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Human Pacemakers Offer Hope to Ailing Dogs
Date:2/6/2010

The surgically implanted devices can add years to a hound's life

FRIDAY, Feb. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Pacemakers made for humans are giving older dogs a new leash on life.

The medical devices -- about the size of a quarter -- are often implanted to speed up a slow heart rate in dogs brought on by disorders such as heart block and sick sinus syndrome that, if left untreated, drastically shortens their lives.

Guiedo, a 12-year-old hound mix, recently received a pacemaker after getting diagnosed with heart block, a condition in which the electrical signal that makes the organ contract and pump blood is disrupted.

"It didn't even enter my mind not to do the surgery," said Maxine Mager, founder of Creative Acres Animal Sanctuary in Brighton, Colo., where Guiedo and 400 other companion, farm and exotic animals reside.

Guiedo's condition put him at risk of sudden death. So the day after the diagnosis, Mager drove the elderly canine nearly an hour to a veterinary cardiologist, one of only 230 in the United States and Canada, trained to do the intricate surgery.

The procedure is similar to the one done in humans. Under anesthesia, pacemaker wires are threaded through a dog's jugular vein to the correct place in the heart. A small incision, made in the back of the neck, then allows for insertion of the pacemaker under the skin and connection to the wires.

The hour-long procedure requires an overnight hospital stay.

Implanting the lifesaving devices in dogs isn't new. The first surgery took place in 1967 and has since become fairly common in veterinary medicine, with hundreds of pets receiving pacemakers each year.

Still, many owners are surprised to learn of it, said Dr. Henry Green, a board-certified veterinary cardiologist and an associate professor of cardiology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

About 20 pets are outfitted yearly with pacemakers at the
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