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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?

Nancy Kay D.V.M.

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

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com

Spot’s Blog: http://www.speakingforspot.com/blog

Email: dr.kay@speakingforspot.com


Written by

Dr. Nancy Kay wanted to become a veterinarian for just about as long as she can remember. Her veterinary degree is from Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, and she completed her residency training in small animal internal medicine at the University of California-Davis Veterinary School. Dr. Kay is a board certified specialist in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and published in several professional journals and textbooks. She lectures professionally to regional and national audiences, and one of her favorite lecture topics is communication between veterinarians and their clients. Since the release of her book, Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life, Dr. Kay has lectured extensively and written numerous magazine articles on the topic of medical advocacy and veterinarian/client communication. She was a featured guest on the popular National Public Radio show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Dr. Kay's newest book is called, Your Dog's Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet. Her award winning blog, "Spot Speaks" is posted weekly (www.speakingforspot.com/blog). Dr. Kay was selected by the American Animal Hospital Association to receive the 2009 Hill’s Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award. This award is given annually to a veterinarian or nonveterinarian who has advanced animal welfare through extraordinary service or by furthering humane principles, education, and understanding. Dr. Kay was selected as the 2011 Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year, an award presented every year by the American Veterinary Medical Association to a veterinarian whose work exemplifies and promotes the human animal bond. Dr. Kay has received several awards from the Dog Writer’s Association of America. Dr. Kay's personal life revolves around her husband (also a veterinarian), her three children (none of whom aspire to be veterinarians) and their menagerie of four-legged family members. When she's not writing, she spends her spare moments in the garden or riding atop her favorite horse. Dr. Kay and her husband reside in Hendersonville, North Carolina.