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 pet sit in Hungary
They 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.
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.
How to manage pet illness on a pet sit?
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 for dealing with pet 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). 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 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?
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?
These kind of questions emerge, and should lead to productive conversation …
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 from his pet illness. 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.
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FURTHER READING FOR PET OWNERS