Medical Questions to Ask a Prospective Pet Sitter

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?

Best wishes,

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
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit 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,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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8 Comments on “Medical Questions to Ask a Prospective Pet Sitter

  1. Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Kay at the Asheville Angel Pets Conference 2014. She was one of the speakers and I was so impressed I bought her book, Speaking for Spot.

    As professional pet sitters my husband and I encourage our clients to think ahead regarding possible issues and to address how they want us to handle them. Dr. Kay’s interview questions regarding medical issues are a great conversation starter.

  2. What is the sitter’s contingency / backup if they become sick or have an emergency during your pet’s stay?

    BTW, we carry up to date medical histories / profiles for people and pets in our vehicles at all times. Not only have they been useful, I am convinced that we gain respect (and a higher level of focus and care) as a result.

  3. Dr. Nancy, as I board small dogs in my home, I loved your form but I would also add lines for the type/variety of food the pet eats (some people think they include enough food for the dog but its not quite enough), and next of kin information as to who to contact in the event something happens to the owner of the pet. I am going to start using your form now!

  4. I only board for my clients who are, or who have trained with me. One of the things I have them sign is a Permission To Seek Veterinary Care. it has any and all numbers they could be reached at, their own veterinarians contact info and address, recent vaccinations, any medications they may be on, or medical conditions they may have. I also have them contact their vet to let them know they will be gone, and that I will be caring for their pet. Usually, their primary vet is more than happy to allow them to be billed in the event their pet needs to be treated. My contract says they agree, in the event they can’t be reached, to allow all necessary life saving treatments as agreed by myself and the vet. It also says they agree to pay the vet directly, or to reimburse me for any money spent. I have a very close relationship with most of my clients, and they know my both my vet tech experience, along with TONS of practical experience with my own pets (as you well know, Nancy) :-) . They know I treat their pets as I do my own.

    So far, thank God, I haven’t had to “use” one of those contracts.

  5. I also love the Pet Sitters International folks. They provide such great basic medical information for the pet sitters who take advantage of their educational resources. As a vet I get to see a pet 1-2 times a year, pet sitters are so amazingly helpful at helping us spot signs of disease early!

  6. I am currently petsitting for my former foster, whose dogmum is between jobs and traveling a lot for interviews. He has lived with me in the past for a similar reason.

    I make a point of giving him his personal cuddle time at least once a day, and he sleeps next to my bed or in a crate in the bedroom (all my crates are open-door crates for them to come & go) So he feels like he’s “my” dog while he’s here.

    What I would most like to know from a petsitting client would be how much I could spend at the E.R. Our E.R. won’t take credit card numbers over the phone, so any treatment would be on my nickel and I would be reimbursed. I watch my dogs like a hawk but things can happen even when you’re careful.

    During the time I had a diabetic pet, I just assumed she would need to be boarded at a vet, with a separate vet-tech charge for each insulin injection, so I just didn’t travel unless I could take her with me. After she died I started boarding my new dogs and I found out that the owner of the kennel has experience with diabetes! I never even thought to call around to ask.

  7. When I have had to leave my pets, I contacted my veterinarian and informed them of the dates that I would be out of town and who my dog sitter was and gave them my contact information for those dates. I also left my credit card information with the vet “in case of emergency” so that if something bad did happen, my dog sitter knew that she could take the dog to the vet and not worry about the paying for the vet visit.

  8. Hi Dr. Kay,
    in addition to the points you cover, I also make sure my pet sitters know how to respond to the most common medical problems encountered on our farm. I have a written protocol for each one and include my veterinarian’s contact info in a ton of places. For us, rattlesnake bites, lacerations, torsion (dog), sour crop (chickens), abscess (cats), heat stroke (any of the critters), and soft tissue trauma from too much racing around (dog). I also make sure my veterinarian knows who the sitter will be, the dates involved and has written permission from me to treat my critters.

    Thanks for all you do! Moira