Apr 28, 2021 - News
How the pandemic puppy boom is impacting Denver's pet industry
A photo of a dog in a cage at the Denver Animal Shelter.
A dog at Denver Animal Shelter in 2016. Photo: Kathryn Scott/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The surge in dog adoptions during the pandemic is making it more difficult for pet owners in Denver — and throughout the U.S. — to secure checkups with veterinarians.

Why it matters: Colorado is a dog state, and a place pets reign supreme. But our furry friends may no longer be able to get the health care they need as quickly as they used to.

What's happening: The American Veterinary Medical Association says a number of factors are at play:

  • People are continuing to buy pets for companionship, meaning more new clients are signing up to have their pets seen for basic shots and initial checkups.
  • Many pet owners are now booking the routine appointments they put off during the pandemic.
  • An uptick in people working from home has allowed more pet owners to notice subtle health warnings in their animals.

What they're saying: "We can't keep up," Stephanie Granato, a vet technician at Urban Vet Care in Denver, tells Axios. "From all the people moving to Denver anyway, and then on top of the pandemic, demand has gone through the roof."

  • The vet clinic tried offering telemedicine to help meet more needs but found it was too demanding on doctors to juggle virtual and in-person visits. The clinic has since stopped telemedicine and paused the intake of all new clients.

Meanwhile, the boom in animal adoptions is making major waves elsewhere in the pet industry.

  • Local dog groomers tell Axios their next availability is at least two months out, and pet supply store owners say business has never been better, reflecting a national trend.

Of note: CBD sales for dogs with separation anxiety are also going up as people ease back into everyday life, said Jennifer Go, sales specialist at Quality Paws Natural Pet.

  • Numerous animal shelters in the Denver metro area tell Axios they have been bracing for a wave of adoption returns that has yet to come to fruition.
  • In fact, only 35 pets have been brought back to Denver Animal Shelter this year — fewer than were returned during the same date range last year (40) and in 2019 (52), a spokeswoman said.

Yes, but: That's not the case at all shelters. Over roughly the last two weeks, the MaxFund Animal Adoption Center has had nearly 20 dogs returned, CBS Denver reported.

The big picture: Industry experts say soaring demand is unlikely to be a blip tied to the pandemic, largely because of the emotional value animals offer and the fact that more people are working from home.

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