Emergency pet care expectations

Hi all. Our senior dog had to be taken to the vet hospital while we were out of town for what turned out to be vestibular disease (similar to vertigo in people – I didn’t know it was a thing in dogs but apparently isn’t all that uncommon in older pups). Our sitter was great with getting our old boy to the vet hospital. We were two 5.5-6 hrs flights away from home and it was late Wednesday night before a holiday weekend, plus we have added complications due to a kiddo who can’t do overnight flights without her chronic diseases flaring. We were able to get home earlier than originally planned, but it was still Sunday evening before we could make it back. Our pup was able to come home Thursday morning but would have needed quite a bit of care/assistance every time he needed to go outside to potty.

As a sitter, what are your expectations/preferences in this unexpected situation where you went into a sit expecting self-sufficient pups that need minor care and then a week in are faced with a pup needing major TLC? Would you expect or prefer the HO make other arrangements for the pet until they are able to return?

Has any HO experienced this? If so, how was it handled?


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Hi there. So very glad to hear your dear pup was OK. I say that as a Sitter and also having had pets too. As a Sitter, I feel that all pet owners need to inform their vet when they are away and that the animal(s) is in the care of a Sitter. That way it’ll be on file at the clinic. It really comes down to circumstances but ultimately, I feel it’s the Sitter’s call as to what level of care they are willing/comfortable providing in a convalescing situation. The owner would need to assess the animal’s (new) needs with the Sitter and be open to accommodating the Sitter’s wishes on the matter. There’s no sense in sending an animal home into the care of someone who may feel overwhelmed with the new level of care or unable to meet expectations. There’s no sense in a Sitter feeling guilty for not being ready to take it on either. Things could get precarious for all involved. Such a personal choice unique to each situation. I feel pet owners should be prepared with some contingency planning - given certain circumstances, a pet may need to remian in the Vet’s clinic, either from necessity or due to the Sitter’s preference.


Hi @KerryF,

First, before I get into the meat of answering your question I just want to share my sympathies for what you and your family have had to go through while you were out of town. I can only imagine how scary that must have been for all of you! It sounds like you all are back home now so first and foremost how is your senior dog recovering?

In regards to your question I am afraid that you will find a full spectrum of answers because every sitter will have a different threshold as to what they are comfortable with or it could be that it’s also beyond their capabilities if they don’t have experience with caring for pets in a situation like yours. I have been a sitter in a similar situation where I have had to take a pet I was caring for to the emergency vet. However, before I go into anything further about that I think it’s important to know that the reason most of us are here are because we are people that love animals first. I would go to great lengths to ensure the health and wellbeing of any pet I cared for without exception. When I agree to a sit I put the well being of that pet as my top priority. While it would be inconvenient and pose a lot of new challenges it is all part of what I agreed to when I accepted the sit.

I personally would never expect the HO to make other arrangements unless for whatever reason I was no longer the best possible option for the pets health/wellbeing. That also means it would be my duty to that pet and the owners to speak up if/when I knew I was not the best option for the pets wellbeing…but not all sitters are the same.

From what you have told us it sounds like you were in constant contact with your sitter? As in most things when it comes to petsitting communication is key. If your sitter was ever uncomfortable with the new level of care and responsibility I would think any sitter would speak up and let the HO know. I would also hope you asked the sitter if they were okay with accepting all the new needs of the pet and to let you know at any time if they weren’t.

As a HO I check in with my family and emergency contacts when we leave so that if something ever did happen to our pet while we were away we have those contacts that we trust who could step in if need be. When I do sit I also ask if there were an emergency how would you like me to handle it? (Call HO first no exceptions? Do what I would do for my pet and then call, if I can’t get ahold of HO call emergency contacts? Call vet hotline first?) In my experience owners have different preferences when it comes to these questions but they are important to ask.

I’m not sure if I helped answer your question but as @Leftcoastofcanada mentions each situation are unique to each individual.


I think this is one of the main reasons people have sitters,to be there in case of emergency. We all hope unexpected situations will not arise on our sits but if they do, we would take it in our stride and do the best we can taking guidance from the home host and any professionals whether that be a Vet or a Tradesperson.

We would not expect a home owner to come home early but would understand if they choose to do so in the most extreme case.

It seems like you chose a great sitter in this case


We have had dogs that we knew need special care from the beginning as well as one situation like you described. We expect things like this can happen and would not expect the HO to come home early, especially if it’s something that we can handle and isn’t deadly serious. PS: As always, communication is key and you seem to be thoughtful of the well being of your pets as well as your sitters, which definitely goes a long way.

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There’s a balance isnt there between (a) the severity of the situation and (b) the owner’s ability to get home from wherever they are.

I’m a homeowner with an elderly somewhat fragile pet. My recent holiday was long-haul (my journey home was 30 hours door-to-door) and for most of the time almost no way of being contacted (no mobile signal, no wi-fi). So my pre-holiday discussions covered a wide range of ‘what ifs’ to be sure the sitter was comfortable with the situation.

Im a planner by nature so I would probably have covered those basics anyway. I suspect a lot of people dont factor in emergencies, so whether a sitter or a homeowner I recommend having that conversation!


Just to add - your sitter sounds like they did a great job! Hope your dog is OK.

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Welcome to the forum @Leftcoastofcanada. Thanks for jumping into this important and nuanced conversation.

I’m so glad your sitters were able to do well for you and your dog.
I’ve fortunately not had any real emergencies.
I did sit a very old bichon and the HO and I did discuss the potential for health problems in advance - she had already had the discussion with her vet about end of life care but fortunately the dog was healthy for the sit.
I also sat a trio of xx-doodles. One of them had lost his appetite just before the sit. He was otherwise healthy, or seemed that way - active and aware. I kept him happy for the week. But a week later, the HO let me know that they had eventually diagnosed cancer and put him down. For me, fortunately, not on my watch.

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