If you’re like me, the most stressful part of preparing to go out of town is feeling reassured that the animals left behind will be well cared for. I prefer to have my menagerie cared for in their own surroundings by a professional pet sitter, or at the pet sitter’s home (emphasis here on “home” rather than “kennel”).
Finding a responsible, capable, attentive, and loving pet sitter requires some research. An interview is a must, and I encourage you to use the list of questions provided by Pet Sitters International as a resource for questions regarding the individual’s work ethic, character, and experience.
It’s also important to assess the prospective pet sitter’s knowledge about pet health issues. My experience has been that many dogs and cats wait to get sick until their human family members are out of town. When this happens, the pet sitter’s medical expertise can make a big difference in the animal’s health outcome.
Here is a list of health-related questions you can ask during the interview process.
1. Does the pet sitter have experience administering medications? If so, what type? Be sure to ask specific questions that pertain to your individual pet. Having successfully administered oral medication to a dog in no way promises success giving oral medication to even the most docile of felines. Those of you with kitties know exactly what I’m talking about! What if your pet becomes sick and requires administration of subcutaneous fluids (fluids injected under the skin for purposes of hydration)? How about eye or ear medication? Is the individual adept at providing these sorts of therapies?
2. In the mind of the pet sitter, what sorts of symptoms warrant medical intervention? What symptoms constitute an emergency? Ask him or her to describe such scenarios and provide examples of medical issues that have arisen with animals under their care. Challenge your potential pet sitters with the questions I posed to you a few weeks ago in the blog post titled, “What Would You Do?”. Their answers may nix or seal the deal.
3. What would the pet sitter do if your pet becomes sick after hours? You will ideally be providing your chosen pet sitter with a list of preferred veterinary hospitals, but ask this question in advance of doing so in order to get a sense of the prospective pet sitter’s way of thinking about this situation. By the way, when leaving your animals with a pet sitter, I invite you to use the form called “Your Pet’s Emergency Contact Information”.
4. What would the pet sitter do if you cannot be reached during a medical emergency? Would he or she proceed with everything necessary or choose to wait until you can be reached? Once you do hire a pet sitter, be sure to provide them with a completed “Contingency Plan” specifying what should happen in the event that you cannot be reached during an emergency.
5. Is the pet sitter knowledgeable about the medical condition(s) your pet has? Is he or she familiar with the characteristic symptoms and how to respond to them?
6. If your pet becomes sick and requires more time and care than originally agreed upon, will the pet sitter be able to accommodate this?
Can you think of any other health-related questions to ask a prospective pet sitter? Has your pet ever become sick when you were out of town? How did things turn out?
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.