How to manage pet illness on a housesit

23 Aug, 2022

How to manage pet illness on a housesit

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Through Lamia Walker, the owner and passionate founder of HouseSitMatch, we happily accepted a pet sitting assignment from a pet owner in Budapest, Hungary. This is the story of how we were faced with a difficult situation – how to manage pet illness on a housesit. Read on to learn how we found a way to handle this delicate situation with the homeowners abroad.

The need to manage pet illness on a pet sit in Hungary

manage pet illness
The Captain

The family and pets we would care for live in a suburban four-bedroom house with a large and beautiful terrace, garden and outdoor pool, located just a bit outside of Budapest on the Buda side of the Danube. The assignment was for two dogs, a very friendly male boxer and a six-year-old alpha female dachshund. 

When we arrived, we went through the usual introduction of the home and pets. However, the homeowners also told us that Captain, their big, sweet boxer, wasn’t feeling up to snuff. They asked if we would mind taking him to the vet. He had an appointment to see what might be wrong. We had not anticipated a brief to manage pet illness but it happens and we’ve undertaken many pet sits for older pets.

So, a couple of days after the Homeowners headed out on their vacation; we took Captain to the vet. 

We got his blood work done. He had some inflammation which was making him sluggish. On the advice of the veterinarian, we adjusted his diet (to mainly plain rice and boiled pork), gave him small portions, increased the number of times per day he ate and gave him some medicine. We followed the vet’s instructions to the letter as a way to manage pet illness.

How to manage pet illness on a pet sit?

If you suspect one of the animals is off colour or not behaving as you would expect, check the list 3 signs of a sick animal –

  • Are they not eating their food, or not drinking at all
  • Is the pet having trouble keeping food down
  • Have you noticed different physical movements or behaviours.

If any of these apply they contact the owner.

Knowing that Captain wasn’t his old self led to us asking ‘The Dreaded Question’ that needs to be asked at every pet sit before the homeowners leave. This is the question …

“If something serious were to happen to Captain (pause) or any of your pets … what do you want us to do?”

Tips on how to manage pet illness on a pet sit

illness on a pet sit

Unless there is a sick or very old pet, leave the question to the end of your discussion during the handover (when the pet sitter takes over the house and pet family). It eases the anxiety over sick pet.

By waiting, the homeowners and pet sitters will be more comfortable with one another. This helps when discussing a sensitive situation like how to manage pet illness, or how to take care of sick animals when the owners are away. 

1. Be careful how you word the question. The last thing you want to do is cause alarm unnecessarily. Be calm and reassured when you ask the question. Let the homeowner know that you can handle the situation.

Examples: Have you thought about what you would like us to do if one (or more) of the animals becomes ill and you need us to manage pet illness?

2. Leave time for their answer. Many homeowners have not thought about their pets getting seriously ill and what they might do if their pet passes while they are away.

3. Do not be surprised if the homeowners do not wish to be contacted. Don’t judge what their decision might be. Some owners have said that they know they can’t do anything, so please keep the news for when they get home.

What to do if the homeowner can’t answer the question?

illness on a pet sit

These kind of questions emerge, and should lead to productive conversation … they will all help you to manage any possible pet illness.

Have you left instructions with your vet? 

Does your vet know your pet and you well enough to know what to do?

Have you lost a pet in the past? What happened?

Do you want daily communication as to how the pet is feeling? Eating? Playing?

This is a tough conversation, but if something does happen, you may be so glad you had it ahead of time.


Tribute to Captain’s rally

We had a happy ending when it came to Captain. The petowners returned home to a playful, fun-loving pup who rallied on seeing them, we had done our best to manage pet illness and keep him as comfortable as possible.

He was back to bumping the pillows off the hammock, bugging his little dachshund sister during her morning sunbathing by the pool, begging for attention from the gardener and eagerly attacking his rice and pork meals.

Pet owner – Final thoughts on preparing for your petsitter

And finally, always make sure your pet house sitter is insured or that you have pet insurance that covers. Prepare an information pack about your pets to brief your sitter. Make sure the pet house sitter has the number of your veterinary surgeon in case of any emergencies.

This is in the unlikely event that may arise while you are away from home. It’s best to be prepared, for your animals’ sake.

TO REGISTER to be a pet house sitter on HouseSitMatch FOLLOW THIS LINK

TO REGISTER as a pet homeowner on HouseSitMatch FOLLOW THIS LINK



Vet Matthew Bayliss – Tips on preparing for the pet housesitter

Relax cat! It’s only a petsitter, says Vet Matthew Bayliss



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Alex Walker

1 comment

  1. Hi there Alex.
    Happy to hear all went well with Captain. I always ask if not said in the adabou,if there are any medication to be given. I have had that a few times. All went mostly well but I have along the way lost 2 animals on my sits.
    First I had a cat named Summer that had seizures sometimes the HO told me and had to take medicine with it. They also told me how to handle the situation. It was not so easy to give the med to her but I managed. Then she had a seizure one day and I did what the owners had told me to do and she settled down. Then it happened again but worse that time. I contacted the owners and they asked me to take her to the vet. I had a hard time catching her,got scratched but finally got her in the cage. When I came to the vet they rushed to get her and bring inside. I waited out side until the wet came and told me I could see her. He told me that he gave her injection to calm her down. So there she was al relaxed. This was just before Christmas and when I heard again from the owners they told me the vet had taken her home with him and that she was recoverng,starting to clean her self and eat a little. But sadly the day after that she had died overnight. I thought it was very sad. Summer was a little shy in the beginning but had gotten to be cuddly. When the owners came back they were vey thankfull and even gave me 100 GRP tips.

    Later I was sitting with 4 lovely Labs. This time it was the seccond time I sat for them. One of them ,Jake was getting old and was not walking too good with his back legs. Then he got worse, like he hardly gold stand or walk with his bag legs and after contacting the owners they sent theire daughter to take him to the vet. Of course I went with herhe They gave Jake a injection,that took half an hour. Then they told us that if he was not better after like 4-5 hours they could not do anything for him. Then later that day he had not gotten any better so we went to the vet again and again after contacting the owners they made a decision to put him to sleep. It was very sad and the daughter just sat with him till he was gone and she was criyng and I felt so sorry for her. But also there the HO were so thankfull.
    This is a very hard thing to handle but has to be done. I always try to keep good contact with HO.
    all the best.

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