Pacemakers helping dogs survive once-deadly conditions

Image 1 of 4

Eric Lofgren and his dalmatian, Vicki are inseparable. Vicki is about to turn 7, but Eric is lucky to still have her after something went horribly wrong last summer in New Jersey.

"You're lucky," Eric told Vicki. "One morning I got up and she was laying on her side, not moving at all."

The vet gave him heartbreaking news.

"I was told she had hours. Hours to live," he recalled.

Vicki's heart was giving out, but Eric wouldn't give up. He found a specialist nearby who had a surprising solution - a doggy pacemaker.

Eric's second reaction, after his first was shock, was that he probably couldn't afford it. But he next revelation shocked him, too.

"It' a fraction of what it would be for a human, that's for sure," explained Dr. Wendy Arsenault.

She is one of the few who perform the surgery in Florida, at Southwest Florida Veterinary Specialist based out of Bonita Springs.

"A pace maker for an animal is generally going to run $2,500 to $3,500, including the entire surgery, the hospitalization, everything," she explained.

After her surgery, Vicki is doing very well.

"She has energy. She can do anything. She just can't do it for an hour at a time, anymore," Eric said.

Vicki's pacemaker is the same kind used in humans and works the same way, too. Pacemakers use an electric charge to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm. Dr. Arsenualt said the companies that make them donate their older models to veterinary groups.

"It's the difference between life or death for a lot of these dogs that need pace makers," Dr. Arsenault told FOX 13 News.

Eric said it's well worth the cost.

"I feel blessed. I know she feels blessed as well," he said.