Why Elderly or Diabetic Pets Need Extra Care When You’re Away

You desperately need a vacation, but you have an old or diabetic pet at home. What do you do?

Unnecessary stress can tax your elderly or sick pet’s immune system. By: Karen Blaha

Another summer is winding down, and some of my patients didn’t fare well while their humans went on vacation. Stress and inadequate monitoring under someone else were enough to endanger some of my more fragile friends.

Aged and sick pets require additional both mental and physical care than your average pet. Our best buddies are sentient, feeling beings — they thrive on routine and the security of familiar surroundings and family members.

Keep their routine as stable as possible while you’re away. Besides their medical conditions, these pets may have anxiety disorders; any changes in routine can cause them dangerous stress.


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The Geriatric Pet

Many of us may not be fully aware of how much time and care we devote to our aged pets. Since you live with them day in and day out, you may not be aware of how much your 14- or 15-year-old pet has aged since your last vacation last year.

Prior to planning a vacation of any length, go through this checklist and be honest with yourself. Can a pet sitter or kennel meet your geriatric pet’s needs? Do you have time to find a house sitter and acclimate that person to the needs of your pet before you leave?


Make sure your sitter can take care of all your pet’s needs while you’re gone. By: Derek Bridges


  • How fragile is your cat?
  • Have you noticed any recent decline in your beloved kitty?
  • Have you been to the vet recently for a weight check and evaluation?
  • Does your cat use the litter box consistently? Is a pet sitter prepared to help out with problem bathroom habits?
  • How difficult is it to get your cat to eat?
  • Is it easy to give your cat necessary medications?
  • Have you checked with your vet that it’s OK to skip some/any of your cat’s meds?

And a gut-check question: How often do you take your pet to the vet? The frequency of vet visits is an indicator that your pet may have a medical problem while you’re away.

The Diabetic Pet

Even well-regulated diabetics, particularly cats, experience stress when their family leaves. Stress can change their metabolism and therefore change their insulin needs. If they are solitary, independent animals, like many cats, a change in their level of exercise, amount of human contact and feeding schedule or amounts of food consumed can play havoc with their diabetes.

If your diabetic animal will be in a pet sitter’s or kennel’s care, make sure the caretakers will call your vet if there is any change in behavior such as lack of appetite, vomiting, lethargy, etc. A pet sitter should spend at least an hour twice a day in your home. Diabetic dogs probably require more than 2 visits. Just feeding and giving insulin injections is not a sufficient level of monitoring for a diabetic animal.

Watch this helpful video to learn more about diabetes in cats:

Make sure the caretaker knows your pet’s daily routine and personality. A cat, for example, must be seen eating, walking around and exhibiting a bright and alert demeanor. If the cat is sleeping every time the pet sitter visits and the sitter just refreshes the food and water and gives the required insulin, this cat could be on their way to a diabetic crisis.

Too often, a client tells me the pet sitter “couldn’t find the cat” and left. This is bad in any case, but it could be life-threatening to a diabetic.

It is generally easier to spot a problem in a dog. For one thing, they don’t hide very well! Pet sitters usually notice immediately if a dog won’t get up normally or eat and drink — and hopefully call the vet as instructed.

In a poorly run kennel, if a worker checks on a dog at the end of a day and assumes they’re “just sleeping” or “old” when they are actually in a bad medical state, the morning may be too late for the pup.

This may be a tough topic for many of you who love your old boy or girl dearly but are also in desperate need of a vacation. Take the time to find a solution that prioritizes your pet’s health so everyone can have a pleasant time while you’re on vacation.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was last reviewed Aug. 23, 2017.

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