Nurse Collects Pacemakers For Dogs

Donation program saves lives
By Karen B. London PhD, May 2019, Updated June 2021
dog on trail

A pacemaker for a dog can cost upwards of $3000, and that means that not every guardian can afford to provide one no matter how desperately the dog needs one to survive. Nurse Terri Mattula and her husband once had a dog named Gator who passed out during a walk because of issues with his heart. When they took him to the vet, they learned that he needed a pacemaker, but as two broke students, they couldn’t afford one.

Fast forward 20 years and Mattula’s husband needed a new pacemaker because of a change in his condition. With Gator in mind, Mattula saved her husband’s old pacemaker and offered to donate it the local veterinary school at the University of Georgia. She told them over the phone that she had a relatively new device and wanted to know if they could use it. That phone call led to a collaboration between the university vet school and the local hospital.

So far, at least 65 pacemakers have been donated since the donation system became an official program in February 2018. Usually, old pacemakers are thrown out even if they are still working, but they typically have around 5 years of life left in them.

The veterinary hospital will soon be using donated pacemakers exclusively, which means that financial concerns will not prevent people from providing them for their dogs.

Photo: Gabriel Gheorghe / Unsplash

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life