cat in to have a vet nurse do it for you. While it's no rocket science, it's not something you let anyone just try and see if they get it right. But I can understand if regular vet visits are problematic due to the pandemic or if you live too far from the vet.
    – Elmy
    Sep 22 at 4:54
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    Even without a pandemic, it is normal for vets to offer this option under our circumstances, as our cat has kidney disease, and so is undergoing supportive end-of-life care where the cat's comfort is prioritized, and obviously he would be happier not going to the vet constantly for the rest of his days. Of course we have received instructions, but it is different being taught at the vet, versus being on your own at home. We will be taking him in for help today, but I thought it would be useful to have this answer because I could not find it on google.
    – Kai
    Sep 22 at 17:45
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    And if you are concerned about the cat's current quality of life, actually at the moment he's the same as he's always been, save for drinking more, hence the subcutaneous fluids.
    – Kai
    Sep 22 at 17:54
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    Leakage during fluid administration almost always means the needle isn't in far enough, unless you can feel the needle having poked all the way through (in which case you went too far—usually not that easy, although if kitty is badly dehydrated and relatively small, it becomes a lot easier). Leakage after you're done can mean the hole hasn't quite sealed up; holding your finger over it for a bit can help. The fluids kind of slosh around for a while, and may even fall down into a paw.
    – torek
    Sep 29 at 23:39
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Please keep in mind hat I am not a vet or otherwise medically trained professional.

The best information I could find is that "most of the needle" should be inserted into the skin. There's no need to make sure that absolutely all of the metal part is inserted, but the more length of needle is in the skin, the more secure it is. Setting the tip of the needle deeper (lengthwise, not deeply into the body) also prevets the fluids from leaking back out.

I'm sure you've been instructed by your vet and found many instructions online on how to insert the needle. Just for reference, here's an instruction including pictures by the VCA. It includes this image:

enter image description here

  • The needle will be positioned at one shoulder and oriented towards the head.
  • You pull the lose skin into a tent with yout non-dominant hand. Orient this tent from head to tail. This allows you to position the needle between the skin and muscles.
  • If you touch the skin tent between your thumb and fingers, you should be able to feel a soft spot in the middle. That's where you aim the needle.
  • The needle should form a parallel line with the back of your cat. Do not aim downwards into the shoulder. Do not aim upwards to the tip of the ear. Stay parallel to the back.
  • You have enough space to push the whole length of the needle into the skin tent before letting go while holding the needle steady.
  • Don't forget to give your cat some treats to link the procedure with positive experiences.

Here's a Youtube video by "atdove" with the same instructions. She pushes the needle all the way in before relaxing the skin.

And another video by "The Bow Tie Vet Guy" demonstrating many useful tips like poking the skin where you're about to insert the needle a few times to reduce pain. They also push the needle all the way in.

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  • I've done a lot of subQ fluids. With one cat, especially late into her kidney failure, sometimes her "tent" would just be very short and inserting too far would result in the needle coming out the other side. Inserting it a little less than that worked fine.
    – torek
    Sep 29 at 23:30

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