Pet Talk column: Take an active role in your pets health |

Pet Talk column: Take an active role in your pets health

This is a difficult article and subject to broach, but it has been brooding in me for a while. And this week’s cases reminded me of its importance.

If you are going to own pets in Colorado’s high country, then you need to be a tough cookie.

I say this because our resources for pet care, although excellent, are not what they are in big metropolitan areas like Denver. Although we have emergency care, we don’t have 24-hour critical care facilities. What we do have up here are great veterinarians who love what they do.

Most pet owners in the high country are highly pragmatic, and it is something I encourage. When I first moved up here, I met a practicing veterinarian who spent a week in Denver with their own sick cat. My immediate thoughts were, “hell, if I can’t fix my own cat up here with the tools I have available, I will opt for plan B rather than spend a week in Denver with my pet.” I hope that didn’t come off as cruel for not providing what I call “Johns Hopkins” style medicine for my own pets. But I wouldn’t.

In fact, I tell my clients all the time, “… if it were my pet, I would not go down to Denver and spend $10,000. I would do everything we can up here.”

Most appreciate the candor. That does not mean there are never indications to go to Denver to see a specialist; back surgery and complex eye cases are examples that comes to mind. I have sent more than a few cases to Denver.

However, the days of veterinarians leaving sick pets unattended overnight in the hospital are mostly gone. Sometimes we do it, but most owners prefer to take their pets home rather than have them left alone. And just like in human medicine, much more is done on an out-patient basis.


The point I am trying to make is that since we are up in the mountains, you may need to take a more active role in caring for your pets. You may be asked to give injections and fluid therapy at home. You should be available for daily re-checks at the office if your pet is very sick; also plan on leaving them for the day and picking them up after work. You need to be prepared to provide hospice and end-of-life care at home for your pet. You need to be OK that your pet might die in your home. It happens.

Downvalley, almost all of us are working families and not second homeowners. We need to pay our mortgages, feed and provide for our families and save for our children’s education. Many of us simply cannot afford to spend upwards of $10,000 to treat a sick pet (yes, someone whose career it is to save pets just said that). So we take care of them the best we can with a common sense approach and with the thoughtful guidance of our family veterinarians.


The good news in all of this is we have an excellent crew of veterinarians and hospitals up here! We all get along and cooperate on cases, share emergencies and accept it when people feel comfortable with a different veterinarian. You have choices from very smart, qualified veterinarians in the Vail Valley. We also have great technology available to us. Specialty orthopedic surgeons, ultrasonographers, cardiologists and other specialists regularly visit the valley to provide services. Almost all of the hospitals here have on-site laboratories, surgery suites and radiology or X-ray equipment.

Most of us who decided to raise our families up in the mountains have adapted to and embrace an air of independence. Like everything else in the mountains that require a do-it-yourself, can-do mentality, taking care of our pets is no different.

Stephen Sheldon, DVM, practices at Gypsum Animal Hospital in Gypsum. He can be reached at 970-524-36547 or by visiting the clinic website at

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