CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Pets often play an important role in a family. They are loving companions, and many people would go to extreme lengths to keep their pet happy and healthy.
Cardiologists at CARE Charlotte, a veterinary office with a focus on specialty and emergency medicine, did the first pet pacemaker procedures in Charlotte last month. CARE is the only private veterinary office in the state with the ability and equipment needed to perform the surgery.
Dr. Camden Rouben, a veterinarian, is the cardiologist who performed the pacemaker procedures in March.
"It's rather uncommon that dogs or cats or small animals need pacemakers," he said.
Pacemakers are electronic devices that maintain the heart rate. They are very common among people who have certain heart conditions. Pets with heart conditions will often live shorter lives. Just like they do with humans, pacemakers can help animals.
The connection between Cheryl Cothren and her cocker spaniel Charlie was instant.
"He rescued me and I rescued him right back," Cothren said.
She doesn't have kids and says Charlie is her family.
"He just is the thing that fills my heart," she said.
But his heart wasn't the healthiest.
Cothren noticed he wasn't chasing the tennis ball as quickly, then he had 3 terrifying fainting spells. She feared the worst.
Charlie was put on medications but the side effects were even worse. She traveled from Winston-Salem to get Dr. Rouben's opinion. She was shocked by the suggestion of a pacemaker.
"My jaw hit the floor and I said you've gotta be kidding me! This is crazy," she said.
Dr. Rouben has done three pacemaker procedures on animals in the last eight months. A week before Charlie's surgery was a cat named Severus.
He started as a stray.
"It was like that mean cat's outside again! That mean cat. Then we found out he was a super sweetheart," Kathy Barnes said. "He was just the total opposite of everything we thought about him."
One day "Sevvie" fainted and his vets in Winston-Salem realized his heart was stopping. When medicine didn't fix it, Barnes made the trip to Charlotte so he could have a pacemaker implanted.
"It went from it's not my cat, it's not my responsibility to he's just such a unique personality, just such a funny boy and just such a loving, trusting boy that I couldn't not save his life," Barnes said.
Both surgeries went well and will give the pets a much higher quality of life, and their owners much more time with them.
"I think there's no greater gift that I can enhance that bond by doing these unique procedures," Dr. Rouben said.