Why do Pets get Sick While You’re on Vacation?


Do Your Pets Get Sick When You’re Away On Vacation? This Might Explain Why.

I am amazed by the number of cats and dogs that are brought to my office by pet sitters. Sometimes the pet sitters are professionals. In other instances, friends or family members of vacationers volunteered to watch the cat or dog for free. Either way, I can tell that the pet sitter is worried it is his fault that the pet is at the vet.

As well, on some days half of my clients tell me stories similar to this one: “Fluffy was fine before we left for vacation. My friend Jim watched her, and Jim says that he didn’t notice anything wrong while we were away. But since we’ve returned Fluffy hasn’t eaten anything and she’s thrown up ten times.”

What’s going on here? Are pet sitters generally inept? Why do so many pets get sick when their families are out of town?

In my experience, most pet sitters take their jobs (whether paid or not) very seriously. And most of them are exceptionally diligent. After all, nobody wants their best friend’s cat to get sick while they are taking care of it.

But there is no escaping the fact that a disproportionate number of veterinary visits occur when the pet’s family is, or has just been, away. And I believe I know why.

One thing that makes pets so great is that they unabashedly love the people they live with. However, when those people are away the absence causes stress. That stress can dramatically exacerbate pre-existing medical conditions–conditions that may have been present, undetected, for months before the family vacation.

Therefore, seemingly healthy pets may become sick when their loved ones are away.

Does this mean that you are not entitled to a vacation if you have a pet? Absolutely not! But there are some precautions you can take.

  • Consider taking your pet on vacation with you. This is especially practical (and fun!) on road trips. Most dogs love going on vacation. Cats, I will confess, sometimes prefer to stay home.
  • If you are concerned about your pet’s health (or if your pet is elderly or you have any doubts), go to the vet before your trip. It is not fair to leave your pet with a sitter if you suspect that something may be wrong.
  • Talk to your pet sitter about what should be done if your pet gets sick while you’re away.
  • Be reachable. When a sitter brings me a sick pet, I can more easily solve the problem if I can reach a decision maker on a cell phone.

And finally, try not to blame the pet sitter if things unexpectedly go wrong. Most of them are doing the best that they can.

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