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Not Just for Humans Anymore

Pacemakers Successful in Extending the Lives of our Canine Friends


When Rex initially collapsed, owners Jeffrey and Mary Jo Leyh of Seekonk, MA were concerned that either cancer had recurred or arthritis in his shoulder was to blame. With an increase in fainting episodes occurring over the next week, the Leyhs made an appointment with Rex’s family veterinarian. Diagnostic testing revealed that it was neither cancer nor arthritis. Rather, Rex suffered from third-degree atrioventricular (AV) block, an electrical problem with his heart that slowed the heart rate, causing him to faint. The Leyhs were told the issue would likely resolve with a pacemaker, but they would require the services of a veterinary cardiologist.


Rex needed immediate care and was referred to Foster Hospital for Small Animals in North Grafton, MA, where specialty cardiology services were available that night. “The team at Foster Hospital stayed late in anticipation of our arrival and a gurney was waiting. From the time we arrived, it was a collaborative effort by the staff in reception, emergency and critical care (ECC), cardiology and intensive care. It operated much like a human hospital,” recalled Jeffrey.


Two days later the Leyhs brought Rex home with his new pacemaker where it was important that he stay relatively quiet for six to eight weeks to prevent the pacemaker from detaching. Seven weeks post-surgery, Rex was back to his old self.


“The reward for us as cardiologists is to hear our clients describe how their geriatric dog is behaving like a puppy again, active and wanting to play,” says Dr. Amelie Beaumier-Primeau.


A pacemaker implant is a minimally invasive procedure, according to Dr. Beaumier. Pacemakers have been used in humans since the early 1960s and the transfer of this technology to veterinary medicine has allowed veterinary cardiologists to improve the quality of life for our furry beloved canine companions and save lives.