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Help for Honus' Heart

Honus and Senior Veterinary Student, Aimee Beger

Help for Honus' HeartHonus, a two-year-old Boxer dog, named after the baseball shortstop, Honus Wagner, was presented to the Veterinary Hospital at Washington State University with ventricular tachycardia, an abnormal heart rhythm that causes the heart to beat too fast. When the heart pumps too fast, not enough blood can be pumped to the body to supply oxygen and nutrition to the cells and the patient gets sluggish or collapses.

Honus' problem was first treated with medications in an attempt to stabilize his heart rate. When the medications failed to keep his heart rate in a normal range, a defibrillator was surgically placed. 

The device which is slightly larger than a nine-volt battery was donated by Medtronic of Minneapolis Minnesota. The defibrillator is placed just under the skin of the chest wall and attaches to a thin cable called a lead which is implanted in the heart muscle. The lead senses when the heart rate becomes too high and the device attempts to pace the heart to a normal rate. If  it cannot set a normal rate, it will then deliver a shock to the heart which allows for the normal heart rhythm to take over.

The surgery which took place on May 1, 2003, lasted approximately four hours. Digital fluoroscopy, which provides a real time x-ray image, was used to ensure proper placement of the device. Although several pacemakers which speed up a slow heart, have been placed in patients at WSU, Honus is the first patient at WSU to receive a defibrillator. The device can help Honus live a more active life.

As of Monday morning, May 5, Honus is stable and recovering very well. He has been up and walking since the day of surgery. He is scheduled to go home later this week.

Washington State University