Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hot Spot and Wound care for pets

Dear Labby,

I have a nasty hot spot on my left hip! It burns and itches. How do I get it to stop?

Rusty the Lab

Hi Rusty,
Hot spots and other "owies" can be hard to get rid of and uncomfortable for any animal. I won't give you a complete first aid lesson here, but I would like to pass along some tips from our mom's horse vet, Dr. Larry Martin, of Large Animal Veterinary Associates in El Cajon, CA. 

Dr. Larry has a lot of common sense, and his suggestions are good for horses AND dogs. And sometimes for people too! The first step in treating any wound is to wash it out. "Irrigate, irrigate irrigate," are the first three steps, he once told me. Get all the dirt and bacteria out of there. If you've ever been bitten by a dog (heaven forbid!) and had to wash it out, you know how much it hurts to run water down into the wound, but it's the best defense against infection. 

If a wound is deep, be sure to get to the vet. The animal may need stitches and antibiotics. If it is a surface wound and you feel home care will be sufficient, read on.

Some wounds are in spots where you can't bandage them. When Star the horse had a nasty bite wound (from his roommate) on his shoulder, Dr. Larry had Terry make a mixture to put on it: 
Horseman's Dream aloe vera cream for healing, Swat! fly repellent, and Bag Balm (similar to Vaseline) to make it all stick to the wound and protect it. This gooey mixture has all the elements needed to keep flies from laying eggs and dirt from getting in while the injury heals. 

Dr. Larry says he even uses Horseman's Dream to put on his son's road rash when he falls off his bike and scuffs up his knees. Horseman's Dream is made specifically for horses and dogs, and you can buy it online or in a local tack store. I've used it on my own skin and it feels cool and refreshing. If you can't find Bag Balm (try WalMart), you can substitute petroleum jelly. SWAT is fly repellent cream, and comes in bubblegum pink or white. 

Back to the hot spot problem. Horseman's dream by itself cooled off and helped heal my own hotspot; I hope it helps you too! 

If the wound gets inflamed and red around the edges, or oozes pus, it is infected. Get to the vet right away before it makes the pet really sick. 


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Don't drag the dog by the collar!

I have a simple tip for pet sitters and pet owners. Don't drag your dog by the collar. THEY HATE IT. Hook on a leash and lead the dog where you want him to go. I have seen so many dogs just dig in and refuse to budge when the owner grabs the collar. Toy breeds are often worse than big dogs about being handled this way. And if the dog's temperament is the least bit iffy, you're just asking for a bite. 

He may not want to go outside. He may not want to get off the couch. He may be at the front door greeting someone or barking at a person walking by the house. I use a leash in my own home with my own dogs. If they don't want to go, I hook on a leash. Even the most reluctant dog usually gets up and follows me. Using a leash gives you some distance from the dog's mouth, so you aren't as likely to be the target of a bite. But even the most docile dog will respond better to a leash than a drag. (Side note here: don't take no for an answer– you are the leader, right?)

Trying to break up a potential dogfight before it gets started? Grabbing a collar might set them off. Pull the leash through the handle and drop it over the dog's head (see photo) and tighten so you don't have to fasten the hook to a collar, which is much harder and more dangerous with an agitated dog. 

Ian Dunbar, known for his puppy training methods, recommends you start training your dog to accept someone touching his collar when he is still a puppy. Take hold of the collar and give Puppy a treat, over and over. Make touching his collar a positive experience. When Puppy is eating, take hold of his collar and give him a treat that is yummier than anything in his bowl. Now you get a double benefit: the dog learns that having you around his food is a good thing. Reinforce this training throughout your dog's life. 

Hooking on a leash is a simple trick that saves you lots of frustration.  

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Network with other pet sitters to build your business

Last fall, I joined a group called the PetNet, a network of San Diego pet sitters who get together for parties and ... well.. bitch sessions! I walked in the door, didn't know a soul, and had 30 instant friends. There's nothing like a good debriefing with people who understand what you deal with on a daily basis. We share horror stories, funny incidents, and tips to make each others' lives easier.  I never laughed so much.

We also have a discussion list on the Internet. Yes we are in competition with each other, but we also refer clients to each other, too. San Diego county is a huge area, and we often get calls from potential clients who are out of our individual service areas. It's great to be able to refer them to a "known" business, and the callers appreciate it too. Other areas have their own pet sitting networks, for example, in Georgia. Do a search on the internet, or start your own local group.

I am also on a national discussion forum: Professional Pet Sitters United, a yahoo group. Go to and search under "finance." Because I also board dogs in my home, I joined a national dog daycare list. You'll find it in the pets category on yahoo groups. If you are a member of PSI, there is a PSI  member forum linked from the web site. You can check messages on the web, get individual messages or in a digest format to your email address. 

These Internet groups are a great way to learn about pet sitting if you are thinking of starting a business. Ask lots of questions and learn from the experience of others. They are eager to help. Complain, grieve, confess and entertain; you are among friends! Learn about business practices, software, pet behavior, and client relations. If your client moves away, you may find a new pet sitter for them from the list.

Social networking also connects you with other pet sitters. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are the top three to get you started. Come visit and be my friend! 

Photo above: Desi (dachshund), Stussey (husky mix), McKenzie (westie) and Katie (German Shorthair) romp in my back yard.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What cats need and want

I just read an excellent article on the Pet Connection blog about cats. Although it addresses shelter cats and how to handle them, there is helpful advice for pet sitters. Read about how to handle and calm a wary cat who is stressed by being handled by an unknown person (which is basically anyone but his owner). Thanks Kim Thornton for an excellent article! 

Kim is also one of my pet sitting clients. She brought her three cavalier spaniels, Twyla, Bella and Harper, to stay with me while she was in Washington DC at the No-Kill Conference last week.

In this photo, Harper meets my box turtles. The kitties above are my two, Sterling and Whisper, both Silver Persians adopted from Bonita Animal Control.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A personal letter from Paul Mann of Fetch! Pet Care, Inc

The franchise backlash continues in the pet sitting world. My earlier post announced the alliance between Petco and Fetch! Pet Care, a national pet sitting franchise corporation. Since then, independent pet sitters are in an uproar, worrying about how this will impact their own business. 

CEO of Fetch!, Paul Mann, annoyed a lot of people when he said pet sitters can do this job sitting at home in their pajamas. That article was more of a PR gimmick than reality, but it got a lot of attention from hard-working self-employed pet sitters, who are busy from 7 am to 10 pm every day driving around from house to house, caring for an assortment of animals. Petitions and nasty letters are flooding into Petco's and Fetch's corporate offices, prompting this letter from Paul Mann I received this morning from Fetch's PR agency, Fishman Public Relations:

To the nation’s independent pet sitters:


Last week, we distributed a press release announcing that Fetch! Pet Care and PETCO had entered into a corporate partnership, in which PETCO would exclusively promote Fetch! Pet Care to its customers, starting with two test markets in California and Seattle.


We would like to take this time to address any concerns that the partnership announcement has created among independent pet sitters.


First, please keep in mind that we have a shared mission of delivering the best care possible to our country’s pets. As such, we would like to request that everyone engage only in positive steps that will help build each other’s businesses, while at the same time benefit the pets.   


According to the APPMA and Packaged Facts, only 5 percent of pet owners have used a pet sitter or dog walker. Most pet owners in America use neighbors, family and friends, or they kennel or board their pets. This is primarily due to a lack of awareness and education as to why a professional pet sitter/dog walker is a better choice. The Fetch!-PETCO partnership is designed to create more opportunity for all pet sitters and dog walkers.


While Fetch! Pet Care is a national brand, our franchises are locally owned and operated, and are members of the local pet community in the same way that independent sitters are.  Fetch! Pet Care franchisees are involved in local pet rescues, giving back to pets in need, and engaging in the community. They work hard to find good pet sitters; offering standardize training, and encouraging continued industry education, which includes CPR, first aid and pet handling skills. Just like you, we are all genuine pet people who desire to make a living doing what we love.


We sincerely hope that you will view this partnership as an opportunity to leverage the additional awareness it will bring to our industry, and use it to drive your business.  We all look to achieve the same goal of offering the best care possible for the pets in our communities.  We welcome the opportunity to partner with you to continue these efforts.  As an example, independent pet sitters who want to work with PETCO can do so by contracting as independent providers through Fetch! Pet Care and accepting assignments under the Fetch! Pet Care name.  Of course, you would still be able to service your own clients as well.  We currently do this around the country with numerous partners who own and operate their own pet care business.


We also extend with open arms the opportunity for independent pet sitters to franchise with Fetch! Pet Care in areas where we still have availability. In doing so, you will gain access to PETCO and the numerous other national partnerships we have in place, national and local marketing and PR, as well as additional operational best practices.


Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.  We greatly appreciate your input, and hope that we will have the opportunity to work together to carry out our shared mission of delivering the best care possible for our nation’s beloved pets.


For the Pets,




Paul Mann, Founder & CEO

Fetch! Pet Care, Inc.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Add services to increase your pet sitting income

I found a great list of 9 tips to help increase your income from current clients on Danielle Chonody's blog here:

Once way to increase your business is to get more customers. Another way is to make more money from the customers you already have, which is her focus in this post. If you have a special area of expertise, like raw diets or pet first aid, take advantage of it and offer these services to your clients.

If you have some additional suggestions, please share!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Fetch Pet Care franchise pet sitting in alliance with Petco

Read about it here. This is a test program in California and Seattle (two cities dear to my heart). Petco has teamed up with Fetch Pet Care, which is a pet sitting franchise operation. 

Some independent pet sitters are up in arms, and there is a protest petition on the Petition Site, if you would like to add your voice:

New pet sitters wonder about whether to start their own business, buy an existing one, or buy a franchise. New franchisees have to build up their business from scratch just like the rest of us, but it won't be a level playing field.

Petco has a huge marketing and advertising budget, which may be a good reason to buy a Fetch franchise. Of course, the franchise owners have to contribute to the advertising cost. I wonder if they have a choice. Maybe not- and it could be a hefty price. Back in my days in the retail advertising business, every inch of the print ads , every second of TV and radio commercials– suppliers paid for all of it on a co-op basis. The retailer bills the supplier, or takes it out of the cost of goods. This advertising deal could be worth millions of dollars to Petco, and the 1800 Fetch franchisees get to pay for it. 

Think of McDonalds. You get a complete business package and the huge power of national media advertising. Your business could grow enormously. But you have to follow the parent company's rules, and pay them a portion of your income. You lose some control. 

The real difference is small business vs. big business. Which do you want to be?

This is a good move for Fetch; I'm not so sure for Petco. Service is everything in the pet sitting business, and a franchise or independent will make it or not because of service quality, not advertising. There are so many human and animal variables, insurance and liability issues. I wonder how Petco will cope with all this?

I haven't decided how I feel about this alliance. What do you think? 

Can ferrets get swine flu?

Here is an important link, written by Lianne McCleod, DVM (a veterinarian), about ferrets and swine flu. Ferrets are susceptible to human flu viruses, so this is good info for pet sitters, and your clients, to be aware of.