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How to help veterinary clients administer subcutaneous fluids


Veterinary clients may cringe at the thought of sticking their pet with a needle, but home care is often the best way to manage kidney disease. Here's a guide to educating them.

"I'm not a veterinarian," your clients might think when you suggest they administer subcutaneous fluids to their pet. "What if I do it wrong? Won't it hurt?"

These are common fears among pet owners who may still be struggling to understand the long-term implications of kidney disease. But educating them about the disease and getting them on board with your recommendations is crucial for keeping their pets as healthy as possible. To do that, you'll need to start slow and take one step at a time, says Dr. J.C. Burcham, associate at Olathe Animal Hospital in Olathe, Kan.

"When I bring it up, I emphasize the benefits of subcutaneous fluids," Dr. Burcham says. "Once clients understand how much better their cat will feel and that the fluids are not hard to administer, it's easier to encourage them to give it a try."

Here are Dr. Burcham's tips for keeping clients compliant with your subcutaneous fluid recommendations:

1. Ease into the program

Administering fluids can be an intimidating task for even your best clients. Dr. Burcham prefers to start nervous clients with a once-a-week regimen to build their confidence. "When they're asked to do it just once a week, they can see that it's doable," she says. "Over time, I try to coach clients to be mentally prepared for doing it daily or every other day."

2. Emphasize the benefits of home care

For most cat owners, visiting the veterinarian can be an exercise in headache management. Between getting the cat into the carrier, lugging the carrier into the lobby, and attempting to reassure the cat that the world isn't ending, it's a wonder that these clients come to see you at all. So wouldn't it be easier for them to administer subcutaneous fluids at home? Instead of an exam table, the cat can perch on a comfy sofa while bathing in the sunlight. An especially relaxed cat might not even feel the needle. With a little practice, clients can quickly administer the fluids and go about their day.

3. Discuss the alternatives

If the client is unwilling or unable to use needles, perhaps an implantable subcutaneous port would be a viable alternative, although those do need to be placed surgically and require maintenance. Give clients the full picture to help them make an informed decision.

4. Walk clients through the procedure

Many clients are intimidated at the mere sight of a syringe. You know, however, that administering subcutaneous fluids is a relatively simple process. So demonstrate it for them in your practice and offer to answer any questions. Visit dvm360.com/fluids for a client handout featuring how-to photos your clients can reference when administering fluids, as well as a how-to video you can post on your practice's website.

Your clients will always face an uphill battle when managing kidney disease in their pets, but teaching them how to administer fluids at home can make everyone's lives easier. So make it clear that that a few minutes per day will go a long way in controlling their pets' condition. All it takes is a little practice.

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