Meet Dr. Chelsea Luedke DVM, MS: VetCS Co-Founder & CEO

Chelsea Luedke VetCS CEO

What does your four-legged family at home look like?

5 animals in total: Larimar is a 10 year old Warmblood gelding, Goose is a 6 year old yellow Lab, Gosh is a 6 year old off the track Thoroughbred gelding, Fritz is a 3 year old German Shorthair Pointer, and Zane is a 9 month old crazy kitten! Almost a herd!

What drew you to the field of veterinary medicine, and what is your educational background?

I wanted to be a veterinarian from the age of 5 years old. I have always loved animals! In highschool, my lease horse Frisco had a huge laceration to his throat and Dr. Terry Swanson came out and expertly sutured his wound back together. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to be an equine veterinarian!

Before veterinary school, I obtained Bachelor’s degrees in Biochemistry and Microbiology from Colorado State University. I attended Colorado State University for my Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine Degrees. During my time at CSU, I was actively involved in equine studies at the Orthopaedic Research Center which led to my interest in equine sports medicine. I then completed a 1 year internship at Piedmont Equine Practice in The Plains, VA. I learned a vast array of equine clinical medicine during my internship, while building a strong foundation in my equine lameness diagnostics and therapeutics.

Moving on to VetCS, can you briefly tell us about founding the company and why you decided to create plant-based products for pets and horses?

In 2016, a horse owner and client asked me if she could use marijuana to help control her horse’s severe pain due to a fractured acetabulum. Practicing in Colorado, we have always had great access to hemp and cannabis, so I told her I would research it. I was so intrigued by the known analgesic effects of THC and CBD that we did our first pilot study on high doses of oral CBD in horses and had some very encouraging findings! Together with Trish Wilhelm, RVT we launched VetCS in 2018 with horse, dog, and cat products.

In your opinion, what are the top challenges you’ve faced in the hemp/CBD industry for pets and horses?

Before the Farm Bill of 2018 passed, legality of hemp products were hotly debated. Even today, banking is a struggle for hemp and CBD companies, as well as legitimate sourcing of plant material. The landscape of hemp has definitely challenged us to provide our own sourcing for quality and consistency reasons.

Is there a particular VetCS product that you’re especially proud of? If so, what makes it special to you?

I love all our products….but my all time favorite is our Hemp Paste for Horses. We were the first to launch a horse paste made from hemp. Horses love the taste and Tara Dorr, our lab manager, worked miracles to make it stable at different temperatures. Working with plant material can be frustrating at times because the individual makeup changes from batch to batch! It’s so helpful for anxious horses, I keep some in my truck, trailer, and tack box! I am cautious not to use them when showing my horses, however, as USEF does not allow cannabinoids.

Reflecting on the years of VetCS, is there a specific moment that made you especially proud or stands out?

There are a number of highlights that stand out to me; I have to say that every time we get a review from a pet parent or horse owner using our product and seeing great results it literally warms my heart! Deep down I just love animals and if I can improve their quality of life then I feel so ecstatic.

Do you have any advice for women looking to enter the field of veterinary medicine and also considering becoming a business owner?

I have found veterinary medicine to be such a rewarding career. I practice 3 days a week (and see emergencies) so that I am able to spend time with my family of 5 and still help clients and their animals. I do believe practice ownership gives you the flexibility to make your own schedule, so I would always encourage you to add business classes to your education and find great mentors for business leadership. I obtained a Business Certificate while attending CSU’s Veterinary Medicine Program and was also an officer in our Veterinary Business Management Association chapter at CSU. The opportunities are endless in veterinary medicine!

Now for our favorite question: If you could be any animal, which one would you choose and why?

Dolphin. They seem so playful and are intelligent. I’m amazed by marine mammals!!

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