Pacemakers made for humans are adding years to dog’s lives thanks to an ingenious non-profit agency founded by OSU Professor David Sisson. Unsold human pacemakers that are past their shelf date and due to be thrown out can now be used in dogs. The Animal Companion Pacemaker Registry provides a clearing house for pacemaker manufacturers to donate the devices. Veterinary cardiologists can go to the registry’s website and order them online.
There are strict rules about how long pacemaker manufacturers can keep a unit sitting on the shelf; the lithium batteries eventually wear out and pacemakers in people often need to last for decades. But when you put a pacemaker in a 11-year old dog, it is okay if the battery dies in ten years.
The medical devices are often implanted to speed up a slow heart rate in dogs with disorders such as heart block and sick sinus syndrome. A donated pacemaker from the registry costs about $500 compared to $5,000 or more for a brand new one.
Sisson, who is head of the cardiology department at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital, says several thousand dogs have gotten the lifesaving implants over the past two decades.