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

university's veterinary teaching hospital. A few cats undergo the procedure, but most patients are older dogs, around 6 to 10 years of age, says Green.

A pacemaker extends an otherwise healthy dog's life about three to five years, although Green has had patients live almost twice that long.

Dog owners often detect a noticeable change in their pet's demeanor after the procedure.

"Sometimes owners don't think their dogs are showing clinical signs [such as lethargy] and then once the pacemaker is in, the dog is running around like a puppy again," said Green.

At Purdue, the surgery costs about $2,000. In private practice, the price is much higher, with clients paying $3,000 to $4,000.

Veterinarians rely on manufacturers to donate pacemakers past their shelf life and no longer appropriate for human use.

"They don't actually develop pacemakers specifically for dogs and cats so we have to use human equipment," said veterinary cardiologist Kate Meurs of the Companion Animal Pacemaker Repository at Washington State University, which distributes donated devices to animal hospitals nationwide.

New equipment isn't purchased from manufacturers, partially because it's so expensive, said Meurs, who is also professor of small animal medicine and research at Washington State. A new pacemaker can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, an industry spokeswoman said.

The pacemakers used at Purdue come from various sources, including a local funeral home that removes them from corpses. About 10 percent of the pacemakers the clinic uses were previously implanted in humans, said Green. The battery life must have at least three years left in order for the hospital to use them, he said.

Eventually, when the power runs low, a simple half-hour surgery is all that's needed to replace the old battery with a new one.

After undergoing surgery in December, Guiedo, the sweet-natured mutt at Creative
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