Mary Shomon is the Guide for the Thyroid site at About.com. Her geriatric cat was recently ill and required some additional fluids to help her out. In addition to the "normal intake" by drinking water, additional fluids can be given by intravenously (IV), which is through a catheter into the vein, or subcutaneously (SQ), which is through a needle and under the skin to be absorbed slowly by the body. Often veterinarians will teach willing pet owners how to administer fluids SQ to save office visits and keep the pet hydrated at home. The following is Mary's account of performing this task for the first few times on her senior cat.
From Mary Shomon:
My cat Lucy, an 18 year old calico, was really sick last week with bloody diarrhea and vomiting, and spent a day at the cat hospital. She's home again, but has lost weight, and now requires liquids every other day to keep her hydrated. (she's slightly hyperthyroid, blood work is all OK except slightly low potassium, kidneys small but working, etc.)
Well, my husband Jon and I had our first experience "hydrating" the cat yesterday. Jon and I managed to completely mangle trying to give one small, 8 lb, somewhat debilitated aged cat subcutaneous fluids!
The setup had a needle on it that they'd used to show me how to do it, and to keep it capped off. We were to remove this old needle and put on a fresh one for her first session. We couldn't get it off, and struggling with it, Jon managed to stab himself in the hand with the needle, causing copious bleeding all over the cat and the floor. While he got a band aid for himself, I managed to stab MYSELF in the finger, not quite as seriously, but still bleeding and requiring a band aid. Meanwhile, said cat was sitting smugly watching all this with bemusement.
We had to get a wrench to take it off, can you believe?
So we finally managed to get the IV bag hooked up (on a door hook), and then got the needle in her. She relaxed and hung out calmly, but Jon, bumbling around, managed to knock the needle OUT of the cat, at which point IV fluid sprayed all over the room (picture a balloon with the air coming out of it flying around the room), until we could dial it down to stop the flow.
We then had to dry off the cat, ourselves, and the floor, and put the needle in the cat AGAIN, at which point said cat fell asleep purring and relaxing, while we finished the 15 minute hydration process.
After it was all over, cat was perfectly content, hanging out, while Jon and I were injured. Score 2 cat, 0 humans!
Jon and I are now sort of wondering if we have infected ourselves, as the original needle had first gone into the cat skin 2 days earlier, then him when trying to get it off, then me (but it had never gone into her bloodstream, and she doesn't appear to have any infections from her bloodwork) so we are assuming we'll be ok.
At one point yesterday, we sat on the floor, laughing hysterically, because the two of us couldn't handle doing this supposedly simply procedure for one geriatric cat. We decided that no one should let us even work at a pet store, much less perform medical procedures on cats!!!
Update 10 days later:
We have gotten the hang of it and are not impaling ourselves on needles anymore. Cat seems to survive it, and she's thriving, gaining weight (a pound in 2 weeks!) She's much better, and I think she's used up one of her nine lives lately, but she's got at least one in reserve!