Dog Sitting: How to Handle an Emergency (Guest Blog)

dog and person silhouette

The solution for many of us when we travel is to send the dogs to someone else’s house or hire a sitter. But if you ever find that you are the “someone else” in that equation  you know that dog sitting is a huge responsibility.

Today’s guest post comes from an expert on the subject of dog sitting. Many of her recommendations could also be helpful in an emergency with your own pets.

When pet sitting, caregivers should always have a plan for responding to an emergency.

Be Prepared
It is important to gather emergency contact information prior to beginning a pet sitting job. This list should include contact numbers for the pet’s family, the veterinarian, the nearest emergency facility, and the poison control hotline. It is also a good idea to discuss emergency procedures with the pet’s family before they leave.

Be Cautious
An injured or sick animal may respond in an aggressive manner. The caregiver should remain calm and use slow movements to approach the dog. If the dog is docile, he can be safely transported. If, however, the dog shows aggression, the caregiver should refrain from touching him and call for emergency help.

outside with a poodle

Emergency Situations

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and American Animal Hospital Associationoffer guidelines for recognizing emergencies. These include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Paralysis
  • Difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, or choking
  • Gagging or vomiting with a swollen abdomen
  • Vomiting or diarrhea for 24 hours
  • Difficulty standing, disorientation, or collapsing
  • Seizure
  • Weak/rapid pulse or no heartbeat
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Bleeding from the eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Blood in the urine, feces, or vomit
  • Broken bones or symptoms of extreme pain
  • Heatstroke
  • Poisoning

Next Steps

If a dog exhibits any of these symptoms, the caregiver should transport him to the nearest emergency facility. The pet sitter should also notify the dog’s family and stay in communication with them until the emergency is resolved.

playing with french bulldog

Emergency Care Before Transport

In some situations, the caregiver should take specific action prior to transporting the dog. Of course, the pet sitter should use her best judgment to decide if a situation warrants immediate transport or at-home life-saving measures.


If a caregiver believes that a dog has ingested poison, she should call the 24-hour ASPCA poison control hotline. Based on the quantity of the specific substance ingested, the toxicologist will provide instructions for how to handle the situation. If the caregiver is unsure what the dog ingested, or if the dog is exhibiting emergency symptoms, he should be transported immediately.


If a dog is choking, the caregiver can perform a mouth sweep by inserting her fingers into the dog’s mouth and attempting to dislodge the object. The sitter can also use a modified Heimlich maneuver by sharply thumping the dog on the chest. At this point, the caregiver can ascertain if the dog needs further assistance.

sleeping with a dog


If a dog is unconscious, the caregiver should check for breathing and heartbeat. If the dog is not breathing, the sitter can perform artificial respiration. To do this, the caregiver should extend the dog’s head and hold his mouth closed. Then, the sitter will form a seal around the dog’s muzzle with her own mouth and blow into his nostrils every three seconds. If the dog has no heartbeat, the caregiver can use cardiac massage by administering three chest compressions for each respiration.


If a dog is bleeding from a traumatic injury, the sitter should elevate the wound and apply firm pressure to stop the bleeding. If another person can drive to the veterinarian’s office, the sitter can keep this pressure on the wound during the journey.

Lauren Colman serves as the digital marketer for the dog boarding and dog sitting community at and is a true dog lover at heart. Lauren spends her days at the office with her dogs Squish and Brando by her side. For more dog tips, you can follow on Twitter @roverdotcom or on their blog, Dog Boarding News.  

Have you ever faced a scary situation while dog sitting? What happened? And what helpful advice would you add to this list?


About crystalwayward

I live with two formerly wayward dogs. I care deeply about the environment, and I think gardening is a revolutionary act.

Posted on September 25, 2012, in Dogs, Dogtography, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Great post!!

    I had a situation a few years ago while watching a friends dog where all of a sudden he developed seizures, it was scary but a learning experience. I did all the things mentioned in your post, so glad to know I responded well. The one interesting thing I learned was when he seizured I had to remove my dogs because they could sense something was wrong and they became overly protective.

  2. It’s so amazing the things that a pet care provider must consider; I see people jumping into the pet sitting business all the time and I wonder if they’re truly prepared to handle an emergency. Thanks for this post.


    • That’s a great point. Pet sitting can seem like an easy way to make some cash, but it’s such a huge responsibility. I was doing quite a lot of it on the side a few years ago, but looking back I just feel lucky that nothing bad ever happened. Thank goodness, I was only taking care of very small, mostly sweet dogs then, who never escaped!

  1. Pingback: ab tech link | Asheville Area Professional Pet Sitters

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