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Poppy’s story

Poppy in the hospital wearing a Holter monitor vest: a portable device used to continuously monitor the electrical activity of the heart

11-year-old Poppy was diagnosed with a complete atrioventricular (AV) block after she suffered several episodes of falling and fainting. This condition is characterised by a block of the electrical impulses which travel through the heart to allow its contraction. Unfortunately, a complete AV block cannot be treated with medicine and an artificial pacemaker implant is the only available solution.

Poppy’s pacemaker was surgically fitted by our Cardiology team under fluoroscopic guidance (real time X-rays). The pacemaker lead was placed into the right jugular (a large vein in the neck) and directed into the right ventricle (lower chamber of the heart). The pulse generator was implanted on the right side of Poppy’s neck. As the name would suggest, a pacemaker supports the heart in beating at a constant rhythm. This is measured in beats per minute (bpm). A dog of Poppy’s size should have a heart rate range of approximately 60-140bpm, but her heart was beating at 38bpm when we first met her. The pacemaker was initially programmed to pace at a fixed rate of 60bpm to avoid any further fainting episodes.

After 10 days of having the pacemaker fitted, Poppy returned to The Ralph for a check up. Her carers said she had already regained her vitality! Electrocardiography (ECG) showed a regular paced rhythm in Poppy’s heart. At this point the rate-adaptive system was activated in the pacemaker, which senses a patient’s body motion and changes the pacing rate accordingly in the attempt to mimic the heart rate variations that would naturally occur during physical exercise and resting. At her most recent check-up, interrogation of the pacemaker device showed that Poppy is fully dependent on her pacemaker. Going forward, the pacemaker will need to be interrogated by our cardiology team every year and reprogrammed if necessary to support her level of activity. She will also need to be walked on a harness to keep her as comfortable as possible.

We are so happy for Poppy and her carers that she can go on to live a normal life with her pacemaker 🙂 Check out these lovely photos of her at home…

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Take care,

Team Ralph

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