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I Got a Canine Pacemaker – Part 2 The Surgery

Preston's Pacemaker Xray
Written by Rachel Phelps

Hi, my pals!  Today I am going to finish sharing my story about my doggie pacemaker surgery to address my diagnosis of Sick Sinus Syndrome.  If you haven’t read part one of this story, make sure to click here: I got a Canine Pacemaker – Part 1 The Diagnosis

As the big surgery day approached, I could tell my ‘rents were getting more and more nervous, and they wanted to cuddle me all the time.  Their odd behavior made me start to get nervous too, thinking maybe this surgery is bigger than I thought.  If they were freaked out, then maybe I should be too.

Mom assured me I needed this pacemaker, and she was just being silly worrying about her favorite Westie (yep, she finally admitted she likes me more than Daisy and Piper … hehehe).  My surgery was scheduled for a Wednesday, but I had to be at the University of Illinois on Tuesday for more tests and to stay overnight. Mom and Dad decided we were going to stay all week so they would be close.  Plus, when I got discharged, I could rest at the hotel for a day before we made the drive home.

Surgery Drop-Off

On Tuesday, we arrived at the vet hospital in the early afternoon and again we were taken into an exam room.  The primary clinician, Dr. Leah Kruckman, and the awesome fourth year vet student who was also assigned to my case named Haley Straub, came in and spent a lot of time talking about the surgery and answering all our questions. I bet you are wondering … what questions would a dog would ask?  I asked them about flying with a pacemaker and how to get through TSA security.  They admitted, I was the first dog or human ever to ask them about how to fly with a doggie pacemaker.  They are looking into it and said they will make sure I can still fly to see my pals around the country once I am healed.  Mom got all emotional and hugged and kissed me (It was kind of embarrassing) and they led me back to my cage (my home away from home for the next few days).

The Night Before

I was treated like a celebrity by all the staff at the University of Illinois.  My vet student Haley was also amazing.  She checked on me all the time and took me on walks.  But I will admit, I was kind of sneaky.  For dinner, Mom gives me kibble with a little wet foot on top.  Haley gave me a whole bowl of only wet food which I loved!  Then, I managed to convince her I needed seconds and thirds.  I ate three whole cans of wet food for dinner … hehehe

Surgery Day

My surgery started at 10:30am the next morning.  University of Illinois was amazing at keeping my ‘rents informed every step of the way.  I even had my own patient advocate named Niki that the rents could call about anything. She came back to my cage often just to check on me and give me attention and petting.  Right before surgery, she even relayed a message that my mommy and daddy love me so much and will see me soon.

The first part of the surgery involved putting in a temporary pacemaker so if my heart decided to freak out again during surgery, they could get it beating again.  The lead for the temporary pacemaker goes in through your back leg.  My surgeon said this was more challenging than expected because my legs are so short (short dog problems!).  Luckily, they finally got it in and were able to successfully implant my pacemaker.

I told Haley to call Mom as soon as I was done because she would be a wreck worrying about me.  I was right!  She said she was so happy that I made it through surgery and was in recovery.

Day After Surgery

After the surgery, I had to stay in the hospital overnight so they could watch me and do more tests.  On Thursday afternoon, I finally got to see my ‘rents and was able to leave. We stayed in the hotel close to the hospital that night, and the next day we drove home.

Haley even made me a great going away present. She decorated my bandage with yummy food!

Preston at the University of Illinois Vet Hospital

Now is the hardest part.  I have to stay on crate rest for a WHOLE month!?!?!?  Dr. Kruckman said it is so my pacemaker lead can form scar tissue and securely attach to my heart.  I also can no longer put my leash on my collar, and I must have a harness when I need a leash.  The pacemaker battery is in my neck, and we can’t have a collar pushing or pulling on it.

I feel better, but it is a weird feeling to have something make your heart beat.  They say I will get used to it and will be much better than before.  I can’t wait!

I also want to say a huge thank again to my big dog best friend Ares and his dad Shorty Rossi for setting up a fundraiser for me.  My pacemaker surgery ended up being over $4,000 dollars.  Any donations you can make are greatly appreciated to help cover this unexpected expense for me and my ‘rents. 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

1 Comment

  • Hey, congratulations!
    In 1998 my 8y/o dachshund, Shady, was diagnosed with complete heart block.
    3 days later we were at North Carolina State University Vet Hospital and he had a pacemaker implanted. Drs Keene & DiFrancesco were his vet cardiologists.
    He lived 10 more years! ❤️

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