Veterinarians and Pet Sitters Can Team Up To Provide Fear Free Care

By Terry Albert

I have been a pet sitter for more than 25 years, and I sometimes feel as if I’ve seen every dog or cat health problem there is. That’s not true, of course, but I’ve dealt with everything from a dog having seizures to a constipated goldfish (honest!). My varied experiences and good relationships with veterinarians are a big part of my success as a pet sitter. I’d like to share some ways that veterinarians and pet sitters can work together to provide better care free of fear, anxiety, and stress for each other’s clients.

Referrals

Owners often ask pet sitters about health issues, and it’s not unusual for pet sitters to notice a health problem before the owner does, simply because they’re seeing the pet with a fresh eye. But pet sitters aren’t veterinarians. One vet I spoke to said her pet peeve is an owner who comes in and states: “My pet sitter says he is allergic to corn” or “He should be fed a raw diet.” I am careful not to attempt to diagnose the issue when communicating with the owner.

I will, however, suggest that owners take their pet to a veterinarian if I see a problem such as a dog limping on a walk or a cat shaking her head frequently.

But when might a veterinarian refer clients to pet sitters? A veterinarian might recommend hiring a pet sitter as a way to help with specific problems such as a puppy who needs potty breaks during the day while the owner is at work. A highly active dog can benefit from mid-day exercise such as a walk around the block or a play session in the backyard. A cat who becomes stressed in a boarding facility may be happier at home with a pet sitter coming in for visits. The vet may have a client who is a pet sitter that he trusts and is comfortable recommending.

What Should A Vet Look For In A Pet Sitter?

Veterinarians want the same thing an owner does: someone who is reliable and professional. A pet sitter needs to follow the owner’s instructions; for example, walking with a certain kind of harness or limiting treats. Sitters are often required to administer medications such as insulin injections or subcutaneous fluids, and both vets and owners want to know she is capable of performing the procedure correctly. A bonus, of course, is a pet sitter who has Fear Free certification.

Vets And Pet Sitters Working Together

Most pet sitters have a contract with the owner stipulating that they can seek medical care for the pet, and it might state the maximum amount they can spend without authorization. In these days when everyone has a cell phone, it is much easier to contact owners in an emergency, even if they are out of the country, so this isn’t as much of a concern as it used to be. Some owners give their vet the pet sitter’s name and even have a credit card number on file in case the need arises.

For problems such as an embedded foxtail or a minor cut, the veterinarian treats the pet, and I follow up with the owner. The vet might never need to speak with the owner. In most cases, I take the pet to the owner’s regular vet. When that’s not possible, I use my own vet.

In the case of a life-threatening emergency, a vet will usually treat the animal first and follow up with the owner later. Since I am the one who has a relationship with the client, I usually make the phone call and explain the situation before passing the phone to the veterinarian. Then he or she can consult directly with the owner if major decisions about treatment must be made.

When pet sitters and veterinarians understand and respect each other’s roles, they can make a great team, working together for the health and welfare of the animals in their care.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.