One of my colleagues just described the following case:
Petey is an elderly amazon whose owners are out of town for 2 weeks. A petsitter comes by once a day to change his food and water but otherwise he’s alone. On Monday he seemed fine but on Tuesday he was at the bottom of the cage, fluffed with rapid heavy breathing. The petsitter takes him into the vet and agrees to an initial workup.
In The Past…
Petey has been seen by a veterinarian once every 2 to 3 years for an annual physical exam but no health workups have ever been done. The owner always felt the bird seemed fine.
Petey appears to be seriously ill. Luckily the petsitter is prepared and agrees to a health work up. A diagnosis of pneumonia is made based on xrays and bloodwork but Petey needs to be hospitalized. He is sick enough to need monitoring and supportive care.
The owners cannot be reached. All attempts to call their cell phones go straight to voice mail. Emergency contacts listed on the chart are not available.
There is no information for the petsitter to make decisions – potentially costly decisions, potentially life threatening decisions.
What Would You Do?
Do you want your pet to get all possible care? Do you have a financial limit or know that your pet has a long-term disease that may be getting worse while you are away? How does your veterinarian or your petsitter know these things?
Provide your petsitter with a few pieces of information about your desires…even if you are only away for a few days. Some decisions must be made immediately and if your cell phone is off or lacking service you may not get to be a part of that decision.
Let your petsitter know where to take your pet – your regular veterinarian, an alternate, the emergency clinic you prefer (if there is more than one nearby). Advise them what you would like done – all lifesaving treatment? stabilization only? a humane euthanasia under the right circumstances? Be realistic…is there a financial limit you cannot go past?
Authorize your petsitter to make decisions in your absence and discuss that with them. Leave contact numbers that you can be reached at or advise the petsitter when you cannot be reached so that time is not wasted trying to get a hold of you. All too often we have sat around watching a pet that we are not allowed to treat or diagnose while waiting for permissions.
Thinking about your wishes, putting them on paper, advising your petsitter – all these steps can help make your vacation a little more relaxing if all goes well and a little less stressful if things don’t.