Cats are desert animals and their kidneys are built to function with minimal water. This efficiency comes at a price, however: many older cats suffer from renal failure. IV fluid therapy can help keep a cat hydrated when his kidney function isn't what it used to be.
Reasons for IV Fluids
Cats diagnosed with chronic renal, or kidney, failure don't have a great prognosis, but you can help extend Fluffy's life with IV fluid therapy at the veterinary hospital and then regular subcutaneous fluid therapy at home. While kidney failure is one of the primary reasons cats receive IV fluids, it's used for cats suffering from any form of dehydration. Felines experiencing severe diarrhea and vomiting might require fluids, and IV fluids disseminate quickly through the body without upsetting the gastrointestinal tract. Cats with constipation might receive it to get the intestines moving or ease impacted fecal material. It's also used for any cat undergoing anesthesia.
Severely dehydrated cats can't get sufficient fluids into their systems simply by drinking water. The more dehydrated a cat becomes, the greater the danger to his kidney function. Dehydration symptoms include a sunken-eyed look, appetite loss, constipation, lethargy and pale mucous membranes. Generally, a cat in need of fluids is a pretty sick-looking animal.
IV Fluid Therapy
IV fluid therapy benefits cats with kidney failure in several ways. It works rapidly, removing toxins and providing constant hydration. Depending on your cat's illness, your vet may add medication to the IV fluids. Your vet or the vet tech inserts an IV catheter into a vein in your cat's front leg, neck or hind leg. The hair in the area is shaved and the site disinfected before catheter insertion. If your cat is hospitalized for an extended period, the catheter will be replaced every three days to prevent infection.
Subcutaneous Fluid Therapy
Once your cat gets home, he might still need regular fluid therapy. Subcutaneous fluids, containing electrolytes, maintain your cat's hydration. Among the most common are saline solutions and Ringer's solution. According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, "Many cat caretakers, who thought they could never poke a needle into their cat's skin, quickly learn how to administer subcutaneous fluids at home and become proponents of fluid therapy." It's an important part of managing chronic renal failure, so you'll learn how to do to for Fluffy's sake. Because cats with chronic renal failure urinate so much, it's imperative that their fluid balance be restored. The needle is usually inserted into the scruff of your cat's neck. Subcutaneous fluids don't move through your cat's body as quickly as IV fluids. If your cat requires a feeding tube, he can also receive fluids through it.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.