TECHNIQUE

Subcutaneous Injection of Birds (Disease Investigation & Control - Treatment and Care)

Giving a subcutaneous injection of fluids. Click here for full-page view with caption. Close-up subcutaneous injection. Click here for full-page view with caption. Subcutaneous injection of fluids in a crane chick. Click here for full-page view with caption. Chick being given subcutaneous fluids. Click here for full-page view with caption.

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Control / Treatment & Care / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords --
Description
  • Choose an appropriate needle size
    • Recommendations: 10-25 grams body weight: 26 gauge needle, 25-50 grams: 25 gauge, 50-100 grams: 23 gauge, 100-500 grams: 22 gauge, 500 grams or more: 20 gauge (V.w7).
    • General recommendation: 27 gauge (B11.3.w10); 25-27 gauge (B13.15.w10).
  • Identify the injection site: under the wings (axilla), upper thigh/lateral flank (between the upper part of the leg and the lateral body wall), patagium (wing web), space between scapulae. Avoid the dorsal neck region (base of neck) due to presence of cervical air sacs.
  • Wet / disinfect site with alcohol.
  • Insert the needle and draw back on the syringe to ensure the needle is not in a blood vessel.
  • Deliver the fluids or other medication slowly, checking for leakage around needle.
  • Withdraw the needle upon completion and apply pressure to the injection site with cotton wool.
  • Check for bleeding or leakage.
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Limited tissue trauma if volumes are appropriate.
  • Larger volumes can be given than by Intramuscular Injection.
  • Large volumes of (isotonic: 270-310 mOsm/L) fluids can be given quickly and easily.
  • Effective for providing sizeable volumes of fluids for maintenance.
Notes
  • Birds have a relatively large subcutaneous space, but their skin is rather inelastic.
  • The amount of fluids that can be administered subcutaneously will vary with species, but has been recommended to be no more than 5-10 ml/kg at any one site.
  • Subcutaneous absorption can be rapid and can equal rates from other methods, depending on species and condition.
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Avoid dorsal neck region due to presence of cervical air sacs in some species.
  • Large volumes of fluids may be uncomfortable.
  • Multiple sites may be needed to deliver needed volume.
  • Not all subcutaneous areas can receive medication.
  • Not effective for rehydration of birds with poor peripheral circulation (peripheral vasoconstriction) e.g. due to shock, hypothermia or severe dehydration (fluid will not be absorbed).
  • Not effective for rehydration of birds with severe hypoproteinaemia.
  • Skin necrosis and ulceration may occur if irritating drugs are used.
  • Fluids given by this route must be isotonic (270-310 mOsm/l); 5% dextrose is contra-indicated (B119.w2).
  • Over-distention of the skin with fluids may disrupt the blood supply to the skin and therefore decrease the rate of fluid absorption.
  • Care must be taken not to puncture the body wall.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Appropriate sizes of needles and syringes.
    • Recommendations: 10-25 grams body weight: 26 gauge needle, 25-50 grams: 25 gauge, 50-100 grams: 23 gauge, 100-500 grams: 22 gauge, 500 grams or more: 20 gauge (V.w7).
    • General recommendation: 27 gauge (B11.3.w10); 25-27 gauge (B13.15.w10).
  • Required fluids or other medication suitable for parenteral use.
Expertise level / Ease of Use Procedure should only be undertaken by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical experience; this would usually be someone with veterinary training.
Cost/ Availability Inexpensive unless expensive drugs are being used.
Legal and Ethical Considerations In some countries there may be legislation restricting the use of this type of technique to licensed veterinarians. For example in the UK: "The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practice veterinary surgery."(see: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Treatment of Animals by Non-Veterinary Surgeons).).

Use of Drugs (Medication):

  • Many drugs are not registered for use in particular bird species and care should be taken in their use, with proper regard for possible toxic effects. Consideration should be give to relevant legislation regarding the use of drugs.
  • In the UK, guidelines regarding the use of drugs are set out in the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Guide to Professional Conduct 2000: (see: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Choice of Medicinal Products).
Author Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
Referee  
References V.w7, B10.26.w3, B11.3.w10, B13.15.w10, B13.17.w16, B14, B119.w2

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