The claim: Used pacemakers can be donated to pets
A Dec. 7 Facebook post (direct link, archive link) shows an X-ray of a dog with an implanted pacemaker.
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“If you have a pacemaker, you can put it in your Will to have your pacemaker donated to a dog in need after you pass,” the post reads. “Pacemakers cannot be donated to another human, but they can be donated to dogs with cardiac issues who would depend on it to stay alive.”
The post was shared more than 1,000 times in a day.
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Pacemakers can be donated for implantation in dogs, greatly lowering the costs of cardiac care for canines.
Old pacemakers can be donated for animals
Programs to donate pacemakers for use in dogs in the U.S. have been established in several universities, including the University of Georgia, the University of Tennessee and the University of Missouri. The devices can be donated after death or after being upgraded.
Medtronic, a pacemaker manufacturer, also promotes recycling devices for companion animals.
The programs all say they offer a way to bring down the cost of cardiac care for pets, noting that new devices cost thousands of dollars. The CanPacers program, a repository sponsored by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Cardiology subspecialty, charges $300 each for generators, leads and other pacemaker supplies, with some components available for free for training purposes. The fees help fund research and cover technical and shipping costs.
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The post notes along the way that pacemakers cannot be donated to humans, but that’s not quite accurate. While pacemakers are considered single-use devices that should not be implanted in a second person in the U.S., used pacemakers are sometimes shipped overseas to lower and moderate-income nations. The Denver Post reported in 2010 that veterinarians were finding that donations of devices abroad were reducing the supply available for pets in the U.S.
A program hosted at the University of Michigan’s Frankel Cardiovascular Center sources pacemakers from funeral homes and is leading a clinical trial that reuses the devices after a patient’s death. The My Heart Your Heart Program’s randomized trial has 215 patients enrolled worldwide, and the program has also sent reconditioned pacemakers to “under-resourced countries for life-threatening cases in which there was no alternative,” said Noah Fromson, a spokesperson for U-M Health.
Whether donated for patients overseas or animals, the Funeral Consumers Alliance notes that pacemaker donations can usually be coordinated with a funeral home.
USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the post for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
Our fact-check sources:
- University of Georgia, May 10, 2019, Navicent Health, UGA partner on pacemakers for dogs
- University of Missouri, accessed Dec. 7, MU veterinary cardiologist recycles donated pacemakers — from both pets and people — to maintain the rhythm of life for canine patients
- Medtronic, June 26, Pets and pacemakers: best friends a while longer
- CanPacers, accessed Dec. 7, About Us
- CanPacers, accessed Dec. 7, Costs
- Funeral Consumers Alliance, accessed Dec. 7, Recycling Implants After Death
- Knoxville News-Sentinel, March 6, 2012, Human pacemakers used to save pets’ lives
- Denver Post, Aug. 6, 2010, Colo. pet owner finds pacemaker gives poodle power
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