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Used pacemakers are going to the dogs

Jeanne Howell’s parents were dog lovers, and they were both “big into recycling things.”

So Jeanne figures they would have no problem with the decision she made, after they died five days apart in October, to donate their pacemakers for use in dogs.

It’s not as rare as you might think.

The Indiana Funeral Directors Association says donating the pacemakers of deceased humans for use in dogs is “fairly common,” according to an article in the Gary Post-Tribune.

In the case of the Howells, both of whom were in their 90s, the pacemakers went to¬†Purdue University’s Small Animal Hospital in West Lafayette, so the medical equipment could be placed in dogs.

Jeanne Howell said the suggestion came from the owner of Moeller Funeral Home in Valparaiso, where her parents bodies were cremated.

“I’m a Purdue graduate myself, so it was kind of nice that they were going to the Purdue veterinary clinic,” Howell said. “What else are you going to do with it? It’s a shame to waste them.”

Pacemakers can’t be cremated with a body, and rules prohibit them from being reused in humans in the United States. The practice of shipping them to other countries for reuse has also stopped.

For the past few years, Moeller has been giving pacemakers to Valparaiso veterinarian Larry McAfee. His daughter attends Purdue’s vet school and takes the pacemakers to the animal clinic. He said he sends one or two to the university every month.

“This gives new life to a dog dying of heart failure,” said McAfee, who established the relationship with the university.

About 10 percent of the 15 to 20 pacemakers the clinic implants in dogs each year have been donated. Clinic officials say the devices have¬†extended the lives of some dogs by five years or more. Some of the families of donors have asked to meet the dogs that have their family member’s pacemaker, but the clinic does not track that information.

For more information about pacemakers and dogs, you can visit Petswithpacemakers.org.


Comment from Tom
Time December 29, 2009 at 10:12 am

Thats awesome. I know some people may get freaked out about it but it is better than having it go to waste.

Comment from Melissa
Time December 29, 2009 at 11:48 am

That is so neat. Thanks for sharing the article

Comment from Cher
Time April 21, 2011 at 7:05 pm

If it keeps on ticking, a dog could be licking! I know, that was bad … seriously, when people die, everything possible should be donated to help others live: organs, tissues, and yes, pacemakers!