2013 AAHA/AAFP Fluid Therapy Guidelines for Dogs and Cats

Download Assets


Fluid therapy is important for many medical conditions in veterinary patients. The assessment of patient history, chief complaint, physical exam findings, and indicated additional testing will determine the need for fluid therapy. Fluid selection is dictated by the patient’s needs, including volume, rate, fluid composition required, and location the fluid is needed (e.g., interstitial versus intravascular). Therapy must be individualized, tailored to each patient, and constantly re-evaluated and reformulated according to changes in status. Needs may vary according to the existence of either acute or chronic conditions, patient pathology (e.g., acid-base, oncotic, electrolyte abnormalities), and comorbid conditions. All patients should be assessed for three types of fluid disturbances: changes in volume, changes in content, and/or changes in distribution. The goals of these guidelines are to assist the clinician in prioritizing goals, selecting appropriate fluids and rates of administration, and assessing patient response to therapy. These guidelines provide recommendations for fluid administration for anesthetized patients and patients with fluid disturbances. (J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 2013; 49:149–159. DOI 10.5326/JAAHA-MS-5868)


These guidelines will provide practical recommendations for fluid choice, rate, and route of administration. They are organized by general considerations, followed by specific guidelines for perianesthetic fluid therapy and for treatment of patients with alterations in body fluid volume, changes in body fluid content, and abnormal distribution of fluid within the body. Please note that these guidelines are neither standards of care nor American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) accreditation standards and should not be considered minimum guidelines. Instead these guidelines are recommendations from an AAHA/American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) panel of experts.

Therapy must be individualized and tailored to each patient and constantly re-evaluated and reformulated according to changes in status. Fluid selection is dictated by the patient’s needs, including volume, rate, and fluid composition required, as well as location the fluid is needed (interstitial versus intravascular). Factors to consider include the following:

  • Acute versus chronic conditions
  • Patient pathology (e.g., acid-base balance, oncotic pressure, electrolyte abnormalities)
  • Comorbid conditions

A variety of conditions can be effectively managed using three types of fluids: a balanced isotonic electrolyte (e.g., a crystalloid such as lactated Ringer’s solution [LRS]); a hypotonic solution (e.g., a crystalloid such as 5% dextrose in water [D5W]); and a synthetic colloid (e.g., a hydroxyethyl starch such as hetastarch or tetrastarch).

AAFP American Association of Feline Practitioners; AAHA American Animal Hospital Association; BP blood pressure; D5W 5% dextrose in water; DKA diabetic ketoacidosis; K potassium; KCl potassium chloride; LRS lactated Ringer’s solution

This document is intended as a guideline only. Evidence-based support for specific recommendations has been cited whenever possible and appropriate. Other recommendations are based on practical clinical experience and a consensus of expert opinion. Further research is needed to document some of these recommendations. Because each case is different, veterinarians must base their decisions and actions on the best available scientific evidence, in conjunction with their own expertise, knowledge, and experience.

Select the items you want to download


Subscribe to NEWStat