Part I: Learning to Give a Dog an IV

Our uncles, Steven and Jerry, who also happen to be our neighbors, have two aging dogs: Tasha (14 years old) and Nikoli (also 14). Recently, both dogs have had some serious medical issues. About five months ago, Tasha was in the hospital for kidney failure. Steven and Jerry almost lost her, but she’s a fighter and so are they. Tasha’s at-home care included receiving a daily IV of fluids to flush out her kidneys. This is something the uncles had to learn to do themselves.

On Tuesday, they were back at the vet because Tasha’s kidney issues had returned. Once again, the vet prescribed daily IVs. Jerry had sent me a misfire text, intended for Steve, that he was on his way to pick up her IVs and fluids. I responded with my condolences and apologies that they had to go through the painful process of inserting a needle into their dog’s neck.

“If it’s going to make her feel better, we do what we need to do,” he replied.

Realizing I was projecting my own fear and angst over needles, I said, “Good attitude. Glad you have options.”

“I have a new thing for you to do tomorrow,” Jerry said. “You can give Tasha her daily IV feeding. Come watch today and you can do it tomorrow.”

Immediately my lizard brain went into a scary story about needles and without catching this, I said, “LOL. I’m not sure if I’m that adventurous.”


The awesome thing about coaching is that when I notice I’m having a stressful or adverse reaction to something, it’s a sure sign I have work to do on myself. This is a gift. So this morning I went to inquiry:

Q: Why is it a problem to give a dog an IV?
A: Because needles hurt and I don’t want to cause pain. What if I do it wrong? What if I cause more damage and make her more sick? What if the needle breaks off in her skin? (And my thoughts once again went off on a horror movie of a future that doesn’t exist.)

Q: The vet trusts Steven and Jerry to do it…and they managed to do it fine for weeks. They’re also going to teach you and show you. Why do you think you can’t?
A: Because needles freak me out!

Q: Why are needles bad?
A: Because they hurt!

Framing up the painful thought: The needle will hurt Tasha. (The following tool is “The Work” by Byron Katie.)

Q: Can you absolutely know that that is true?
A: Well, no. I know they hurt me if I look at them, but when the nurse does it it is only a slight pinch. And I have no idea what dog’s pain thresholds are.

Q: How do you react, what happens when you think that the needle will hurt Tasha?
A: I get shivers down my back. I tense up in my shoulders. My heart beats fast. My hands get clammy. I feel like my chest is being squeezed. I stop breathing.

Q: Who are you without the thought?
A: I’m my normal, calm self. I would just be inserting a needle into Tasha and being clinical about it. Heck, I could have been a doctor if I couldn’t think that needles, or anything puncturing skin, didn’t hurt.

Q: What are some turnarounds?
A: To the opposite: The needle won’t hurt Tasha.

Q: Have Steven and Jerry told you that Tasha is in a lot of pain when they do it? Do dogs tell themselves painful stories about the IVs long after it’s done?
A: No. I don’t believe they’d do it if that were the case. And animals don’t have language, so they can’t relive it over and over again like humans can.

Q: What’s the turnaround to other?
A: Tasha will hurt the needle. HA! I guess if she’s like Tucker, if she doesn’t like something she will bite it. So if she was in pain, she’d try to bite the needle back. As far as I know, that hasn’t happened in her previous IV treatments.

Q: What’s the turnaround to self?
A: I will hurt me. My thoughts will hurt me. I guess that’s probably what I’m projecting. My own pain. My own story about needles is hurting me, not Tasha.

Well, alright then! This is exactly what I need to do then for my new thing. Push beyond my fear and look for alternate truths in the process.

Today I went to their house to learn how to do it. Jerry showed me how to set up the IV so that it’s above Tasha and can drip down. He showed me how he attaches a new needle to the tubes.

IV Bag
Setting up the IV bag in the bathroom doorway.

Steven got Tasha’s bed ready next to the tub. He showed me how to pinch her neck and shake it until you get just the skin layers.

Grabbing Tasha's Neck
Thankfully she has lots of skin rolls that are easy to grab.

Steve asked me to hold Tasha’s head from moving back and forth, which I did and soothed her with rubbing my thumbs over her ears. Steve showed me how he inserted the needle into her neck and once in place, Jerry opened up the drip.

The whole process didn’t take more than a few minutes and Tasha was a willing patient. She shook her whole body when it was done and received a dozen or so little treats as a reward. She didn’t seem phased one bit. It was over.

Tomorrow – It’s my turn to insert the needle. If I start to feel anxious again, I’ll take it to inquiry and see what other stories I’m telling myself that are left to uncover and dissolve.

Stay tuned…

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