Basic instructions for subcutaneous injections in rabbits


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Before giving medication to a rabbit, the nursing person should prepare the needed material and relax as much as possible. Indeed, rabbits can sense nervousness and stress and will be tense or run away when the person approaches to give the medication.

On a table prepare:

    The medication,

    The syringe, packed in a sterile plastic,

    The sterile new needle (gauge 23-27), protected in the needle cap.

Detail of an 1 ml insulin syringe

Insulin syringe and short needle for subcutaneous injections

Drawing medicine from a sealed bottle or glass vial

Various medications, like antibiotics, are available in sterile injectable liquid solutions, stored in glass or plastic vials closed with a rubber stopper and sealed with an aluminum ring. The sealing and stopper should never be removed. Indeed, once the vial opened, the solution is not sterile anymore.

Gentle rolling of the medication bottle between the palms of the hand

Bottle of sterile liquid medicine, before first use

Before taking the right amount of medication out of the bottle, the medication needs to be mixed in the vial or to be warmed up, if stored in the refrigerator. Take the vial and roll it gently between the palms of the hand. During this step, the bottle containing the medication should never be shaken. This will cause:

    The formation of bubbles that make extracting the medication harder,

    The inability to get an accurate measurement,

    The addition of air into the volume of medication to be given, decreasing the effective dosage,

    The presence of air in the subcutaneous tissue, after injection.

When the bottle is new and used for the first time, the protective aluminum cover must be broken off. It is then verified that the appropriate sterile needle and syringe are used. It is possible to use the same needle to withdraw the medication from the vial, and later inject it to the rabbits. Some, however, prefer to use a separate needle to extract the necessary volume of medication from the bottle.

It is necessary to clean the outer surface of the rubber lid with a cotton ball drenched in a 70% alcohol solution. This ensures that the outer surface of the rubber lid is sterilized, so that no microbes are imported into the bottle and will contaminate the solution.

DO NOT TOUCH the lid with fingers afterwards!!!

It is important to know the volume of medication that needs to be extracted from the bottle and to check if this can be drawn with the syringe. To avoid mistakes, a mark can be made on the syringe barrel with a pen writing on plastic, so to mark the level up to where the plunger must be pulled back (see illustrations).

Preparation of the needle before drawing 0.4 ml of medication

The first step in taking medication is to pull the plunger back to the amount (ml, cc or units, or the mark made on the syringe) needed. This will fill the syringe with air. The protective cap of the needle is now removed.

DO NOT TOUCH the needle with fingers afterwards!!!

Make sure you know what size the syringe is and where you want the dosage to be drawn to. I usually pull back on the plunger to the cc line of the dosage, then I stick the needle into the rubber cap of the bottle and tip the bottle at an angle, and push the plunger injecting a bit of air into the bottle. I then pull back on the plunger slowly getting a bit more meds than is necessary and pull the needle out. I then push on the plunger of the syringe making sure to get rid of bubbles and getting to the exact cc/mm line of how much meds are needed. I have separate syringes for each rabbit and have the dosage lines marked on each syringe depending on the amount needed.

First steps of taking medication,: pulling back the plunger before pushing through the rubber lid

Giving the Injection

Once you have extracted the meds and changed the needle (if that's how what you choose to do) then lift up on the rabbit's skin to make a mountain or 'tent' out of the skin.

Also, make sure you insert the needle with the opening facing upwards towards you. This will make inserting the needle into the skin easier.

When you insert the needle do so at a 45 angle, do not stick the needle into the skin at any higher angle or the needle will go out the other side of the skin. Rabbits have very thin skin so this is a real possibility.

To make sure you haven't accidentally poked the needle through to the other side, check the rabbit's skin afterwards to see if it is wet. If so, you may not have delivered the meds into the rabbit, but shot them out the other side.

Before injecting the meds into the rabbit, be sure to aspirate or draw back on the needle plunger to make sure you do not draw up blood. If you do, pull the needle out immediately and try inserting again in another area. Blood in the needle usually means you have the needle in a vein or in the muscle; this is not where you want the needle.

I often use a 10-15 gallon storage container to give shots. I put blankets/towels in the bottom and the rabbit on top of these. The rabbit is contained and isn't generally able to jump out or move around. If you are giving shots or subq fluids alone, this is much easier for you and less stressful on the rabbit. Make sure you do this in a safe, bunny proofed room.