4 Tips on How To Give Your Pet a Subcutaneous Injection

A large part of being a certified vet tech is interacting with clients.  One of the most common appointments I am called in to help with is for newly diagnosed diabetic or kidney disease pets that would need a regular subcutaneous injection or fluids at home. Most of the time these parents are a little overwhelmed, trying to wrap their minds around such a new aspect of their pet’s at-home management. Each time I give the same tips and advice, and these parents usually (with practice) do perfectly fine at home. For those that don’t like or want to do the injection themselves, there are still a number of options (including an experienced pet sitter!) that they can work with to provide their pet with at-home treatments.

How to Give Your Pet a Subcutaneous Injection

First and foremost, every pet is going to be different. I’ve developed a comfortable routine that works well for me, with a number of tweaks and adjustments that can be made depending on your comfort level, your pet’s comfort level, and what is needed to set you both up for success. Here are a few tips from my playbook!

Is giving a subcutaneous injection something you can do by yourself?

Ultimately, we want this to be as stress-less as possible, for both you and your pet. If part of the process isn’t going as planned (kitty is walking away, or pup is rolling over), it increases the likelihood of your pet becoming more stressed, and you becoming more frustrated. I have a few good tips for doing this on your own, but sometimes an extra set of hands will help!

Is your pet easy to handle? Do you have any trouble trimming nails, cleaning ears, or brushing teeth on your own? If not, injections will also be fine. If you do, ask for help! You may just need a partner to pet and distract (or hold/cuddle) your pet. Food or peanut butter makes for excellent distractions!

Setting yourself up for success!

Not all of these will apply to you. Trying to do all of these may actually be too much, so pick and choose what would work best for your pet (even if it’s just one!):

  1. Start off in a smaller space, the last thing you want is to go on a chase! In some cases (see video), having 4 walls will help your pet feel more comfortable. Think a bed, basket, or the bottom of their carrier.
  2. A favorite blanket or towel. Not just great for happy smells, but it can also be draped over their head if they are sensitive to what you’re doing.
  3. Lots of petting and scratching! Make it a happy experience. They’ll be calmer and less inclined to respond negatively. If you’re scratching, aim for the area between their shoulder blades. This will desensitize the spot where you’ll want to poke your needle.
  4. Distract with food! Who doesn’t like a special treat?

How to give the subcutaneous injection:

  • Load the syringe with medication and set it close by. Find an area of loose skin over the middle of the back or just between the shoulders. If the injection will be given frequently (such as insulin), try to move around a bit and not give the injection in the same place each time.
  • Gently pinch the skin between yourGiving a Subcutaneous Injection thumb and middle finger. Pull the loose skin gently upward and look for a small indentation of skin between your fingers. You can use your index finger to make that indentation more obvious.
  • Pick up the syringe with your other hand and insert the sterile needle directly into the indentation. Keep the needle parallel to the skin (you do not want to poke down towards their body). If you angle the needle too much, you may enter a muscle, go through the skin to the opposite side, or stick your own finger (ouch!).
  • Once the needle is in, pull back on the plunger only. If you see blood, remove the needle and try a different location. If there’s no blood, push the plunger forward to empty the syringe. When the syringe is empty, remove the needle.
  • Check the area for bleeding or leakage of medication. There are many surface vessels, and it’s not uncommon to hit one with the needle and see a little blood. Just dab with a towel or cotton ball. If not,  give your pet some loving for being so good!!
  • Be sure to dispose of used needles and syringes properly, usually in a ‘sharps’ container provided by your vet.

Don’t be afraid to call your veterinarian if you have concerns!

Have a question or need a little more help? Take a look at the video above, and comment or send us an email!

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