A pacemaker is an electronic device that maintains the heart rate and blood pressure by stimulating the heart to contract when the heart’s own natural electrical activity fails to do so. In dogs, the pacemaker battery (or generator) is inserted under the skin at the side of the neck and from this, a wire (or pacing lead) conducts the electrical ‘spark’ to the heart. Pacemakers can be set to only provide a spark when the heart stops intermittently, or all the time. Modern pacemakers can also detect movement and so increase the heart rate, allowing the pet to exercise and go back to leading a normal life.
Owner information sheet on Pacemakers
HeartVets are one of the few specialist centres in the UK to regularly perform pacemaker implantation. Thanks to our considerable experience we have a high success rate and the long-term outcome is usually good.
This X-ray image shows the pacemaker battery (generator) in the skin under a patient’s neck with the metal lead running down into the heart.
Before recommending pacemaker implantation our cardiologist will need to look at the whole medical history provided by your vet, as well as the results of any tests such as the blood results, ECG and chest X-rays. They will also perform a thorough clinical examination and usually also do a cardiac ultrasound scan to check for any underlying heart problems which could affect the operation.
Once the pacemaker is in place, we keep patients in the hospital for 1-3 days, to make sure everything is healing well and the pacemaker doesn’t come loose. After going home, we ask that they are kept on minimal exercise for around a month, to allow everything to heal. We need to check them about three months later to adjust the settings on the pacemaker (this is done wirelessly) and then periodically over the course of your pet’s life.
If your vet has found a heart problem in your pet that may need a pacemaker to treat it, ask them to contact us to discuss the options for surgery.