What should I do in life-threatening emergencies?

For any emergency situations that arise while you are caring for pets with Hands N Paws, remember to trust your instinct and call 911 as necessary. Calling the office should be the last person of contact in true/life-threatening emergency situations. You should call 911 first, figure out whether to transport pet to emergency vet, call the Hands N Paws office- if outside of business hours, call the CEO. We will call the client from there to inform them of what’s going on.

Numbers to call: Hands N Paws office – (614) 636-6644; CEO – (216) 337-4263

What do I do if a pet ingested a toxic substance?

Examples of toxic substances include, but are not limited to: medication, toxic foods, cleaning chemicals, fertilizer, sidewalk salt, and antifreeze.

  • Check for signs of immediate medical crisis: panting, stumbling, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, etc. 
  • In serious situations, in which pet is unconscious for example, call 911 then call management right away (office #) 
  • Transport pet to emergency/nearest vet

What do I do if a pet gets stung by a bee?

  • Call management immediately (office #)
  • Use a credit card to remove the stinger from the skin. Do not use tweezers, which could squeeze out more venom into the skin
  • Gently apply a cold compress to the area to help with swelling
  • May need to administer an antihistamine (at management’s instruction and client’s availability)
  • Possibly transport pet to emergency/nearest vet

What do I do if a pet is suffering from heat stroke?

Signs of overheating/heat stroke include rapid panting, red tongue, thick saliva, diarrhea, and vomiting.

  • Provide cold water (splash on body)
  • Cool body down with a cold washcloth
  • Allow the pet to rest in a cool place (if on a walk- shade or grass; if at home- indoors)
  • Encourage/lightly force small sips of water
  • Call management (office #)
  • Possibly transport pet to emergency/nearest vet

What do I do if the dog I’m walking gets into a dog fight?

First, keep your body in mind. The way you present yourself during a dog fight is huge! Dogs can mimic and pick up on the energy that humans present, so you’ll definitely wanna make sure your energy is calm and assertive. Remind the dog of who’s in charge and be quick to enforce.

Most importantly, make sure that you physically stay out of the line of fire. We know it may be instinctual to wanna physically intervene to try and break up a fight; but that could result in you getting attacked as well.

It is best practice to use all the three steps below in the order they are given. In some instances, you may only need one or two of the steps to successfully break-up a dog fight. Either way, it’s most helpful to implement all steps and in the order they are detailed in.

  1. Distractions are your friend!

When fights are occurring, use the following techniques to distract dogs from continuing to fight. 

  • Make a loud noise – yell (to call for help too!), scream, say “hey!” really loudly, or screech your voice.
  • Use commands that the pet you’re caring for knows – make sure to check client’s profile ahead of time so that you know them and can use them off the top of your head in instances like this!
  • If you have water with you (in company water bottle), dump water on dogs.
  • Throw a towel, jacket, sweatshirt, or any “cover-type” material on dogs to prevent them from seeing each other!

Should the use of distractions be successful and as soon as dogs stop, proceed to next step – separate dogs by use of objects ONLY.

  1. Separate dogs with objects!

This method is only really effective if at client’s home and surrounded by objects for immediate use. If you are on a walk, use nearest objects in sight (see below). Regardless, when using this technique, please make sure hands and face are as far away from the dogs’ mouths as possible!

Objects to use include:

  • Garbage can
  • Garbage can lid
  • Piece of plywood
  • Babygate
  • Chair

Should the use of objects be successful in separating dogs, proceed to next step – physically separate dogs using your body/hands.

  1. Separate dogs with your hands!

Once you successfully get an object in between dogs to separate them, you can safely attempt to physically separate dogs with the wheelbarrow method. This can only be used effectively when there are as many people present as dogs. Be sure to communicate the method to ALL human parties involved so that they can cooperate. See steps below.

Wheelbarrow Method:

  1. Have each person grab a single dog by the hind legs.
  2. Lift the dog up so they are balancing on front legs (quickly so that you don’t risk them trying to bite you!).
  3. Start walking backwards away from other dogs involved.
  4. Walk a good distance away from other dogs and wait a few seconds before letting dog back down on all fours so that they are desensitized and don’t try biting you!

Once you’ve broken up a dog fight, seek medical help!

There are few other things you can try to break up a fight as well:

  • During fights, quickly determine which dog is the aggressor vs which one is the victim. Focus on the aggressor or one with higher intensity levels. Then, give that dog the right touch or kick in the ribcage area to get them to become submissive and loosen any grip or fixation on the other dog.
  • With aggressor, you can also locate and grab collar from behind and pull up. DO NOT grab collar from front area as that could put you at risk for getting hurt/bit.

If and when the dog fighting stops, follow the steps below.

  1. Assess pet for injuries/signs of injury. 
    1. If injuries are minor- signs of minor pain- call the vet! Provide all detailed information so they can address problems properly.
    2. If injuries are major- profuse bleeding, open wounds, broken bones, difficulty breathing- tie a clean-cloth compress over wound to apply pressure and slow bleeding and allow clotting. Rush the pet to the nearest emergency vet! Provide all detailed information so they can address problems properly.
  2. Contact the team via Slack to inform them of everything and allow management to contact the client. Management might also re-assign any future appointments you have on schedule that day so that you can take your time at the vet’s office.
  3. Be calm and breathe. You did the very best that you could with the resources available to you.

The best thing you can do, so that you don’t find yourself in the midst of trying to break up a dog fight, is simply be proactive about preventing a dog fight from occurring.

One way you can be the most proactive is by avoiding other (strange) dogs while you’re out on walks, even if someone tries approaching you and the dog your walking, stating that their dog is dog-friendly. In this case, respond with “I’m sorry, I’m the dog walker and don’t wanna take any risks with this dog (dog you’re walking); you’re not sure how they would act towards another dog”. 

To be extra precautious, as soon you notice another dog and its walker approaching you from a distance, turn and walk in a different direction and avoid the stimulus altogether. That way, you won’t have to worry about explaining anything.*If a stray dog approaches you on walks and you have no control over it, be calm and assertive. Use commands and tell the dog “no, stay away” or “no, stay”. Don’t be scared to be authoritative to let the dog know who’s in charge. Plus, that kind of energy may make the dog fearful and not wanna continue approaching.

What do I do if I am bitten by a dog?

The most important thing to remember is to act quick when you do get bit. The risk of infection is high if you wait to implement any recovery steps. Regardless, the team is here to help guide you through recovery, manage the wound, and will follow up with you to ensure you are recovering properly. If you are bitten by a dog, follow these steps:

  1. Quickly move to a safe area where you can distance yourself from the dog. If you are out on a walk with the dog that bit you, you may need to return to the client’s home to create a safe distance between you and the dog.
  2. If the bite is severe (large wound, lots of bleeding), call 911, then management.
  3. If the bite is minor and easily treatable, contact management about the bite immediately via Slack.
  4. Take photos of the injury as soon after the bite as you can (to send ONLY to management)
  5. After the fact, keep note of how your the bite is healing each day and relay this info to management.

The best thing you can do to prevent from getting bitten by a dog is to be aware of temperaments, body language, and situations that could lead to a dog lashing out and biting. If the visible signs below are present in the situations that follow, then it’s certain that a dog is going to bite. If the visible signs are NOT present, however, it’s still very possible that the situations alone may lead to biting.

Visible signs:

  • Temperament: shy, timid, fearful, aggressive
  • Body language: cowering, flattened ears, tail tucked, growling, shaking, hair raised along spine


  • When they’re defending themselves or their territory (i.e. food, toys, or anything a dog has in its mouth).
  • When they’re injured or sore.
  • When they’re ill.
  • When they’re sleeping.
  • When they’ve never met you before (i.e. wary of strangers).
  • When they’re approached surprisingly from behind.
  • When they’re approached intimidatingly from above.

To prevent bites, do NOT:

  • Attempt to grab anything from a dog’s mouth.
  • Touch a dog when it’s sleeping; instead, call its name aloud or hold a treat close to its nose

What do I do if I cant get into a client’s home?

There have been a handful of instances where sitters have been unable to get into a client’s home. This can happen when the lockbox isn’t working properly, the key is missing, the door/garage keypad has no power, or the client isn’t home to let the sitter in when they’re usually home during services. In any case, here are some things to try in order to get into a client’s home:

  • Double-check client profile notes to make sure you understand their home access instructions and are following them as written
  • Try knocking or ringing the doorbell to see if someone is home to let you in
  • Try other points of entry for their home. For example, if the front door keypad code isn’t working, try the same code for the garage keypad. Or, if you can’t unlock the front door, try the side or back door. Be careful not to use too much force to open a door, we don’t want to break anything in the client’s home!
  • If you’ve tried all options, reach out to management on Slack. From there, they can contact the client directly to figure out the best way to enter their home!

What do I do if a pet runs out of essential supplies (food, meds, litter, etc.)?

While it rarely happens, you may notice while caring for a pet that they are low on supplies they need, and that you will run out before the client returns home. If you notice a pet is out of something that is easily purchased at a retail store, like food or litter, then do the following:

  1. Double-check closets and cabinets, maintaining respect of the client’s home, to make sure there is none left
  2. Inform the team via Slack that [pet] is out of/low on [item]
  3. From there, management will reach out to the client to confirm the exact item and confirm that there is no more of the item in their home.
  4. Then, arrangements may need to be made for you or another sitter to purchase more of the item. If this is the case:
    1. Head to the nearest pet store/grocery store for the item when your schedule allows
    2. Purchase the item
    3. Take a photo of the receipt and send to management
    4. Take the item to the client’s home as soon as you can

If you notice a pet is out of/running low on medication, do the following:

  1. Inform the team via Slack that [pet] is out of/low on [meds] AS SOON AS YOU ARE AWARE
  2. From there, management will reach out to the client to confirm the medication and to contact the vet about refilling the prescription
  3. Then, arrangements will need to be made for you or another sitter to pick up the medication from the pet’s vet office. Keep in contact with management to be given further details on how to proceed.

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