When going on a vacation, there are so many things to remember, but if you are a worried pet parent, like myself, you know it’s important to have a great pet sitter while you are gone. This weekend, my husband and I are taking a little trip, and Rooney is staying with my classmate, who loves practicing for her future Corgi. Since, Christine has never watched Rooney before, I typed up a list of useful information. This was easy for me to do because pet sitting was one of my main sources of income in college, but for others, it may be unclear what is important to mention.
What to write on the list:
First and foremost you should put contact information, not just your own contact information, but also your regular veterinarians, and the closest emergency hospital. I feel it’s important to put this info at the top, because if there is an emergency, you want to make this information easy to locate for your pet sitter. I also added the signs of an emergency, according to Pet’s Unlimited website :
- Signs of an emergency
- Repeated vomiting
- Rapid weight loss
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe lethargy
- Bloated or distended abdomen
- Watery, bloody, or severe diarrhea
- Frequent urination or inability to urinate
- Lameness – not bearing weight or limping severely
- Loss of appetite – your pet has not eaten in one or more days
- Eye problems – pawing at eyes or squinting, swelling/discharge from one or both eyes
- Poisoning – your pet has ingested any toxins such as anti-freeze, rat or slug bait, or any medications not prescribed by a veterinarian
Many of these symptoms are obvious reasons to take a pet to the emergency room, but some of them are slightly less obvious. For example, many people don’t realize that eye problems shouldn’t wait. If your pet has a foreign body (i.e. piece of plant, or sometimes Christmas Tree needles) in their eye, that needs to be removed and treated immediately. Additionally, I put a statement on my directions that says, “I, Rachel Sheppard (signature) authorize treatment of Rooney Sheppard in an emergency situation”. I told Christine to keep that note with her, and for whatever reason if a veterinary hospital cannot reach me, or my husband, they can begin treating Rooney, which may save his life. Many veterinary hospitals have more extensive forms you can fill out, which can be useful for long vacations.
It’s always important to spell everything out for your pet sitter. I suggest, writing your instructions assuming they know nothing about your pet. For example, under the “Food” category of Rooney’s instructions. I put that he eats a little less than 1 cup, twice daily, but I also made sure to mention what brand of food it is, in case they run out, and if I ever increase or decrease his food based on his activity level that day. Being specific about activity levels effecting the amount of food you provide is especially important for long term trips. Have you ever had someone watch your dog for 1 1/2 weeks and you come back and they are 10 pounds heavier? That has happened to my family before, so I believe its important to be specific about food levels, especially if they aren’t going to provide your pet with regular exercise. Another important thing to mention to avoid weight gain or loss, is the amount of treats your pet is allotted each day. For example, Rooney only gets treats when we leave the house, and occasionally for training. Every person has a different perspective on treats and how many to give, some people give their pet 1 treat per day, some give 8. Therefore, its always in your favor to be specific. This category is also a good place to mention any medications they need, and how you normally give them to your pet.
The next important category to go over with your pet sitter is your pet’s regular sleeping arrangements. Especially when your pet will be staying somewhere other than your home. For example, I told Christine that Rooney is allowed on all furniture in our house, so if she was comfortable with Rooney sleeping on their bed, he can. Additionally, I mentioned that he occasionally cries in the middle of the night, and that means he wants to go in his crate. I also mentioned that Rooney is to be crated WHENEVER they leave the house, even if he seems like he is being a good boy. I reassured her, that he would rearrange their home, and he is not a great interior designer. One of my particular requests was that she never left Rooney in his crate with his collar on (because I have heard horror stories), so I made sure to write that down and tell her. You can’t expect your pet sitter to read your mind, so these details are always worth mentioning.
The next section I mentioned was “Walks”. Here, it is always good to mention how often you regularly walk your pet, and how much activity is too much. Every dog has their limits on activity, for Rooney its roughly 45 minutes of sprinting. Its important to let them know what their normal schedule would be like and what their limitations. I also mentioned that he can under no circumstances (unless in a dog park) be taken off leash. Despite Rooney’s large ears, he listens very little, and he loves moving vehicles. Speaking of vehicles, I also told her how he prefers to travel, and how much window space he is allowed. This is important not only for fun reasons, but for emergency reasons. Your pet sitter may not PLAN on taking your pet anywhere, but they might need to.
The last section of my instructions was titles “NUANCES”, here it is worth mentioning things that are normal to you, but may alarm your pet sitter. For example, Rooney has reverse sneezing fits throughout the day. They are not a big deal, but to someone who has never heard them, they could sounds like choking. I also mentioned that around bodies of water he needs his life jacket because he will try to keep up with dogs that have tails and longer legs, and lastly, that he will find mud where ever possible and will need a bath, so I brought his shampoo.
Lastly, mention to your pet sitter how often you expect to hear from them (i.e. phone call once a day). All of these instructions may seem excessive, but you really only need to type instructions one time, and make edits over the years. The most important point here is to make sure you equip your pet sitter with information, and don’t expect them to read your mind.