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Pacemakers for dogs!

Updated on March 24, 2013

Pups saved by pacemakers!

In 1968, just eight years after the first human received a pacemaker, the first pup received one of these life saving devices in an historic surgery performed by James W. Buchanan, at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.

It is estimated that over 300-400 dogs receive pacemakers every year for applicable heart conditions, even though about 4000 dogs are in need.

Read more about pacemakers for pups, why they need them, how they get them, and how you can help.

Photo courtesy of Texas A&M University.

Pacemakers for dogs!

There are no pacemakers made specifically for veterinary use. Devices used by veterinarians are either units with good battery life that have been donated by human patients following their death, or are units provided at no cost by manufacturing companies after the pacemakers' shelf expiration date has passed.

"Pacemakers in dogs correct the same abnormalities as they do in people," according to Alan Spier, assistant professor of veterinary cardiology, University of Missouri-Columbia (MU). "We receive many phone calls from people with pacemakers, or their family members, expressing desire to donate the pacemakers after the individual's death. Many people feel strongly that this is an important gesture."

Photo courtesy of Texas A&M University.

A giving ending and a new beginning!

Giving was important, to Dorothea Edwards. Throughout her life she gave of herself in many ways, including spending 35 years as a faculty member at the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Before 80-year-old Dorothea Edwards passed on February 4, 2002, she instructed her family to give her pacemaker to a patient who needed it.

After Edwards' death, her family learned that federal regulations prohibit person-to-person donations of pacemakers. So the family provided instructions to the funeral home for removal of the pacemaker and found another way to carry out her wishes.

The pacemaker was given to the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine. "We thought this was a great thing to do," says Edwards' daughter, Mahla Swinford. "This is a way she's been able to draw attention to a need that a lot of people didn't know existed and to, hopefully, encourage others to donate."

At about the same time, Sunshine, a 9 1/2 year old German Shepherd dog of dubious ancestry, needed a replacement pacemaker to keep her alive.

Sunshine's story starts with her owners who were busted for a drug and prostitution ring. Needless to say Sunshine needed a home; and neighbors Cindy and John Wren were up to the task.

In 1998, Sunshine became very listless, lost her appetite and began fainting frequently. Medical examinations revealed that she had a congenital heart defect and required a pacemaker to be surgically implanted.

After some touch and go moments, she eventually pulled through the crisis with a new, electronically-enhanced ticker.

About a year later, Sunshine suffered complications and it was found that she needed a replacement pacemaker. Enter Dorthea Edwards. On March 1, 2002, Sunshine received Dorthea's donated pacemaker and the surgery was deemed a success!

Learn about pacemakers for dogs!

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And the best part is they donate 10% of their profits to dog shelters and rescues!

Bark at me!

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    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      @anonymous: Tehya had her pacemaker done 2/14/12 at the University of Missouri at Columbia (Missou). They were awesome there! She is doing extremely well and now has more energy than she ever had. Prayers and best wishes for your pup. I think you will be more than happy with the results. The hardest part was trying to keep her confined and stop her from running and jumping during her recuperation period. Tehya felt so much better a week after her surgery that she just wanted to play!

    • JohannDog profile imageAUTHOR

      Johann The Dog 

      6 years ago from Northeast Georgia

      @anonymous: That is so pawsome!

    • JohannDog profile imageAUTHOR

      Johann The Dog 

      6 years ago from Northeast Georgia

      @anonymous: Sending you lots and lots of doggie wishes all goes well!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      My dog who is 2 was diagnosed with AV Node Block too. He's getting the pacemaker Tuesday! Hoping all goes well and he stays strong until then.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      my dog Tehya is a 6 year old Staffordshire Terrier. She was diagnosed with AV Node Block in December 2011 and received her pacemaker on Valentine's Day 2012. She had a super quick recovery and is doing wonderfully. Thanks so much to Dr Clay, Dr Fine and all of the wonderful people at University of Missouri Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital. You saved my dogs life and I will always remember your kindness.

    • Afteretc profile image

      Afteretc 

      6 years ago

      Wow! This is amazing, I had no idea. Thanks for this informative lens!!!

    • KANEsUgAr profile image

      KANEsUgAr 

      7 years ago

      pacemaker in a dog,that amazing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      7 years ago

      Does anyone know a good veternarian that performs pacemaker implants for dogs in the Seattle area?

    • JohannDog profile imageAUTHOR

      Johann The Dog 

      9 years ago from Northeast Georgia

      [in reply to Pj] There are several organizations I have heard about that you can contact to seek assistance and help in paying your pet's veterinary bills. Here are two links to pages that list those organizations. I hope you find the help you need!

      http://www.needhelppayingbills.com/html/help_with_...

      http://comment-hi-cmeyers-i-really-know.app-sl-1.a...

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      9 years ago

      My dog has developed a serious heart condition that requires a pacemaker and I'm trying to find out how I can get a donated one since I'm on a disability retirement myself. Zodie has exhausted getting success with various medications prescribed. I have no children just my dog and cat and like any pet lover, mine mean the world to me as well. My last dog Ten (cockapoo) and Kiszee (himalayan) were both rescues from the "Dumb Friends League" in Colorado and the dog lived to be 19 and my cat 22. Zodie my is 14 and in good health except for her heart. She has never even had to have her teeth cleaned professionally, just by me. My cat is a Javanese and 9 years old. Any information where I might obtain a pace maker donated as soon as possible would be so greatly appreciated. Thanks to all in advance.

    • JohannDog profile imageAUTHOR

      Johann The Dog 

      10 years ago from Northeast Georgia

      What a great story, Cindy! Thanks for barking in. And we are really happy that Peking is doing so well! Woofs, Johann

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      10 years ago

      My little Pekingese named Peking just had a pacemaker put in three days ago at a wonderful clinic in Lawndale, Ca. called Advanced Veterinary Care Center. His doctor was great and explained everything to me and I knew he was in great hands. Her name is Sarah Zimmerman, and she saved his life. I am so grateful that I can have my precious dog with me longer, he means everything to me.

    • profile image

      JeanRiva 

      10 years ago

      This is a wonderful resource. I wish I had known a year or two, that they did this sort of surgery on dogs.

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