University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine

A pacemaker can help an aging dog with cardiac issues enjoy the golden years of their life

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February 20, 2019 05:08 PM

Thanks to The Medical Center, Navicent Health (MCNH) and University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine (UGA), you can give needy dogs a piece of your heart.

The Georgia hospital and veterinary college have teamed up to provide dogs with cardiac issues with pacemakers. Patients at MCNH having an old pacemaker upgraded, exchanged or removed, now have the option to donate the equipment to a canine heart patient at UGA, reports the school.

“The similarities between how animals and humans are treated for certain diseases are very strong. When I was studying to become a nurse 20 years ago, I learned that pacemakers for human beings could be utilized in dogs, as well,” said Terri Matula, a RN and board certified cardiovascular nurse at MCNH.

Matula knows first hand that canines can suffer from cardiac complications similar to those that humans face. Like those human health issues, canine heart problems can be expensive and greatly affect the quality of a dog’s life. When the RN was in school, her own dog suffered from third-degree heart block dysrhythmia. She knew that a pacemaker implantation could solve her dog’s problems, but also knew she didn’t have the money to cover the operation.

This personal tragedy inspired Matula to create a solution, which she thought up when her husband had to have his own pacemaker upgraded.

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“I asked his cardiology team if I could keep the pacemaker after they replaced it and then called the University of Georgia to find out if I could donate the device to the College of Veterinary Medicine,” said Matula.

This question led to this new partnership between MCNH and UGA. Since starting the Pacemaker Donation Program in 2018, 41 humans have chosen to donate their pacemakers to dog patients in need. These pacemakers are removed from living donors only and than sterilized and shipped to UGA. Since these pacemakers often have over 5 years of battery life, they often provide an aging dog with cardiac issues the extra help they need to fully enjoy the golden years of their life.

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Of the 41 pacemakers donated to the program, 6 have been implanted into dogs so far. One of those lucky pup is Cooper, a husky-malamute mix from Athens, Georgia. The dog, who has a third degree heart block, is acting like a much younger pup following his operation, reports The Macon Telegraph.

“To somebody like me, this means everything,” Cooper’s owner, Amanda Read, told the paper. “To see my dog happy again, that, it’s just priceless.”

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