Pacemaker Extends Cat's LifePublished November 15, 2011
Flickr User Andreas-photography
We know pacemakers can help humans who experience certain heart conditions, but can they help our pets, too? Apparently, the answer to that question is yes.
Veterinary cardiologists have been extending the lives of animals with the use of pacemakers. In fact, over the past 17 years, the Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado out of Englewood has implanted 100 pacemakers in dogs. More recently, they have performed the procedure on their first ever feline; Mickey, a 10-year-old Norwegian Forest cat.
Mickey was diagnosed with Cardiac Arrhythmia during a routine annual veterinary check-up at the Deer Creek Animal Hospital in Littleton. His owners learned their beloved cat had heart disease and his heart was beating too slowly. His owner, Betsy Forrest said, "Mickey had a third-degree heart block that means his heart was not firing, it wasn't beating properly and he was in danger of dropping dead."
"It's rare because the arrhythmia is fairly uncommon in cats, it's an arrhythmia where the top part of the heart doesn't communicate with the bottom part of the heart,” commented veterinarian Dr. Karen Sanderson. “The top part of the heart is what governs the heart rate and so it can be firing at a normal rate but the bottom part of the heart won't listen."
Usually pacemakers are inserted through the jugular vein in the neck in humans and dogs. Since cats are much smaller, the device is implanted in the belly, and then attached to the heart.
All of Mickey’s medical treatments connected with the procedure cost $5,000. But its surgical outcome has been well worth it, according to Betsy. She said his energy has been renewed, and he seems like a younger cat.
Usually, we associate Cardiac Arrhythmia with humans, but the condition isn’t as uncommon to animals as one might think.
Cardiac Arrhythmia in Animals
While physicians often diagnose humans with Cardiac Arrhythmia, it is not uncommon for veterinarians to find arrhythmia in dogs, cats and horses. The most common symptom of arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat. According to Pet MD, this condition is caused by an abnormal variation in the cycling of impulses that regulate the beating action of the heart. The heart may skip beats, beat too slowly or beat too quickly.
Pets stressed or frightened may occasionally exhibit an irregular heartbeat. Animals with mild to moderate arrhythmias often show no clinical signs. However veterinarians may suspect serious cardiac arrhythmias when symptoms such as coughing, lethargy, fatigue, abdominal pain, abnormal breathing and loss of appetite are present, warranting a thorough cardiac workup performed.
And just as human physicians recommend their patients to undergo testing, including chest x-rays, echocardiography, electrocardiography, urine analysis and blood work, veterinarians may suggest their patients receive similar diagnostic testing.
Pacemakers Can Help Control Cardiac Arrhythmia
While medication and life-style changes can be highly effective in controlling this condition, approximately 100,000 people annually receive pacemakers due to heart arrhythmias and other cardiac conditions. And, like their human counterparts, veterinary cardiologists have also been extending the lives of dogs, cats (like Mickey) and horses with the use of pacemakers.
Listen to a Veterinary cardiologist talk about pacemakers for pets in this fascinating video uploaded to YouTube by the American college of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
Advances in veterinary medical science have extended the quality of life for our beloved pets, don’t you agree? Share your thoughts in a comment.