Pug With a Pacemaker
Doctors diagnosed Nike, the pug, with a heart murmur when he was a puppy. But when his behavior dramatically changed after this 10th birthday, owner Debbie Muldowney knew something had changed – for the worst.
“He had zero energy level," Muldowney said. "Things that he would do before, he wasn’t doing anymore, things he would get excited about he wasn’t getting excited about. Basically, he was just laying around.”
Nike wasn’t even able to trot outside to go to the bathroom. Muldowney had to carry him.
General practitioner Dr. Deborah Sullivan said Nike's human companion had reason to be alarmed.
“His heart was so very, very slow,” Sullivan said. “When I did an EKG, I felt he needed immediate attention.”
Sullivan referred Nike and Muldowney to cardiologist Dr. Alan Spier who recommended a solution used in humans: a pacemaker.
“When Dr. Spier said he – we – could do a pacemaker. And I was like, ‘for a dog’?” Muldowney said.
According to the Brown University Web site, while four-thousand dogs need pacemakers, only 300 to 400 actually get them. Dr. Spier said pacemakers are actually common – he’s been implanting them for at least 10 years now – but are geographically isolated.
“Initially most pacemakers were placed in institutions, the veterinary schools. The veterinary schools, with few exceptions, are located in small rural communities,” Spier said.
With more cardiologists moving to urban areas, pets like Nike are benefiting from that expertise and technology. The closing gap between people and pet medicine doesn’t surprise Sullivan, who said that even at the age of five, “I’ve always known (pets) are like people to me.”
“Working with specialists is the greatest relationship you can have -- we provide cutting edge medicine for clients who wanna go there,” Spier said. “Many clients say they want to provide a quality of life their pets. So a kidney transplant, pulling heart-worms out, implanting pacemakers and Holter monitors (which monitor the electrical activity of a heart).
She went onto say, “ ... all these things I’m pleased veterinary medicine is paralleling human medicine today. We can use same procedures and protocols.”
After being assured Nike’s quality of life would be significantly improved, Muldowney did not hesitate to green-light the procedure.
“You hear stories all the time about people getting heart surgery done and using pig valves. It’s just amazing how far we’ve become,” she said.
Just five weeks later, the difference in Nike’s energy is significant.
“From a dog who looked like stuffed bean bag, just sitting on the couch,” she said. “Now, you can’t keep up with him. He’s up and down the stairs, getting into the garbage, he’s like a playful pup.”
“Be careful what you wish for,” said Dr. Spier, who reported Nike’s prognosis to be “good.” “You have a dog who’s unruly and ornery and that’s what you want a pug to be. But the difference has been dramatic.”
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