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Coping with a Sick Pet

Posted by Positive Impressions on

Helping clients cope with a sick pet is a big part of the job of a veterinarian and those who work in clinics and animal hospitals. As you know, when a beloved pet seems off, it could be more than something small. It could be, in fact, a sign of mild sickness or even a serious illness. There are many ways to handle the situation depending on the severity of the sickness, but unfortunately, the financial situation of the client may ultimately be the deciding factor.

Hospital Stays

In most cases, when a pet is sick a pet owner will take the pet to a vet or animal hospital. If the situation is severe, the pet may need to stay in the hospital for a few days or weeks. For those who can afford it, this is by far the best option for treatment as it keeps the pet in an environment where they are provided the best care by trained professionals. In general, hospital stays help the pet heal faster and, although they may go home with medication for outpatient treatment, they typically get well again. Unfortunately, extended hospital stays, surgeries, and even some medications, can get very expensive. Many clients do not have the financial means to support their sick pet in this way and other options might need to be considered.

Home Care & Chronic Conditions

Pet owners who don’t have the funds to keep their pet in an animal hospital will often try to manage the care at home. However, the process of caring for and bearing witness to an ailing animal can be extremely draining on a pet owner. This is especially true if several treatments have been administered without much improvement. A sick animal’s chronic condition can often lead to lethargy and even depression. These symptoms can weigh heavily on the pet owner’s psychological wellness. Because of this, it is extremely vital that clinics give their clients the proper information and support they need to be able to properly give the best treatment possible at home. This includes properly labeling all the medication with necessary stickers and instructions. Due to the condition of the pet and the state of mind of the pet owner, it’s best to include as much information and detailed instructions as possible.

Special Food & Physical Care

Giving special instructions on medications should be applied to sick pets with special diets, too. For example, not all pet owners know that if a sick pet is prescribed special food that they need to make sure they are fed separately from other pets. Also, it’s crucial that all members of the household are aware of the pet’s special dietary needs and understand that straying from the diet can be extremely harmful to the pet.

Additionally, encourage your clients to be aware of any special physical needs that their sick pet may have. Let them know that some medications may cause the pet to drink and urinate more, which means more walks or litter box cleanings. Pets may need help going up and down stairs, and you may need to show your clients the correct way to assist their pet so that they do not hurt them or worsen the ailment.

Be sure that clients are aware that they need to report any worsening or new symptoms immediately, as these could indicate that the pet’s illness has become more serious. New symptoms could also be side effects of the pet’s medication. A re-examination may be required along with new prescriptions.


Euthanasia is a difficult choice but sometimes the best option when it comes to a sick pet. If you have tried everything you can to help heal an animal and they are still sick and/or in pain, you may need to suggest this option to your client. Often it is the most humane treatment for a pet that is absolutely too uncomfortable to continue living in pain. Be sure to go over the details of the process and explain to the pet owner the options for the remains (cremation, burial, taxidermy, etc.).

As a veterinarian, vet tech, or staff member of an animal hospital, you will surely see thousands of sick pets throughout your career. While you will certainly help many of these beloved animals get better and live long, healthy lives, you will have to work diligently with the pet owner throughout the treatment. While it can be difficult for everyone in the situation, the more detailed you can be with your instructions to the pet owner and the more thorough you can be with your treatment, the better the outcome will be for everyone. 

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