Onyx Pacemaker

I cannot believe I have to write this story about a 3 year old, active, loveable German Shepard who now needs a pacemaker, but here I go. 

At the end of September, Onyx was showing some serious 'doggie depression' symptoms.  We chalked it up to be Austin being away from home few days, but when Austin came back, Onyx did not improve. He wasn’t eating or running around, didn’t want to eat the scraps of food that Reagan leaves for him under her high chair, or follow me outside to take out the trash; all things he normally loves to do. As a mom, intuition told me "something is not right here.”

On Saturday, September 26th, we took him to the ER vet in Deerfield, where we spent 5 hours before being told that his level of need was not critical, and we were advised to go home and wait until our regular vet opened on the following Monday. Onyx had no fever, no vomiting, and no stool issues; so we decided that sounded like a fair plan.

Monday, September 28th, we brought Onyx in to our regular vet. The blood panel, stool sample, and overall evaluation were all indicative of a normal, healthy dog.  His only “symptom” was his abnormally lethargic and depressed behavior.  We were instructed to monitor and report, and were sent back home. 

That week we continued to follow the instructions of our vet.  Thinking Onyx was just depressed for some reason, we continued to try and get him to do his favorite things: chasing the ball, going on car rides, going on walks with Reagan. He did all of these things, but without any of normal enthusiasm.  He was just going through the motions.

Still struck with the feeling that "something is not right," we headed back to his regular vet for further evaluation and x-rays to ensure there were no internal blockages or issues bothering him. Testing done prior to x-rays uncovered that Onyx's heart was showing some arrhythmia that required further review. Our vet performed an EKG and sent it to Tufts in North Grafton.  My heart sank when I got the call that he needed to immediately go to Tufts for a further cardiology consult.  I left work and Austin and I loaded Onyx into the car and went straight to Tufts.

Tufts uncovered the following in Onyx:
1. Fluid around his heart
2. Inflamed heart muscles
3. Arrhythmia
4. 3rd Degree AV Blockage 
5. Possible infectious disease

The cardiologist told us about several atypical results in Onyx. His heart rate was normal (90 bpm), even with the blockage/arrhythmia. Although they could not come up definite reason as to why, their experience led them to believe that this was being caused by an infectious disease.  Onyx was given antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, and remained at Tufts to monitor his response.

Today, 48 hours later, Onyx is clinically doing better due to the antibiotics and anti-inflammatories which have nearly rectified the fluid and inflammation, but the two most dangerous issues remain: arrhythmia and AV Blockage.  His heart rate has decreased now that the infection is subsiding, and it is typical of a blockage patient (30/40 bpm). 

Now, Onyx is left with two options: a pacemaker, or do nothing.

Tufts is recommending a pacemaker for Onyx pending he does not show improvement over the next couple of days, and the cardiologist does not anticipate he will improve on his own. This is why we are asking for help: pacemakers and their overall upkeep are expensive, ranging from $5,500-6,500 for the initial placement and follow up appointment, with routine checks every 6 months for the rest of his life ($500 per appointment). We have already spent $4,000 in diagnostics and hospital care. The pacemaker comes with some degree of risk, but we cannot fathom the risks that come with doing nothing; Onyx would come home and could collapse at any time with very likely fatal results.

Any degree of funds could help our situation. If money was not an option, naturally this would not even be a discussion.  Onyx is our first baby, and we are doing everything we can to give him the best chance at a long and happy life. We’re so appreciative of all the love and prayers we've received over the last couple weeks regarding Onyx.


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Casey Gove 
Holyoke, MA
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