Pet care

It can be difficult to look after a pet when you have cancer and you may need to plan for their care. Find out who can help with your pet care.

About pet care

Looking after a pet can sometimes become a worry because of cancer and its treatment. You may be worried if you:

  • are struggling to look after your pet or are no longer able to look after them
  • have to go into hospital for a time.

This can be a very distressing time. You may need to plan to make sure your pet is looked after.

Who can help with your pet care

Friends and family

Friends, neighbours or family members who live close by may be able to help you. They may be able to visit your home to feed your pet and provide extra care, such as walking your dog.

Family and friends who live farther away may also be able to help. It might be possible for them to care for your pet in their home, although this will take more planning and is not always suitable.

Local vets

Your local vets may be able to help. They might know of, or provide, a volunteer support scheme. This is where volunteers visit your home to care for your pet or temporarily look after them in their own home. Your vet might also know of animal shelters in your area that may be able to help.

Charities and organisations

You may be able to get help from charities or organisations such as The Cinnamon Trust or Petpals. They may be able to find someone to look after your pet, including feeding them, keeping them clean and providing companionship. DogBuddy and Borrow My Doggy offer similar services but just for dogs.

Social workers may be able to give you advice about pet care while you are in hospital. Your local social services department has a duty to protect your property if you are admitted to hospital. This includes any pets, if there is no one else to take care of them. You may be charged for this service. Most cancer centres will have a social worker you can speak to. If not, your GP should be able to refer you to one.

Short-term animal fostering

Fostering involves someone else temporarily taking care of your pet. They usually do this in their own home or in a care centre. Many organisations will try to match the fosterer's home circumstances with your own so that your pet finds it easier to adjust to the change.

Some fostering organisations will keep you up to date about how your pet is while you are in hospital. Some can even send you photographs of your pet.

Most fostering services are provided by small charities and run by volunteers. This includes The Cinnamon Trust and Pet Fostering Service Scotland. Many fostering services are provided free of charge to pet owners. You may be asked to pay for or supply your pet's food, and to be prepared to pay for any vet bills.

Your vet may be able to tell you about local fostering services in your area. These services may also be listed in your local newspaper or have websites that you can find by searching online.

Other short-term options

Local boarding services

If you can pay for pet care, you may want to consider using a boarding service, kennel or cattery. These can be expensive and may only be suitable for short periods of time. Some places may offer a discount if you are going to use the kennel or cattery many times over a few months.

Contact details of local boarding services should be in your phone book or online. Your vet may also be able to suggest some.

It is a good idea to try to get a recommendation and visit a boarding service first if you can. All animal boarding services need to be licenced every year, so it is worth checking they have a licence too.

Local sitting services

Another option is to have someone come to your house each day. They can feed and spend time with your pet and, if necessary, walk them. Organisations such as Petpals can arrange for someone to care for your pet. Their service covers the whole of the UK. Your vet can tell you about any local organisations that can provide someone to look after your pet.

Contact details for local sitting services should be in your phone book or online. Again, it is a good idea to discuss this with your vet, who may be able to recommend a local service.

You can find a registered pet sitter on the National Association of Registered Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers (NARP) website.

Planning for an emergency

Sometimes you may have to go into hospital at very short notice, and it might not be possible to make arrangements for your pets. But you can plan for an emergency in case one should ever happen.

Think about who could look after your pets for you at short notice. This could be a neighbour or a nearby family member or friend. You may want to write their details on a card that you carry in your wallet or purse.

You can also write down who your vet is, and whether your pet has any medical conditions that need on-going treatment, or a special diet.

Another option is to leave contact details of family members or friends with your solicitor and carry an emergency card that has the solicitor's details on it.

Your pet's health and well-being

If your pet is going to be looked after by someone else, it is a good idea to provide as much information as possible about their likes, dislikes and health. It will help your pet if they are able to keep to their normal routine as much as possible.

Passing on information about your pet will help to reduce the number of things that have changed in your pet’s life.

Things to think about include:

  • what they eat
  • how regularly they are fed
  • what their daily routine is
  • how you reward them for good behaviour
  • who your vet is
  • what medical issues they have, if any.