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

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Control / Treatment & Care / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords IV Injection
Description The intravenous route is primarily used for the administration of supplemental fluids. Emergency drugs are also often given intravenously.
  • Restrain the animal properly.
  • Identify the injection site:
    1. Right jugular vein (usually much more developed in birds than the left jugular vein).
    2. Cutaneous ulnar (brachial; ‘wing") vein.
    3. Medial metatarsal ("leg") vein (very useful for waterfowl and other large species. Suitable for placement of an indwelling catheter (B11.3.w10)).
  • Clear feathers and clean the injection site with disinfectant.
  • Insert the needle or catheter into vein at very acute angle, almost parallel to the vessel.
    • Keep the needle sterile prior to insertion in the bird: do not put it down outside its protective case.
    • Hold the needle with the bevel upward (facing you) while inserting it into the vein.
  • Check placement by withdrawing blood into syringe, or observing "flashback" in catheter.
  • Begin injecting slowly through needle; OR
  • Secure catheter and flush with 1000 IU/ml heparin solution.
  • Begin drug/fluid administration.
  • Monitor for signs of fluid overload if giving bolus of fluids (increased respiratory rate, cardiac dysrhythmia, agitation or collapse).
  • Remove needle with care.
  • N.B. Apply pressure over venupuncture site until you are confident bleeding will not occur.
Appropriate Use (?)
  • There can be a rapid volume expansion in injured, debilitated or dehydrated animals.
  • Rapid intravenous fluid administration is the single most important and effective treatment procedure for management of a shocked, severely debilitated or severely injured birds (B11.3.w10).
  • Medications given by this route reach the blood stream directly and can have the most rapid effect on the animal.
  • Through a catheter, medication can be administered continuously over a period of time.
  • In birds the right jugular vein is usually much more developed than the left.
  • The jugular may be the only accessible vein in birds weighing less than 150g.
  • Bolus injection may be given at a rate of 10ml/kg body weight/minute (B11.3.w10) or 10ml/kg over several minutes (B13.15.w10, B13.17.w16) or 10-25ml/kg over 5-7 minutes (B119. w2).
  • Warm fluids should be used.
  • Transient bradycardia (reduced heart rate) may be noted during administration of fluid bolus.
  • All equipment used must be kept sterile. 
  • Holding the needle with the bevel upwards (facing you) during insertion makes the process easier.
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Difficult if veins are very small or collapsed.
  • Risk of haematoma formation - common and may be considerable.
  • N.B. it has been reported that birds have died due to blood loss into the subcutaneous tissues following venupuncture.
  • Excellent restraint techniques are required when injecting intravenously.
  • Catheters can be difficult to maintain, and birds may remove them. Catheterization is impractical for some species, and for birds less than 100 g.
  • Veins are fragile, and will accept a relatively few number of punctures.
  • Good venupuncture technique and vein management are essential.
  • May limit venous access for blood collection for analysis.
  • Limited medications are available for intravenous administration.
  • Care not to overdose if heparin is used, particularly in small birds.
  • Fluid overload may occur when intravenous fluids are given in a bolus - indicated by increased respiratory rate, cardiac dysrhythmia, agitation or collapse (B119.w2).
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Appropriate-sized needle or catheter, syringe or giving set.
  • Appropriate fluids / medication.
Expertise level / Ease of Use Procedure should only be undertaken by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical experience; this would usually be a veterinarian or someone with advanced veterinary technician training.
Cost/ Availability
  • Cost of needle or catheter, syringe or giving set.
  • Cost may be very variable depending on medication required.
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 Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
References V.w7, B10.26.w3, B11.3.w10, B13.15.w10, B13.17.w16, B14, B119.w2, V.w6

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