Pacemaker Implantation – Gizmo’s Story

Gizmo is a 13-year-old West Highland White Terrier who was referred to us in May 2021 as she was suffering from hindlimb weakness. She was also having collapsing episodes and at times would appear to fall over.

Gizmo was examined by her local vet and was found to have a transient arrhythmia, so she was referred to our Cardiology team who performed an echocardiogram (heart scan), blood pressure measurement and ECG (an exam of the heart’s electronic activity, used to assess arrhythmias). Gizmo was fitted with a Holter ECG monitor, to monitor her heart’s rhythm over a 24-hour period. She was found to have sick sinus syndrome, where the sinus node (the pacemaker of the heart) doesn’t fire properly, often causing slow heart rates or pauses, until another area of the heart fires to compensate. The longest pause was shown to be 7.56 seconds!

During Gizmo’s examination, she was also found to have hindlimb weakness. X-rays were taken of her hind limbs which showed that Gizmo also had bilateral cruciate ligament ruptures.

These findings were reported to Gizmo’s owners and treatment options were discussed. Gizmo’s owners were offered surgery to implant a pacemaker to help regulate Gizmo’s heart. Because of Gizmo’s age, her owners had concerns about the procedure, but made the decision to go ahead with it to give her a better quality of life. Gizmo underwent a general anaesthetic and pacemaker implantation the following day. The pacemaker was inserted into her right jugular vein and the lead was fed into the right ventricle, one of the chambers of the heart. From here it could discharge electrical impulses to generate a heart beat when the sinus node failed to do so. The pacemaker battery was placed in her neck, under the skin. The procedure was completed successfully, without complications.

Gizmo was sent home on strict cage rest for four weeks and returned for a re-examination to again check the pacemaker. She had had no further collapse episodes in that time, and the pacemaker testing showed that it was successfully preventing those scary long pauses. Ongoing the pacemaker will be regularly checked, with Gizmo due to return in 6 months’ time. Gizmo must only be walked on a harness and is not able to wear a collar and lead as this may dislodge the pacemaker. She also needs to take care when playing with other dogs.

Once Gizmo had fully recovered from this procedure, she returned to us for bilateral cruciate surgery on her hind limbs, she is recovering well from her surgery. Gizmo has certainly been through a lot in the last couple of months, but hopefully is now on the road to recovery, we wish her the best.