What do you do if you arrive at a pet sitting visit and the dog that you are sitting for has vomited or had diarrhea?  This happened to me on a pet sitting visit over the last July 4 holiday weekend. I arrived at my last visit for 2 Huskies that were crated between visits. Overnight one of the dogs had been sick and the crate was swimming in diarrhea. An unpleasant mess to clean up but worse still – a sick dog. During my visit he ate some treats but also drank a large amount of water which he continually threw up in the yard. 

What did I do?

First I cleaned up the crate – dragging it outside and washing it out with the hose is the easiest method in this situation. I let the dogs out in the yard and montiored her carefully and gave her plenty of water. Then I attempted to call her owners but had to leave a message on their cell phone.  I knew they would be home later that day but I wasn’t sure if it what time they would be back. I was worried they would not return until the evening.

On a weekday or Saturday I would have taken the dog straight to the vets office – but it was a Sunday so only the emergency clinic was open.  I’m always hesitant to rush a pet to an emergency clinic as I know it will cost the owners a lot more than a regular vet visit. However, I called the clinic and talked to the receptionist and of course she advised that I bring the dog in for an exam.

I wanted to make one last call to the customers emergency contact before I took the dog to the clinic.  I did get hold of the contact and explained the situation, and they advised me to clean up and get the dog comfortable but they did not think that the dogs condition was critical enough to take to the vet. They told me that the customer had previously come home to find the dog had been sick and just had an upset stomach.

I stayed at the visit for about an hour (typically visit is 30 minutes) and monitored her condition and she did seem to settle down, ate some treats, and kept them down. I left and heard back from the owner later that day that the dog was fine when they returned home.

This type of situation is very tricky. I was very concerned about the pet but I didn’t want to leave the owners with a major bill if the dog was known to suffer from stomach issues and had similar symptoms in the past.  If I had not been able to contact the owners or emergency contact I would have made an extra visit around midday to check on her condition and if it had not improved I would have taken her to the emergency clinic.

My recommendation if you find yourself in a similar situation is:

1) Contact the owner

2) If you can’t get in touch with owner call their emergency contact (which you should have collected from the client at the interview visit)

3) Contact the pets vet

4) If out of normal vet hours – call the emergency vet clinic

5) If the client, emergency contact, or vet recommends take the pet to the vets office

6) If you decide or are told not to take to a vet, make an extra visit to check on the pet and make sure their condition has not become worse. If they are still suffering from similar symptoms or have not improved I would recommend that you take them to the vets office

Of course some situations warrant taking the pet immediately to the vets office.

I have also experienced a greyhound who was bitten by a snake who when I arrived at the visit was very hot, and had a swollen snout. I have also had a pet eat rat poison that was left on the floor by an owner. In these situations I took the pets immediately to visit the vet and contacted the owner on the way, or when I was at the vets office.

In these types of situations you have to use your best judgement. Taking a pet first aid course can help you be more prepared to act as a first responder. Pet first aid courses are offered by the Red Cross and by certified Pet Tech first aid instructors.