Pacemakers for dogs are not new technology. In fact, the technology was first used in dogs in 1968. However, the cost and availability of such technology at that time often hindered the ability of pacemakers for dogs to really be a viable treatment option. Since then, pacemakers have become a great alternative for dogs that would not have otherwise survived such life-threatening heart conditions.
Pacemakers for Dogs
Dogs that suffer from heart disease often do not have hearts that function or beat at the appropriate level, usually beating less than is necessary to keep the body alive. When this happens, a decrease in the amount of blood that circulates through the body occurs, naturally causing a lack of sufficient oxygen to fuel the body’s organs. A pacemaker can effectively remedy this situation electronically by acting in place of the heart when needed.
There are different types of pacemakers on the market that act in a few different ways, but the overall goal is the same: to keep the heart functioning. Some pacemakers will need to be set to a faster or slower beat, depending upon the current irregular function of the dog’s heart. A pacemaker is designed to emit electronic signals to the heart when it detects an irregular beating of the heart. The electronic signals then stimulate the heart to beat in whichever way the pacemaker is designed.
When pacemakers for dogs were initially developed, the only way to install them was with open chest surgery. As technology has developed, however, dogs no longer have to be opened surgically at the chest to have a pacemaker installed; it can now be inserted just beneath the surface of the skin, and the electrical leads thread through a peripheral vein until they reach the heart.
The surgery itself may still be risky for some dogs, depending on how truly bad their heart condition is. In cases such as those, a pacemaker is usually implanted at the leg prior to surgery to help ensure that there are no complications during the actual pacemaker installation. This technology has not only made the process for installing pacemakers in dogs much easier and less invasive, but it has also lowered the cost and made the procedure more affordable to dog owners.
The onset of using pacemakers in dogs has been proven to increase the lifespan in dogs that would not have been able to survive without such technology. Yet, the effectiveness of the pacemaker is only secondary to the general health of the dog. While the ailing heart condition is a given, other health factors may override the ability of a pacemaker to be effective. Ultimately, pacemakers can add anywhere from 3 to 5 years onto a dog’s lifespan.
The average cost of a pacemaker plus the surgery is around $4,000 to $6,000, but many dog owners actually choose to donate their dog’s implanted pacemaker after he/she dies, drastically reducing the cost to another dog owner. Implanting a used pacemaker into a dog presents no additional risk and can reduce the total cost to around $2,000.