Doggie Daily Life Popular Posts

I Got a Canine Pacemaker – Part 1 The Diagnosis

Preston at the University of Illinois Vet Hospital
Written by Rachel Phelps

Hi, my pals, I have big news to share. I am now a bionic dog! Last week, I had surgery at the University of Illinois to get a pacemaker implanted to help my heart beat correctly. You are probably like WHAT? … I didn’t even know you were ill Preston … well, neither did I! Let me tell you the whole story.

A few months ago, Mom noticed a small mass on my front leg. Nothing to necessarily get worried about, I am an older dog now and I have some of those fatty tumors we tend to get. Mom, being the good doggy mom she is, mentioned it at my next vet visit. In response, my vet asked me if she could have a few cells from the tumor to look at under a microscope. Granted, I don’t like needles, but Mom convinced me to let her do this so we wouldn’t have to keep worrying about it. In went the needle, but nothing came out. That means the mass was solid, with no goop (I know, there is probably a better scientific word for it … hehehe). This meant the only way to test to mass was to have surgery to remove it. I was not happy about the idea, but my vet said it is a minor surgery. I begrudgingly agreed.

Surgery day

It was a normal day – the sun was shining, the birds were chirping (well until I chased them off in my backyard), and I just wanted the surgery over with. After Mom dropped me off, the vet techs did all the preliminary blood work (which came back normal) and checked my heart rate which was around 80. Then, they gave me some meds to knock me out for the surgery. The last thing I remember is them shaving my leg around the mass. And then everything changed.

I don’t remember any of this obviously, but according to my vet, my heart rate dropped like a rock down to 20 (dangerously low) and her lets save Preston mode kicked in. She gave me meds to reverse the anesthesia, but it wasn’t working. She was about to give me what she called the “crash meds”, and all of a sudden I sprung to life and shot up with a look of panic in my eyes (I still had the breathing tube in). I then fell back asleep again. My heart rate started to go back up in the 40’s and I started to come out of anesthesia little bit. At this time, I was awake, but so sleepy, and knew something wasn’t right. At this point, it was the end of the day, and my vet office isn’t staffed twenty-four hours. My heart rate was in the low 50’s now. They called Mom and she came to get me. They gave her strict instructions to check my heart rate all night, and if it dropped to the 40’s, to take me to the emergency vet clinic about an hour away (the only 24-hour vet around). About an hour after I came home, Mom checked, and she got a panicked looked on her face. She told Dad we need to take Preston in now.

The Emergency Vet

Mom and Dad jumped in the car, and we started the hour-long trip to the emergency vet. I think Dad was speeding most of the way because we got there quick. In I went to see another vet and get more tests. That vet thought that maybe my body wasn’t clearing the anesthesia properly. She started a treatment to flush my system. I had to stay all night. Since the clinic closed at 8 am, Mom and Dad drove back to get me the next morning and we went straight back to my vet. I spent all day hanging out with them and they kept checking my heartrate and did more tests. At this point, it was Friday, and my heartrate still wasn’t increasing. My vet, Mom, and Dad decided I needed to go to the University of Illinois emergency vet center because they have a cardiology department that hopefully can get to the bottom of my low heartbeat. Mom packed an overnight bag for me (and her) and we started on the four-hour drive to U of I.

University of Illinois 1st Trip

We arrived at the hospital around 11 pm and off we went to an exam room where Mom and Dad waited on me until 5 am. They did a bunch of tests, and determined I may have Sick Sinus Syndrome, but I was stable and showed no clinical signs. What is Sick Sinus Syndrome you ask (don’t worry, I had to google it when they told me). According to Google:

“Sick sinus syndrome is a cardiac condition of unknown cause that affects the heart rate and rhythm of both humans and dogs. In this disease, the heart’s electrical impulse-generating sites (called sinuses) fail to function normally. As a result, dogs with this problem will be unable to maintain normal heart rates and many also suffer other changes in heart rhythm.”

I was determined to be stable enough to go home, but I was scheduled to come back in a few weeks for a full cardio workup, and yet again, more tests.

University of Illinois 2nd Trip

This time it was just Mom and I back to Champaign, Illinois. They did all sort of fancy tests including a heart echo and determined that I have Sinus Node Dysfunction. Sinus Node Dysfunction is which pretty much Sick Sinus Syndrome but called something different since I am not showing the clinical signs yet. The good news was we caught it early, but the bad news was that they said I had to come back in a few weeks for more tests.

University of Illinois 3rd Trip

This time, they shaved my belly to put leads on it, and fitted me in a Holter monitor that I had to wear for twenty-four hours. They also gave Mom a journal to record everything I did during that time. How did they keep it on me you ask? I had to wear a thunder shirt type vest that had a pocket for all the electronics. Luckily, this time I got to go home, so that was good. I admit, I did not like the vest. I couldn’t lay on my side because of the electronic box. I would get frustrated and look back and growl at it … hehehe. After a day, Mom took it off me and she shipped it back to U of I in the mail. A few days later, we got a call with the results. It turns out that sometimes my heartbeat had pauses up to five seconds long. That was not good as if it was to stretch to six seconds, I would likely pass out. To resolve the issue, it was determined I needed a pacemaker, and my surgery was scheduled.

Make sure to looked for my next blog post – Part 2, the surgery, to read the rest of my story.

Also, a huge thank you to my best big dog friend Ares and his dad Shorty Rossi for setting up a Facebook fundraiser for my medical expenses. All this testing is so expensive, and the pacemaker surgery alone was almost $4,000. Unfortunately, dog blogging isn’t a high paid dog career (why isn’t it??), so any donations you would like to make would be so greatly appreciated my pals.  Facebook Fundraiser – -Click here.

About the author

Rachel Phelps

Rachel Phelps, “America’s Pet Parent,” is an award-winning writer, photographer, and certified dog trainer. She keeps busy managing the career of her Internet celebrity dog Preston from Preston Speaks. Her three Westies — who think they are mini-humans — and three cats rule the house. To learn more about Rachel go to: Rachel Phelps Website


Leave a Comment