Handling a sick dog

I’m 14 days into a 30 day sit for two dogs. When I arrived the owner told me one was having some stomach upset and to feed it chicken and rice. The dog has had runny and liquid stools every day, in and out of the home (in an urban area.) I’ve been in regular contact with the owner and have taken the dog to the vet and have been administering the prescribed meds and food. The dog seems fine now in every other way except for the diarrhea which continues. If it doesn’t improve tomorrow there will probably be another vet visit.

I’m curious about what others might think about this situation. I’ve been thinking oh, this sucks but I’m the sitter and I’m committed. One of my friends suggested no, this is not normal and the owner needs to come home and take care of this. Thoughts?


Hi @jcvbva we had a similar issue with a cat. Yes it’s a horrible job to clean up diarrhoea multiple times daily but all we could think of was the poor sick puss who couldn’t help it and the poor very worried owners who were out of the country. Based on what the vet said we actually thought the cat might die on our watch. We gave the owners daily updates on the cat’s condition to keep them in the loop but also to help ease their worry so they could enjoy their trip. During one post vet visit phone call the owner expressed such gratitude for us not throwing in the towel and said other sitters would have run a mile. We said “not us, why would we? This is what good sitters do”. By the time the owners arrived home, after several vet visits, old puss had done a Lazarus and was on the way to recovery. We will always remember how relieved the owners were and how grateful they were for our sitter service.

In short, stand in their shoes and imagine how you would like your sitter to care for your pet in the same situation.

P.S. have lots of paper towel, disinfectant and room spray handy.


I think that the Owner should be home, dealing with the sick dog. The fact that they are not home, makes me wonder if the illness had been going on for awhile before you arrived, and not disclosed to you. If I were the Owner, and this was a new condition, I would be super worried about my dog and rush home to comfort my dog and make sure the illness was diagnosed and treated properly. This is not to say that you are not doing a wonderful job! It is just how much I loved my late dog, Snoopy.

GI illness can be difficult to diagnose. It can be infection, inflammation, autoimmune, toxin, food intolerance, anxiety, other (like hyperthyroidism). It can take many visits to a good vet and many tests and trials to really figure it out.

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@Crookie. Good on you. I hate to get judgey, but I’ve had geriatric pets, and I’ve left them in the care of loving sitters who I knew could handle situations, and I got lucky because nothing horrific ever happened when I was away However, I can think of two vacations that didn’t happen literally the day of and a couple of days before because our pet took a turn. I can’t imagine NOT coming home if I got a message that my pet could be days or hours from death.


My thought is that you didn’t sign up for this. Regardless of whether this was ongoing or the HO had no way of knowing. They know now that you’ve taken the dog to the vet. The dog is on medication and the diarrhea is still an issue. First off, if there is not improvement, you absolutely should take the dog back to the vet. You also need to have an honest, open conversation with the owner, not about our thougths on this forum, but about yours. Do you want the owners to come home and cut short the sit? Do you want the owners to do something to make this better for you? What would that even be? A part time sitter, so this wouldn’t all be on you? Some form of compensation? A few days respite if there is a friend or relative who can take the dog for a few days or even stay there and you could stay at a hotel – at the owner’s expense? What do you think? Remember, if you are not being honest with the owner about how you feel, they don’t know.


I think you’re doing an outstanding job as their sitter coping with the sick dog. Sticking with it is the commendable thing to do if you can manage. That said, it seems very odd that the HO doesn’t want to return asap and so it would seem this is an ongoing issue that they just didn’t disclose to you before the sit. That’s the bit that isn’t cricket IMHO. Hope it improves for you @jcvbva and the poor pet.


That poor dog has now been having runny stools for two weeks + however long before you arrived. If I were their human, I wouldn’t have left knowing they were sick. Or I’d have returned by now, if I’d left thinking it would clear up quickly.

Not only is it not fair on you, it’s also sad that the dog isn’t being comforted by its humans.


If I were the HOs I would want to be home with the pet. If I were the pet, I would want the HOs. I would have an honest conversation with the HO

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You are doing great and yes take them back to the vet. A lot of owners would have returned naturally, but it depends on how far away the owners are as to whether that is viable for them, but I would ask them if there’s any way they could return early as you are really concerned with it lasting so long, or if they can get a family or friend to takeover.

Dogs get upset tummies, it happens, it’s only 1 occasion in a blue moon where it will occur while you are sitting. So if they won’t return home then just care for the dog the way your instinct (& the vet) says to, the dog is probably loving the fact that you are around to help make it comfortable. So on the bright side, hopefully the next 10 will be tummy-issue free.

You are doing amazing! Well done.


@jcvbva How’re you and the dog doing? That must be a terribly stressful situation. You sound like a highly responsible sitter.

As to if HO should come home early - yes, that might be ideal. But even that is not at all straight forward. Like what would happen to the sitter? Should he stay in the home until the end of the sit with the HO’s there? Should the rest of the sit be cancelled and the sitter find somewhere to stay or a new sit? I think it wouldn’t be the HO’s responsibility to pay for a hotel for the sitter in this case.

We’ve once come home mid trip when our dog had to have an emergency operation. The sitter took her to the operation and back home, but I came as quickly as I could to take care of her while she was recovering. The sitter was local, so totally okay with her, she just wet back home (not a THS sit).

But it’s not always possible for the Ho to just come home in the middle of the trip. Our upcoming trip will be like that. But of course we do have plan B and C in place in case of an emergency.


Thanks all for your replies. I am staying and unless things take a turn for the worse, I am not going to ask the owner to return early. Your messages are helpful and make me feel like I am doing the right thing.


IMHO I think they should pay you when they get back because what you went through is way above and beyond what should have been expected.

It has happened to me more than once and I’ve just gone ahead and been a superhero but those times, when I got back home, I have thought to myself that some compensation or gift should have been offered. A hotel voucher for a couple of hundred dollars/euros.

One thing is to look after your own pet when it’s very sick and quite another to look after an animal you don’t know + the tremendous responsibility of looking after the furry member of someone else’s family.

I think a lot of the sits include older animals that can no longer go into kennels during the owners holidays. So in reality the chances are higher for illness and health issues.

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So, I think something that’s important to keep in mind is, 1. sick happens and the timing can suck sometimes 2. not every animal is going to be a perfect, able-bodied ward.

As someone who has a dog that can be nervous around other dogs, I know he’s not “perfect” and I fully disclose that in our profile.

Our first sit was for an elderly dog and we did run into some very messy potty issues…that’s part of the “job”…some sits will be seamless, some, not so much.

And it sucks the dog got sick right before the HO’s were leaving…not sure if I, personally, would have cancelled my trip if I were in that situation, but idk.

Speaking from the HO side, I was away on a trip and while I was gone, my boy ended up getting really sick (I think it was from the treats the sitter was giving, but neither here nor there)…What I do know, is that the sitter made sure my dog was taken care of…took him repeatedly to the vets, kept me updated, and was transparent about everything even if they were at fault…

As a sitter, you are basically there to do what I’m not able to do when I’m not there, and if I’m sitting for you, that’s exactly the standard I would be holding myself to as well and, even though yea, it’s great to travel some place new, etc., your pet is my FIRST priority. end of.

To follow up on this though, I think it is SUPER important that before you take on a sit, you vet the daylights out of it to the best of your ability. Ask all the questions, do your due diligence and be ready to make adjustments. If you have concerns, don’t accept the sit. It’s totally ok to walk away from a sit and as a pet guardian, I’d rather that than have someone that isn’t up for the task at home with my dog.


The second time we had TH sitters my dog started getting sick the day of the night we were flying to London, we thought maybe he had eaten a small object and we hadn’t noticed as we were getting ready. And he was still a puppy. So he was putting anything in his mouth at the time. I contacted the sitters (who were super sweet, and understanding. They were local and their home was being remodeled), and I explained the situation to them. I told them I didn’t feel comfortable leaving my dog until I was sure he was okay. I took him to the vet and rescheduled my flight for the next day. He was fine, sometimes we still suspect he was throwing a fit because we were leaving. He has quite the personality.

If it was my dog that was sick for that long, I would come home. My previous dog of 16 years passed away days after I got back from vacation but he fell sick right before I left and I remember feeling awful the whole time I was away.

P.s. I apologize for the edits or any typos but typing from my iPhone which has the worst autocorrect sometimes!

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I’d feel awful being away if my dog were sick as well — I can’t imagine staying away say two weeks or longer knowing that.

I’m about to start a sit with a cat who almost died of colitis last year and I’ll be on the watch for symptoms, at the human’s request. Of course I wouldn’t leave if the cat fell ill and I’m going into the sit with open eyes, but I also wouldn’t have trouble letting the HO know if I thought they should come back if things took a serious turn. Pets give us so much loyalty and love, it’s not a bad thing for a sitter to let their humans know when they’re needed. To me, a sitter — no matter how responsible — isn’t a real substitute when pets are sick. If I were sick, sure, I’d appreciate anyone who’d take care of me, even a stranger. But would that be what I’d want? No, of course I’d rather have someone I love doing that. There’s nothing wrong with being an advocate for pets. They can’t say such things for themselves.


I’m pleased to report that there was a solid poop today for the first time in 16 days. I don’t even care that is was is the house. I was able to pick it up! :laughing:


:partying_face: Great news! And yes, if it’s something you’re able pick up, that’s a win :poop:

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High-five! So glad for the poor dog and you, @jcvbva.

And random: I never thought a dog I don’t know having a solid poop would make me happy, but apparently it does, LOL.


Yay!!! So glad to hear. :raised_hands:

Godspeed doggo!

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Yay! I’m glad the pup’s on the mend. Thanks for letting us know @jcvbva! And thanks for taking such great care of poor doggo.