Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pet sitters: When to call the client; when to go to the vet

Example Number 1: the limping Aussie
A prospective client and I watched the dogs frolicking in my back yard as they got acquainted. An Australian Shepherd started to limp a little. The client asked, “What would you do about that?”

I answered that I would separate her from the other dogs and let her rest for a few hours and see how she is. If she still limped, I’d separate her overnight. At some point, I may decide she was actually injured rather than just sore from playing too hard. Then I would call the owner. If the owner says, “Oh yeah, she does that occasionally,” then I wouldn’t take her to the vet unless they requested it.

“Good,” the woman replied, “I wouldn’t want you running off to the vet for every little thing.”

Example Number 2: The Boston terriers
Yesterday I arrived at the home of two very active Boston Terriers, Bo and Bella. Bo is a slow eater, Bella wolfs down her food. This particular morning Bo didn’t eat at all, and just went over and got in his bed. I made a note of it, and left his food next to the bed for him.

When I returned last night, the food was gone (maybe thanks to Bella) and Bo ate his dinner normally. Since the owners were returning last night, I just left them a note about him skipping a meal. If he hadn’t eaten again, and they weren’t on their way home, I would have called them.

Assess the dog’s overall behavior before you decide he is sick. Many dogs will skip a meal. See if you can get him to get up and come to you, wag his tail, show interest in a treat, or go outside. Your evaluation will be subjective; it is your judgment call as to what you need to do.

Example Number 3: The cat
This one happened just a week ago, and it has happened to me before. I arrived and the cat was lying in an unnatural position, partly in and out of his food dish. He had lost control of his bowels, and was stiff and staring. Spooky was still alive, but clearly dying. I called the owner immediately. I took the cat to the vet and had him euthanized for the owners, and followed their wishes about disposal of the body. RIP, Spooky, who died at 19 years old.

Example Number 4: the poodle
Brandy was circling frantically, and I thought she needed to go out. Then I saw she had peed, something she never does in the house. Just a moment later, she fell over and had a seizure.  I scooped her up, ran for the car and headed to the emergency vet.

The owners were out of the country and I had no way to reach them. I let the vet treat her, but declined major tests like an MRI. The next day (Monday) I took her to her regular vet, who said she had no history of seizures. He started her on medication.

When the owners came home, I had to present them with a $700 vet bill. They were grateful, and glad I had declined the additional tests. Brandy lived several more years with the medications, and had seizures for the rest of her life. I was glad I knew how far the owners would be willing to go in caring for their dog.

Age, health, and finances all enter into a decision to treat a critically ill pet. Be sure you discuss this with owners before they leave town. In this age of cell phones and email your clients are never completely out of reach, even when they are out of the country. I also ask for a local emergency contact person.

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© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

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