Almost all patients admitted to the hospital require an intravenous (IV) catheter. An IV catheter is used to administer medications, fluids and blood and plasma transfusions directly into a vein.
Placing an IV catheter is a well-tolerated procedure in most dogs and cats. The procedure typically does not require sedation, although this is sometimes needed in anxious patients.
An IV catheter is placed within any number of different peripheral veins. Common locations include the front legs and the inner or outer side of the hind legs.
To place an IV catheter, first the location where the catheter will be inserted is clipped of fur and thoroughly cleaned. The IV catheter is similar to the ones used in people and consist of a very small needle (stylette) within a plastic tube (catheter). After the stylette/catheter combination has been inserted through the skin and into the vein, the sytlette is withdrawn and the plastic catheter fully inserted into the vein. The IV catheter is secured to the patient with tape, and then surrounded by padding and wrapped to keep it clean and protected.
A special type of IV catheter called a central venous catheter is sometimes placed in our intensive care patients. These catheters are typically longer than peripheral catheters and are placed in the jugular vein in the neck, or in the saphenous vein in the hind leg. The advantages of central catheters are that some will have multiple connectors (lumens) to infuse substances into a dedicated lumen (thereby not mixing with other substances) and central catheters are also able to withdraw blood from them avoiding have to perform venipuncture on the patient.
Most patients tolerate having an IV catheter in place. However, for those patients that want to chew or lick at it, an Elizabethan Collar (ie. E-collar) is placed on the patient. Patients with IV catheters are monitored in the ICU for complications and bleeding that could occur if the catheter is chewed or damage by the patient.