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Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Colby Gets One Of His Lives Back

August 20th, 2019

When Linda Garrett’s cat started having seizures, she took him to her veterinarian who discovered his heart rate was so low (84 compared to a normal 140-150), she immediately referred him to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

At OSU, cardiologist Kate Scollan discovered that Colby had an atrioventricular block. In a normal heart, the beat is created by an electrical signal that starts in the heart’s upper right chamber and moves down to a cluster of specialized cells that act like a relay station, slowing the electrical current before it passes to the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles). When the current arrives in the ventricles, they contract and pump blood out to the body. In Colby’s case, the electrical signal that controlled his heartbeat was partially blocked from reaching the ventricles.

Dr. Scollan recommended installing a permanent pacemaker in Colby’s heart; without it, Colby’s prognosis was not good. “It didn’t take me long to make the decision to go ahead with this because he was otherwise healthy,” says Garrett. “I could not bear the thought that he would die suddenly while he was outdoors, and I would not know what had happened to him.”

Surprisingly, Colby received a human pacemaker. The OSU cardiology service buys the pacemakers through a program where the manufacturer donates last-generation devices to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, who sells them at a discount and uses the funds to support cardiology residencies.

The OSU cardiology service has implanted pacemakers in nearly 150 dogs, but only a few cats. The human-sized devices are adapted to veterinary medicine by placing the battery pack in the animal’s abdomen. “There is plenty of room in there,” says cardiologist Nicole LeBlanc.

The surgery was a success and Colby is recovering well. “I feel satisfied to know that I am doing whatever I can for his health,” says Garret.

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