Older Dogs Finding Relief from Human Pacemakers


The story of Joe, a 7-year-old bulldog, and his new pacemaker is likely to warm you heart.

A professor at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine has been implanting older dogs with human pacemakers to extremely positive results. Dr. SeungWoo Jung, also a clinician in the university’s Cardiology Service of the Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital, placed an advanced pacemaker system, normally reserved for humans, into a 7-year-old bulldog named, Joe, according to an article on the Auburn University website. Dr. Jung is quoted as saying, “Pacemaker implantation is not new to veterinary medicine, having been done for the last 30 years. What is relatively new, and the first one at Auburn, was the use of the same type of pacemaker used in human cases, which we implanted in Joe."

Pets sometimes need pacemakers when they present with a consistently low heart rate which renders the heart unable to pump enough blood throughout the body during times of normal activity or exercise. Signs and symptoms include heavy breathing while at rest, chronic lack of energy, and fainting. In Joe’s case, the dog was experiencing fainting episodes and collapsing. After being recommended to Auburn University from his home veterinarian, his owners brought him for the procedure. What made this surgery different than previous pacemaker insertion procedures is the technology upgrade. Dr. Jung stated, “Pacemakers for dogs [in the past] were older, human models, which only regulated the beating of the heart's bottom chamber. Today, human pacemakers regulates the heart's top and bottom chambers, but [they were] not typically used in canine patients.” In recent years, however, manufacturers have been donating human pacemakers to veterinarian cardiology clinics, such as the one at Auburn, and therefore, “dogs are now able to get the most up-to-date pacemaker in the world.”

As for Joe, his last check-up showed that the pacemaker is helping his heart maintain a normal rhythm and he is doing very well.

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