Intravenous (IV) fluids are an important medical tool for sick pets that are losing more fluids than they are able to take in due to vomiting, diarrhea, or other disease processes. It allows your veterinarian to provide necessary fluids directly into your pet’s bloodstream to keep them hydrated.

But IV fluids aren’t just for sick pets! Healthy pets undergoing surgery or general anesthesia can also benefit from having IV fluids during their procedure.

Surgical Intravenous Fluids

What happens when my pet gets IV fluids?

• Prior to your pet’s surgery, a catheter (a soft, flexible, needle-like object that sits in their vein to allow direct access to the bloodstream) is placed in your pet’s leg. It is bandaged in place, and a bag of special IV fluids are attached to it.

• A controlled amount of fluid is given to your pet throughout their procedure, based on their weight, hydration status, and fluid requirements during the procedure.

What will giving IV fluids do for my pet?

IV fluids can have many benefits for pets undergoing surgery, including:

• Maintaining blood pressure:

• Blood pressure is a complex mechanism that is tightly regulated in the body to ensure that all organs are receiving enough blood flow to provide them with necessary oxygen and nutrients. Your pet becomes very relaxed when they are under general anesthesia, which can cause their blood pressure to be lower than it would usually be. Giving extra fluids can help return their blood pressure to a normal level, ensuring that all their organs keep getting appropriate blood flow during surgery.

• This is especially important during longer procedures, as blood pressure tends to become lower and lower the longer a surgery lasts (which is why we require IV fluids if your pet is having dental work done!)

• No matter how skilled the surgeon, there is always some blood loss during surgery. Having IV fluids can help replace that lost blood volume, which helps to maintain your pet’s blood pressure.

• Keeping your pet hydrated during surgery (or rehydrating them prior to it):

• During longer procedures, your pet is not able to drink to keep themselves hydrated and compensate for water loss. Having IV fluids can help keep your pet at a good hydration level throughout their surgery.

• Cats (and especially older cats), are notorious for not drinking enough, and are often slightly dehydrated, even on their best days. Add in the stress of a trip to the vet clinic and not being allowed to drink just before surgery, and you have a recipe for a dehydrated patient. Dehydration causes the kidneys to have to work harder to clear waste products out of the body and can affect how your pet recovers from anesthesia (as many of the drugs used for your pet’s sedation and pain control are cleared from the body via the kidneys).

• Provides easy and fast IV access in case of an emergency:

• Although we take the utmost care to ensure your pet is safe during surgery, there are always some risks associated with general anesthesia. Some animals can have unpredictable reactions to anesthetic drugs, and in cases like these, having IV access via a catheter can save vital seconds during an emergency. This allows us to administer potentially life-saving drugs to your pet immediately, without having to spend time trying to find a vein to get IV access.

• Even in non-emergent situations, having IV access can help with keeping your pet comfortable during their surgery, as pain control given intravenously acts almost instantly, instead of having to wait for the body to absorb them into the bloodstream if the injection is given under the skin.

Intravenous fluids provide many benefits to your pet when they are undergoing general anesthesia or surgery. Talk to your veterinarian or one of our veterinary technologists to determine if IV fluids are the right choice for your pet!