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Pacemaker Brings Dozer Back to Life: The Story of a Now ‘Bionic Pup’
When Stephanie and her husband left New England for a relaxing Caribbean cruise, the last thing they expected was for Dozer to land in the Critical Care Unit a day later. Dozer was brought to Tufts Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University by Stephanie’s parents who were taking care of him at the time. Dozer’s condition was touch and go, a dramatic difference from a couple days before.
February 1, 2014

Dozer, a 7-year old American Bulldog, had been acting lethargic and not eating for a few days, so before they left on vacation Stephanie brought Dozer to see his primary care veterinarian at the River Road Veterinary Hospital in Andover, MA. There were no conclusive results and Dozer was scheduled for an ultrasound on the following Monday. Stephanie was a little worried about leaving but knew that Dozer would be in the reliable care of her mom and dad. Within hours, though, they realized something was terribly wrong with Dozer when he started to collapse. They responded immediately and brought him to the Veterinary Emergency Center in Manchester, New Hampshire. After numerous tests, Dozer was diagnosed with third degree AV block, a serious heart condition where the heart’s natural pacemaker that produces electrical impulses to make the heart beat is not functioning properly. Treatment for this condition is to implant a pacemaker as soon as possible. With Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Tufts on standby, Dozer’s grandpa drove one and half hours from New Hampshire to North Grafton, while grandma sat with a near-death, 95-pound Dozer on her lap and Dozer’s brother in the back seat.

The coordination of care started immediately at the emergency room in Manchester who notified Foster Hospital that Dozer was on his way. Since it was late on a Saturday night, the emergency service notified the Foster Hospital cardiology team on call, who upon arrival had Dozer on a stretcher and in the hospital within minutes. Dozer’s condition on arrival was touch and go. He was stabilized and after evaluation by cardiology it was decided that the pacemaker would be implanted the following day.  With all of this going on back home, Stephanie was ready to board a plane back to Massachusetts as her mind constantly returned to Dozer. Stephanie credits the team with going above and beyond in keeping her parents informed on Dozer’s status throughout the entire process, who were then able to keep her updated. “Every interaction was forthcoming with information, there were constant updates, we never wondered what was happening. They were always ahead of the game and we didn’t have to ask,” she recalls. Stephanie rested a little easier knowing too that there was always someone with Dozer despite it being the middle of the night. The surgery on Sunday was successful with no major complications. Not unexpected, Dozer did develop an arrhythmia, which required short-term medication, but Dozer went home two short days later.

Because of the care and lifesaving surgery provided by the expert cardiology and critical care staff at Foster Hospital for Small Animals Stephanie still has her rescue dog by her side. She calls him her ‘bionic pup’ and savors every day with him. Stephanie’s parents are also appreciative for all that Tufts did to make them feel cared for and communicated to during what was a very stressful time.  “It is so clear that every person at Foster Hospital cares deeply about the animals they care for and their owners. They understand that these animals are not just pets, they are family members,” says Stephanie. She now drives an hour each way to Foster Hospital for Dozer’s follow-up appointments and she would not have it any other way. “It is more than worth the drive for the passion and care that is given at Tufts,” she continues.

Today, Dozer is as active as he was as a young pup, smacking his tail as hard as ever, a significant change from what he was doingOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA when he arrived at Foster Hospital that Saturday evening. Dr. Vicky Yang, surgeon and faculty member at Foster Hospital, who operated on Dozer agrees when she thinks about how hard he now wags his tail. While he enjoys staying inside where it’s warm during the cold, winter months, he anxiously awaits the spring and the summer months when he will be able to run around outside and splash in the kiddie pool, and the fall when he can chase the leaves that blow in the wind.