In the past few weeks, our Emergency & Critical Care department has seen a rash of panicked pet sitters who have to bring the pet for which they are caring in for an emergency. For a moment, imagine yourself in that position: caring for a pet that is not yours but seems to be ill, unsure of the pet’s medical history or even how he or she will behave on a visit to the vet. Now imagine that you are unable to reach the pet’s owners to know what treatment they would want for their pet, don’t know where it receives regular veterinary care, and have no means of payment for a potentially costly emergency bill. Pretty stressful, huh?
Many pet owners are careful to make sure that their pet sitters never find themselves in this situation. They leave the sitter with recent medical records, a list of the pet’s idiosyncrasies, provide phone numbers at which they’ll always be available, and share the name, address, and phone number of their family vet. They also stake out an emergency option in advance should their pet become sick at two in the morning on Saturday night.
I recently went on a week-long trip to a cabin at which I had intermittent cell service. Since I had stayed there previously, I was aware that my pet sitters might not be able to reach me via my cell phone, but the cabin had a land line, so as soon as I arrived, I emailed the various pet sitters with that phone number instead. I also left them with business cards for AERC in case of emergency.
Though it’s uncomfortable to think about, it’s also important to consider what your wishes would be in the event that your pet suffers an emergency that requires critical decisions. Pet owners often rush to our hospitals with pets that suffered cardiac arrest, collapsed suddenly, or aren’t breathing. Such emergencies require an immediate decision in order to direct the pet’s care. Upon arrival, we ask these owners if they wish to proceed with stabilization and thereby authorize about $600-$800 of emergency care. If your pet requires CPR and the expensive drugs it entails, that can cost $500 to $1000. Depending upon your pet’s condition, resuscitation may not be successful. Hopefully, your pet will never suffer a dire emergency, but it’s good to let a pet sitter know how to proceed if he/she does. Putting this information in writing in a binder with the medical records or stuck to the fridge with a magnet is best so your sitter doesn’t struggle to remember what you said when stressed or panicked.
In review, remember that it’s wise to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Leave the following for your pet sitter just in case he needs it.
- Medical records from the past year (potentially longer if your pet has a chronic illness)
- Clear and concise medication directions if your pet is receiving any
- List of idiosyncrasies. Will your cat refuse to eat for at least 24 hours after you leave? Does your dog bark at people carrying umbrellas, or is he afraid of thunderstorms? These things can help a pet sitter determine if your pet is behaving normally or if something is not right.
- Phone numbers at which a decision-maker can ALWAYS be reached
- Name, address, and phone number of family vet
- Name, address, and phone number of emergency vet
- Potentially a form of payment for veterinary care, although you may be able to provide this over the phone, as long as you are able to be reached.
- Wishes regarding resuscitation and stabilization if your pet suffers a time-sensitive emergency
Arming your pet sitter with this information will help ensure that any needed veterinary care can be located and provided with as little anxiety for your pet sitter and your pet as possible.