Out of Town Blues

One of my colleagues just described the following case:Gabby

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 Concern…

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?

The Solution

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.

Miss Gregory

The Result

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.

Communication – Why are Doctors so Vague at times?

Car RepairI took my car into the mechanic to get my brakes fixed recently. While I was there, I thought why not see how’s she’s doing overall? I asked the mechanic if he could do an engine check up – he looked at me as though I had sprouted horns. “There’s no such thing” he said.

Now I don’t know much about cars, but I do know that before a long trip you are supposed to check fluids, tire pressure… I admitted this to my mechanic and we agreed on an oil change with fluid check.

What I really wanted was a once over of the car to see if there was any sign of wear and tear or evidence of damage to a system. This is not really possible – someone can look at the engine and say “it looks great!” but that doesn’t tell me anything that I really want to know. I think this is what was going on in my mechanic’s head at the time – shuffling through the things he tests and repairs while wondering how much to explain before coming up with the simplest response.


Sometimes I feel the same way when asked a question – I don’t always know how to answer it because I may not have thought about the issue that way before or because the question asked isn’t really what the person wants to know.


What can seem to be a fairly direct question – “Why is my bird limping?” – just isn’t.
We have to think of all possible causes and compare that to the physical exam and history to narrow the list. A short list of things that can cause limping include; trauma, broken bones, joint problems, muscle damage, nerve damage, problems with circulation… In birds, as opposed to mammals, we have to consider their unique anatomy and bring in kidney problems or issues with eggs. Is there an infection; could there be a tumor/cancer/neoplasia or a problem with one of the internal organs?

It’s not usually helpful to spout out all the differentials (possible causes) – that would be overwhelming and a little annoying. What we try to do is whittle down that list to the most reasonable and move into how to prove or disprove each option.

man-111321_640Sometimes we get stuck in a rut – just like you. So if you’re not quite getting the answer you want,
just try asking in a different way  🙂