Recently a Montana woman donated her pacemaker to a local veterinarian. Judy Stroop of Great Falls had promised Dr. Rich Scherr of Big Sky Animal Medical Center that once the device was replaced he could have the old unit for future use in a needy dog. Last May after seven years, she handed her old one over to Dr. Scherr. Pacemakers are replaced in humans after seven to 10 years when they require new batteries.
Dr. Scherr notes that pacemakers serve the same function in dogs that they do in humans—correcting abnormalities in the heart's electrical system—and that most brands of apparatus are placeable in dogs. Dr. Scherr says the technology has been in place for canine pacemaker placement for some time, though because of associated costs--the procedure can approach $10,000--the most realistic way to make it happen is through donations. This can, he says, prolong a dog's life up to five years in cases where the only other option might be euthanasia.
Stroop may be the patron saint of canine pacemakers: in hopes of increasing awareness of this option, she already has it in her will that her current device also be donated to a dog.