How to Start an IV on a Dog

By Pauly Kostora

IV (intravenous) catheters help combat ailments such as dehydration and are an important procedure in treating many life-threatening illnesses and emergencies. IVs are also used to administer anesthesia and they allow for quick administration of medications and other fluid therapies. Starting an IV on a dog requires proper training and is best performed by a veterinary doctor or nurse.

Find a clean, quiet work space. A calm environment will help keep the dog calm and cooperative. Set up your work area so that everything you need is within reach. It is easiest when the dog is at your waist level.

Hang the IV medication bag above where the dog will be placed. Attach the fluid line by inserting the point of the fluid chamber tube into the large port that hangs below the medication bag. Before attaching, make sure the flow tap wheel is in the stop position.

Wash your hands thoroughly using antibacterial soap. Bring the dog in and have it lie on its stomach.

Extend the top of the dog's foreleg toward you. This is where the cephalic vein is located, which is the most commonly used point of entry for IVs in both dogs and cats .

Use the clippers to remove the fur above the vein, exposing the skin. Brush away the excess fur. The vein will be protruding under the skin.

Sterilize the area. Wipe from top to bottom with gauze covered in surgical disinfectant. Use a different piece of gauze each time and repeat the process three times. Dry the area thoroughly with a fresh piece of gauze to ensure that tape will stick properly. This will lessen the chance of infection being introduced into the venous system.

Set up the IV. Remove the cap and then loosen the catheter by moving the hub until it slides freely. Bring it back to its original position so the needle is exposed and then carefuly recap it.

Place the thumb of your nondominate hand on the vein below your intended point of entry. Pull the vein down firmly to create traction. This will ensure that the vein will not move when you insert the needle and it also raises the vein to the surface.

Take the syringe out of the cap. With the bevel (the hole of the needle) facing up, insert the syringe at a 45-degree angle into the vein. You will only need to insert the catheter needle about halfway in.

You should see what's called a flash (blood entering the hub). If this does not happen, pull out the syringe and dispose of it. Get a new syringe and try again starting from step 4.

Advance the catheter using your nondominate fingers. Slide it in until the hub is sitting on the skin and then hold the base of the catheter just above the point of entry using your thumb to stop blood flow.

Remove the syringe from inside the catheter. Attach the plug into the base of the catheter making sure to keep your thumb in place.

Secure the IV. Gently raise the hub and tape under the end of the catheter. Rest the hub on the tape and then wrap the tape around the end of the catheter once more so it is secure to the leg.

Use your thumb to again stop the blood flow. Hold the fluid line that is attached to the medication bag with your dominate hand. Remove the plug from the catheter and the cap from the fluid line.

Attach the fluid line to the hub. Remove your thumb to allow blood flow to resume. Make sure the fluid line is attached properly and then open the fluid line by releasing the tap until the drip chamber below the bag is about a quarter full. Set the desired drip amount by rolling the tap wheel up toward the stop position. The farther up, the slower the drip.

Tape the fluid line up the side of the dog's foreleg. Wrap the tape at least twice around the loop of the line and over the hub.

Soft wrap the leg starting from the dog's paw and moving up toward the catheter. Continue to wrap around the catheter making sure the the taps and ports of the fluid line are sticking out through the wrap. They should always be easily accessible. Stop the wrap a few inches up the foreleg from the catheter at the elbow and then wrap back down to the paw.

Wrap the bandage over the soft wrap in the same order. Check the IV to make sure everything is secure and dripping properly.