Subcutaneous Injections

by Skip Godfrey

Proper administration of medication is simple once you know how to correctly administer an injection. This subcutaneous business may sound complicated at first, but it simply means to inject the drug under the skin, rather than into a muscle, as those giving penicillin shots are used to doing.

A subcutaneous injection is done by simply lifting the skin behind the rabbit's neck to form a "tent". The needle is than inserted into the "doorway" to the tent and the drug is deposited underneath the skin. It only takes seconds to give a shot in this way and can often be given with the animal still in its cage, depending on the disposition of the animal.

The only problem I have encountered with a subcutaneous injection is that it is very easy to get going fast and stick the needle entirely through the skin and right back out the other side, so when the plunger is depressed the drug squirts all over the back of the animal, instead of under the skin where it belongs.

To avoid this, after making the "tent", I shove in on the skin over the entrance to the tent with my finger so that the skin covering this area is now concave (bowed inward. Once this is accomplished, I then insert the needle into the entrance near the top and with the needle angling slightly downward. My needles are a bit long for a subcutaneous injection anyway, since they are 3/4 of an inch rather than a half inch, which would be ideal for the procedure. This extra preparation helps keep the long needle from accidentally coming back out the other side of the tent.

Once the needle has been inserted I aspirate my syringe (pull back on the plunger) which accomplishes two things. First, if blood enters the end of the needle, I know I have entered a vein or an artery, in which case I should completely withdraw the needle and start over again. Second, if the needle has accidentally gone completely through the skin and out the other side I will then aspirate air up into the needle indicating one again that I should withdraw the needle, clear it of any air and start all over again.

Once you have perfected the technique of administering these subcutaneous shots you will realize that it is not a difficult procedure at all.

HLRSC Official Guidebook - 5th Edition 2002