Emergency medical bills — additional thing to consider

Sharing this, because though some sitters know to ask about how vets will be paid in case sit pets need care, there might be one more thing to check:

With my most recent sit, my hosts had an account set up with their regular vet, so they’d be charged if I needed to take their elderly and sickly dog in unexpectedly.

Unfortunately, my sit dog did have an emergency that required urgent care. I knew exactly where her regular vet was, nearby, because I’d lived in the area before and that vet had been my own dog’s regular vet. I’d even taken him there in an emergency before, because he’d been stung by a bee and it turned out that he was allergic and went into potentially fatal shock.

The key difference: My dog’s emergency was during the vet’s business hours. My sit dog’s emergency unfolded late at night, when the vet’s office was closed. That meant I instead had to take her to urgent care recommended by her regular vet. I got her there quickly, without problems. But there was no account on file at that 24/7 urgent care clinic — it wasn’t affiliated with her regular vet’s office, so I had to pay out of pocket to get her seen right away. That wasn’t at all a problem for me, but some other sitters might be tight on money or credit, and in such cases, that could be a major problem. Something to consider asking about ahead of time, especially if you’re going to sit an elderly and/or sick pet. Something for hosts to consider as well.

In my case, I gave my credit card without hesitation and was immediately charged $250 USD so she could be seen urgently. I was happy to do that and wouldn’t have even cared if I was reimbursed. All I cared about was that she get help right away and that she would suffer more because of any delay. Her humans were traveling on the other side of the world, with essentially a reversed time zone. I had been lucky to reach them as soon as she’d had back-to-back seizures and I had told them I was rushing her to urgent care. I wasn’t going to stop and call them back about costs once I got to the urgent care, because I just wanted her taken care of immediately.

After the vets had urgently seen her, we called her humans together to give them an update and ask whether they wanted to continue care — if they hadn’t, presumably they would’ve let her die without further intervention, maybe sent me home with a dying dog. Her humans decided to continue care, to give her a chance to recover. That initial cost was more than $3,000 USD. And the clinic automatically charged my credit card, because they had it on file from when I checked in my sit dog. I didn’t even know that till her humans texted me to ask whether I’d paid, because the urgent care had emailed them forms to fill out for their dog and they noticed there was a credit card on file. They told me they’d ask the clinic to reverse both charges to my credit card — $250 for urgent admission and $3,000+ for the continuing care.

I’m fine financially, so I wasn’t worried about the money and had high trust in the pet parents rectifying the situation. But such a scenario could present a financial hardship for some sitters and could delay or deny care for some pets. This is something that sitters and hosts might want to consider ahead of time, especially if being able to get in immediate contact might be an issue during travel.


Excellent post topic @Maggie8K

I too place a credit on file with our vet.
Did not think about that possibility of the add’l charge cuz your card was initially chraged.

For any emergency, should we not be immediately reachable, we have a family member in the same time zone that will cover all financial costs in our absence. And a back up to this family member in different time zone by 3 hours.

If all plans failed, our thsitters would know prior that we would reimburse them promptly if the need should arise for vet or other.


This was a good experience to post. Back in November we had a medical emergency with a dog occur in the early morning hours of Thanksgiving. So like you, we had to bring him to a 24-hour urgent care rather than his own vet.

He was a very old, diabetic dog who started suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis, which can progress very rapidly. He had barely eaten the day before (which the HOs knew about) and he had started displaying some troubling symptoms in the middle of the night, and it was obvious there was something wrong.

We were sitting in the US and the HOs were just in Mexico, so no major time zone differences, luckily. We got a hold of them right away that morning, got the recommendation for the specific place to take him and they were able to speak with the doctor directly and handle all payment. While I would have been able to cover the costs temporarily if necessary, I am glad I didn’t have to worry about any of that. I had used my email on the paperwork so I got a copy of the receipt and it was almost 1,000.

Of my decade of sitting, that is only the second time we have had to take an animal to the vet for something serious. The first time was in Panama–just a few years back-- when a dog got quilled by a porcupine it ran up to on the beach. I did front payment for that , but it was only 40 bucks and the HO reimbursed us shortly after.

I have been sitting since 2014, and my first incident like this didn’t occur until 2021. Being a pretty much non-existent issue for me during such a long stretch, it was never something I thought about or specifically discussed with people.

I imagine that situations like this, where serious health issues arise suddenly and sitters have no other option but to pay for the care themselves, are relatively rare. But for those with really low cash reserves and/or don’t have much credit, this is probably a good thing to discuss with a HO if it is an issue that actively concerns you.


It’s also something for people to consider if they’re doing a lot of traveling that includes holds on credit, say for hotels and rental cars. If someone couldn’t comfortably afford the $3,000+ total that was charged to my credit card, or say banks in some countries are slow to credit back amounts, that could seriously crimp some folks’ travels. Or deny pets urgent care. That’s especially so for sitters who might be going from a poorer country or one with low exchange rates vs. the country they’re visiting. I mention that, because THS has sitters from many countries.

Also, my hosts were great — they immediately paid and had the urgent care credit back my credit card. What if someone were in such a situation and the hosts didn’t pay right away or refused to pay? Suddenly, a traveling sitter could be far from home and without access to thousands that they’d counted on. Plus, they might unexpectedly have to pay for housing if the pet becomes so ill that the hosts rush back early.


Thanks for raising this real life experience @Maggie8K .
Emphasising again that this is something that all members need to discuss before agreeing to sit.

We recently discussed this and the homeowners were surprised saying that it had not been discussed by any previous sitters ( at the time they thought that it was unnecessarily since their dogs were young ) .

Sadly within days of us completing the sit and the family returning their 4 year old dog became ill , further investigation by the vet (over an expensive holiday period ) revealed untreatable extensive cancer .

The family contacted us shortly afterwards to share the sad news of the loss of their pet , to thank us for being there during what turned out to be her last days and to express how they understood now why we had asked the questions about arrangements for covering unexpected veterinary expenses . Something they had not previously considered or thought necessary.


That’s heartbreaking, @Silversitters.

My experience in this case also got me thinking that, for my own dog, the next time I leave him with someone else, even a paid professional, I should have not only an account established with a credit card on file with his regular vet (already done), I should ALSO see whether I can establish a similar account at the 24/7 urgent care closest by. Unfortunately, we can’t predict emergencies and they can easily fall outside of business hours.

I certainly wouldn’t want my dog to be left untreated or to receive delayed treatment in any emergency, no matter what time or day of week.


Thank you for bringing up this topic, which I hadn’t paid as much attention to as I should have. I have the funds to cover any illness, but I’m now thinking about homeowners that simply don’t have the funds to reimburse a sitter?

Not that they don’t want to or don’t think enough of their pet, but they simply don’t have a few thousands sitting in their bank account? They might be spending their savings on vacation and then count on their next paycheck to stay track.

That puts the sitter in a terrible bind.


Yes, that’s an actual possibility.

The above just happened during the end of my first year of THS sitting, BTW. So even though it’s not a common occurrence, it could happen to various sitters. Even those who might avoid sitting senior pets can’t rule out younger pets having accidents, or sudden diagnoses, as Silversitters mentioned.

And with my sit, the dog’s humans cut short their trip and rushed home. That allowed them to say goodbye to their beloved dog before the vet put her to sleep. I was very relieved about that, because that comforted them and I think their dog as well.

I suddenly needed somewhere else to stay, though, because there wasn’t room at their place. They offered to pay for a hotel, which various hosts might not, leaving a sitter to pay or otherwise scramble.

In this case, because I knew they’d just paid to rush home and they’d just spent thousands on their dog’s care — plus they’re having a baby soon — I decided to pay for my own hotel. Not every sitter can afford that, especially if they’ve just paid for a sit pet’s care, as well as maybe their own travel.


A pre-THS independent sitter that I had, gave me the boilerplate for a letter to use to introduce her to a vet, name our pets, and have credit card information that could be charged – as well as an additional emergency contact, and our contact/phone info.

I still use a letter like that and a designated credit card all in a “do not open unless emergency” envelope.

For the $ both sides of the equation pay for site membership, THS needs to do better. Whether it’s setting up forms for homeowners and sitters to use, or having this as some checklisted item on Welcome Guides that have to be approved, something should be done. It’s not sitters and homeowners who could be endangered by the lack of a policy, but pets.


@Marion , would you be OK with sharing the boilerplate here, so various members might benefit?

Yes, this is very important.

As a home-owner, this is probably something I wouldn’t have thought about except in 2020 I had an elderly pet and I was going on safari so literally uncontactable for days at a time.

The easy bit was my vets - they provide 24/7 care. I’m not sure it’s possible to set up an account but I gave my sitters emergency contacts for payment of bills and any treatment discussions. I left instructions advising that quality of life was my priority (not cost) and what to do in the event of a death.

Happily my lovely elderly pet lived on for two more years :smiling_face:


This is the reason we decided to have our pup put down before we traveled the last time. Have since gotten a new (to us) pup… but a good reminder to us to have something set up with the Vet’s office & their emergency office… Thank you for the reminder…


This is more or less the boilerplate. In my case, my regular vet is my nephew but the practice is not accessible to sitters by mass transit and a long expensive cab ride, so I include his personal cell number as an emergency contact.

To Whom It May Concern:

In the even that you cannot reach me or my emergency contact or regular veterinarian by phone and require authorization, this letter gives my petsitter, _____________ permission to authorize emergency life-saving medical treatment for my cats: ___________, ____________ , __________________, This applies from DATE through DATE

Treatment may be paid for using the credit card in my name ending in ______

My contact number is _______________. My spouse, ______________’s contact number is _____________.

Our regular vet is _____________ at _________________. The office number is _________________.

[Some background info on each of the pets goes here]/

Thanks in advance for your help.

Best regards,


Thanks, @Marion!

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Of course I’m on a sit now and left very early this morning and completely forgot to update the letter and leave the credit card for the sitter! Not worried, as it is a short sit, I’m available by phone with spouse phone back up and an emergency contact who can also authorize treatment and pay digitally.


@Marion, a possibility to consider:

In the future, maybe you print out that template msg and leave the name and date fields blank. Then put it and a spare credit card in a sealed envelope for the sitter. If there’s an emergency, they can crack the envelope and fill in the name and date fields and use the card at the vet’s. Otherwise, it stays unused and you give it to your next sitter.

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We’ve recentLy arrived at a sit which was confirmed 4 months ago.

We requested the welcome guide a couple of weeks prior to the sit. We also routinely send this message to all pet parents before commencing a sit:

‘Just a quick note to mention, we always ask that pet parents alert their vet that we will be caring for their pets (specifying sit duration) and, if possible, arrange to leave card details on file at the surgery, in case emergency treatment becomes necessary. You should also specify an emergency contact please, who can make decisions about care, should you not be contactable, and potentially arrange payments for emergency care, if necessary. We’ve only had a medical emergency arise once, but it’s taught us to be prepared!’

At this latest sit, the welcome guide never transpired, despite our prompts. We were informed they were having difficulty in getting it to attach so would prepare a printed copy in time for our arrival. This is not unusual, in our experience.

We arrived at the agreed time and date but received a message saying the pet parents had left early, due to traffic concerns. Not a problem for us but, we found the printed welcome pack contained very little information and - alarmingly - no emergency contact info or vet details!

We managed to contact the pet parents and acquire the necessary info but it made us realise how easily sitters can unwittingly be placed in a vulnerable position.

Many pet parents feel it’s okay to not complete the online welcome pack, or to leave a printed copy instead. We prefer for both things to happen; so we can fully aquaint ourselves with things before arrival via the online copy and refer to the printed copy if and when necessary during the sit.

We feel it should be obligatory for pet parents to supply details of their vet and an emergency contact, in order to submit a listing on THS. This is not something sitters should have to chase-up!


I won’t go on a sit if the hosts don’t provide a welcome guide beforehand. If it hasn’t arrived within a comfortable margin so I can ask Qs or raise concerns, I send a nudge, like:

A friendly reminder that unfortunately I can’t do our sit without the welcome guide. I don’t have a preference on which form it comes in, but I can’t go into a sit blind.

That’s always worked for me. That’s because no host can force a sitter to actually show up without a welcome guide.


@Maggie8K Thanks for the advice, it’s something we’ll add to our ‘nudges’ in future.

Have you ever withdrawn from a sit because the welcome guide wasn’t supplied, or has this strategy always worked for you?

At our last sit, the welcome guide arrived (finally, after prompting!) a mere 2 days before commencement of the sit, with the glaringly obvious omission of the address!

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@Happypets, it’s always worked.

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