Jack gets a pacemaker

Updated November 29, 2020

jack before

We’re so excited that one of our patients has a pacemaker that we can’t stop talking about it.

Jack came to us a few months ago with a history of falling over at home. From the moment of his first examination it was clear there was something very wrong with his cardiac rhythm. A good heart creates a rhythm you can dance to but this beat would empty the dance floor.

We scheduled blood tests, X-rays and an electrocardiogram (ECG) which is the best way to sort out the various types of rhythm disturbances. Read more about diagnosing heart diseases here.

He was a great patient, but his heart would beat along happily and then just stop. Eventually after the long pause there was what we call an ‘escape complex’, which is the heart’s way of rescuing itself.

It was easy to see that he had what we call sino-atrial arrest (heart block), and that his heart’s natural pacemaker (the sinoatrial node) was not working properly.

jack's pacemaker

The rest of his tests showed that his heart was otherwise OK so we advised a referral to a specialist veterinary cardiologist for assessment.

Dr Richard Woolley, a cardiac specialist, advised that Jack would do well with a pacemaker, and his owner gave the consent. Dr Woolley is consulting in Adelaide these days but at the time Jack had to travel to Melbourne. The actual pacemaker is shown.

Here he is after surgery. By all accounts he’s doing very well, and after a few calibrations of the pacemaker, it’s working well and he’s now able to lead a normal life again.

jack after surgery

He now has some very specific instructions:

  • no collars (the electrical leads are in his neck)
  • no blood sampling from the right jugular
  • pacemaker removal prior to cremation (it is explosive)

Though I think the time when the last item will be necessary is now far into the future.

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.