Intravenous or IV catheters are commonly placed in ferrets and rabbits to administer fluids and medications, induce anesthesia, and for delivery of analgesic drugs during and after surgery. Intravenous catheters are also placed with growing frequency in chinchillas, guinea pigs and other exotic companion mammals (Fig 1).
Precaution or risk
Nevertheless the risk of catheter placement can outweigh the benefits in moribund patients. In these individuals it may be prudent to administer warm subcutaneous fluids while gently warming the patient (Fig 2).
To reduce patient stress, gather supplies needed for catheterization before removing the patient from its cage (Box 1).
|Box 1. Equipment needed for intravenous catheter placement|
Veins commonly selected for intravenous catheter placement
Popular IV catheter sites include the cephalic vein, the lateral saphenous and, in rabbits, the marginal ear vein (Fig 3).
- To place a catheter in the cephalic vein, restrain the patient in sternal recumbency on a non-slip surface.
- Shave the forelimb, and aseptically prepare the site.
- The skin in ferrets and some rabbits can be thick and difficult to penetrate. It can help to create a relief hole using a 20 to 25-gauge hypodermic needle (Fig 4).
- Once the vessel is stabilized, insert and advance the catheter into place.
- Then flush the catheter with a small volume of heparinized saline.
- Secure the catheter in place, taking care not to apply too much tape. This will make the catheter so heavy it will be more likely to slide out (Fig 5).
- Lightly cover the catheter with elastic wrap.
Marginal ear vein
The auricular veins run along the outermost portion of the pinna (Fig 6). The auricular artery runs through the center of the pinna. It may be tempting to place a catheter into the ear artery since it is much larger, but fluids and medication should never be inserted into the central ear artery.
- Shave and aseptically prepare the ear.
- Stabilize the ear by placing a hand around the base of the pinna.
- Hold off the ear vein with either the thumb or index finger.
- Create a relief hole as needed (see cephalic vein above).
- Then insert and advance the catheter (Fig 7).
- Taping can be awkward due to the shape and size of the ear, however securing the pinna to a roll of gauze or syringe case can make it easier to stabilize the catheter (Fig 8). Once the gauze or syringe case is in place, secure the catheter in a normal manner.
Daily fluid requirements
Administer IV fluids by constant rate infusion or divide calculated daily fluid requirements into two or four boluses. A fluid or syringe pump is the safest, most accurate way to deliver intravenous fluids to a small patient. A burette may also be used.
If the catheter is not removed during the postoperative period, remove the elastic wrap at least once daily and gently clean the area. If the catheter site is red, warm, swollen or painful, then the catheter should be pulled and placed in another site.
It extremely important to closely monitor small patients for evidence of overhydration (Box 2).
|Box 2. Signs of overhydration|
|Early water access||Advanced overhydration|
|Serous nasal discharge|
Jugular venous extension
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Graham J, Mader DR. Basic approach to veterinary care. In: Quesenberry KE, Carpenter JW (eds). Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery, 3rd ed. St. Louis: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. Pp. 178-179.
Echols MS, Lichtenberger M, Pollock C. Intravenous catheter placement in small mammals. LafeberVet website. May 7, 2013. Available at https://lafeber.com/vet/intravenous-catheter-placement-in-small-mammals/