WSU first to implant cardiac defibrillator in canine


Pullman, Wash-More than a year after the first cardiac defibrillator was implanted in a canine, Honus the now 3-year-old Boxer, is doing well.

PULLMAN, WASH—More than a year after the first cardiac defibrillator was implanted in a canine, Honus the now 3-year-old Boxer, is doing well.

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Veterinary cardiologist Dr. Lynne Nelson and cardiology resident Dr. Sunshine Lahmers of Washington State University (WSU) College of Veterinary Medicine, performed the surgery.

Honus, then 2-years-old, was suffering from a rapid heart rate when his owners brought him to WSU. Drugs controlled the problem initially but eventually medication was no longer useful and the canine lost temporary control over some of his muscles and became increasingly lethargic. Honus was diagnosed with a genetic disorder called Boxer cardiomyopathy.

Erratic beats that occur in sequence may lead to weakness, collapse or sudden death. Estimates rating 40 percent of the Boxer breed as have cardiomyopathy to some degree. Honus' condition is called ventricular tachycardia.

The problem often arises after the dog has whelped or sired a litter, passing the genetic disorder to another generation.

"Boxers often have abnormal heart rhythms at a young age, which is unique," Nelson says. "Dogs that exhibit these problems should not be bred and pass the genetic disorder on."

The device and necessary wires cost $30,000 and were donated by Medtronic, Inc.

"For several months after the procedure, fine tune adjustments were made to the device," Nelson says.

In April Honus had a urinary tract infection that spread to his cardiac defibrillator. The device was removed in April to allow the infection to clear. Honus is now maintained on medications, but his owners and veterinarian are contemplating putting the defibrillator back in this fall.

"He had been taking some medication," Nelson says. "We didn't want him to constantly receive treatment from defibrillator."

Everything was working well before the infection, Nelson says, in fact Honus boards at WSU when his owners are away as to keep a close eye on any possible problems.

"Clinically Honus is very well, he plays with children and other dogs, Nelson says.

Other dog owners have inquired about the implantable device for their ailing dogs, but Nelson says there haven't been any good cases that really would benefit from the procedure like Honus.

"We certainly learned a lot from Honus and will be quicker at fine tuning next time," Nelson says.

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