I have an interesting relationship with IV catheters. As a veterinarian I routinely place them in animals and treat them like any other medical tool.They are a vital for providing IV fluids and medications. As a patient, they terrify me. I once had a pretty serious illness and was constantly going to the hospital and had to have an IV catheter placed nearly every visit. My vasovagal response is quite robust and every time I had one put in I got tachycardic, sweaty, tinnitus, tunnel vision, and eventually would faint. A friend of mine had to have a PIC line put it once and I couldn’t even watch, it made me feel ill. But I have no issue putting them in animals, I’m weird I guess.
Many people are understandably scared at the prospect of having a catheter put in their pet. Because the process usually happens out of the exam room, people don’t see it and maybe that is where the fear arises. So what happens? First it is determined your pet needs an IV catheter. Likely this is because they will be staying in the hospital and need IV fluids and medications. Instead of constantly getting poked with a needle, a catheter allows venous access with only a single need stick. Depending on the pet a catheter site is selected and prepped. Dogs and cats usually have a forelimb shaved in a small patch over the cephalic vein. We can also use the medial and lateral saphenous and jugular veins. Once the site is ready, a catheter is chosen. The one in the picture is an 18 gauge needle which would be used in a larger dog, smaller dogs get a 22 usually. The needle is inserted into the vein and when it is for sure in, the catheter itself is pushed off the needle and and capped. The catheter is then taped into place and an extension set can be placed to allow for easy medication and fluid administration.
The procedure takes less than a minute for the most part and animals are usually very good for it. Because of my experiences getting them placed I always try to be very quick about it and as gentle as possible. For smaller animals I will place a tiny amount of numbing cream at the spot to make it hurt a little less.
(Photo from Wikipedia.org)
I hate getting needles so much!!! I can do it, but I have to look away, especially when it’s IV.
And to brag for a sec, I can totally insert a catheter (inc. raising the vein and withdrawing the needle) with one hand while restraining and twitching a horse with the other.
Sure the first few times I did it I ended up covered in blood with a few too many bruises, but it was worth it in the end (the horse got its antibiotics and recovered).
Note to self: never medicate a horse without either a) a capable tech/nurse, or b) capable owners.