Vail’s first patrol dog Henry undergoes stem cell therapy in Gypsum | PostIndependent.com

Vail’s first patrol dog Henry undergoes stem cell therapy in Gypsum

Ross Leonhart
Vail Daily

When Chris Reeder took Henry out fishing earlier this year — one of Vail's first patrol dog's favorite spring activities — he noticed time catching up with his old friend.

Henry is retired, anyways, and will turn 11 years old in July.

Struggling with his hips and arthritis, Henry still got on the mountain one or two days each week this season — his last official season on duty.

But when Reeder saw Henry struggling to get over rocks on the river recently, he knew he needed to try to find another way to help him.

Reeder has tried a lot of different therapies for his aging mountain dog, everything from osteopathy to dry needling and massages to chiropractic methods. Reeder said he's been avoiding the pain medications available due to the side effects.

Treating one of Vail's dogs

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On May 7, Henry added to his legacy, becoming the third dog to receive stem cell therapy from Gypsum Animal Hospital.

"It is an extremely safe, effective, natural, FDA-approved therapy," said Stephen Sheldon, DVM, of Gypsum Animal Hospital. "Research has shown this to be a very valuable tool for so many pets in pain who have few good options left."

The way it works is the cells come from the animal's own body, preventing any chance of rejection or reaction. The surgical process takes about 10 minutes.

The cells are then concentrated and activated using platelet-rich plasma. Stem cells are then injected into the affected joints and also intravenously.

"It's always gratifying to make patients better, especially with arthritis — it's just a frustrating condition," Sheldon said. "To treat one of Vail's dog's is really an honor and a pleasure."

While the practice has been around in human medicine for some time now, stem cell therapy is now making its way into the veterinarian world — and it's showing great promise, according to Sheldon. It serves as an alternative for dogs and cats, especially older ones, who might not have any other options besides surgery, which isn't always an option.

Sheldon performed the therapy on two dogs a week before Henry, and within 10 days he had already received positive feedback from the owners. He'll perform a more comprehensive roundup after about 30 days.

'It's all they want to do'

The therapy at Gypsum Animal Hospital is the first of its kind in Eagle County.

"We're real excited to have this tool," Sheldon said. "The reports we're getting out of the field and universities are just so promising."

The stem cell therapy does come at a cost, about $2,200 to $2,700. But with that comes multiple sessions that can be stored at the Medivet facility in Kentucky, the largest supplier of stem cell and PRP therapies for pets.

Sheldon said the first dog, which was 2 years old, yielded seven treatments from the one session at the hospital in Gypsum. So when the dog is ready in a year or two, it can come back in and have it waiting and ready to go.

"The veterinarians who are doing it, it's all they want to do," Sheldon said. "So that tells me their results are outstanding."

'Get Henry on the hill'

For Henry, who Reeder picked up while driving to Colorado in 2007, the stem cell therapy should help get him back to doing what he loves — staying active with his owner.

"I'm hoping that this therapy will get Henry up on the hill next season," Reeder said. "That's definitely a goal because people miss him. Hopefully we can get him up there a little more."

In the meantime, Henry has a busy summer ahead. Reeder helps out with the Kids Adventure Games, which has a stop in Vail. But he, along with Henry, travel to other ski areas throughout the summer, helping set up the Kids Adventure Games.

"That's Henry's life in the summertime, going to other ski areas and hanging out," Reeder said. "He's kind of our inspector."

Henry will be roaming Vail for the tour's stop, and he'll also be out there during the GoPro Mountain Games. Look for him in Lionshead Village at Dog Town in the Vail Avalanche Rescue Dogs booth helping sell hats and T-shirts that are normally only available at patrol headquarters on the mountain.

Money raised at the booth will go toward helping Vail Avalanche Rescue Dogs, such as Henry, and his new stem cell therapy.

"There's a lot of people that love him," Reeder said.

Entertainment & Outdoors editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.