CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Most people will do anything to keep their pets healthy and living longer.

For years, people had to drive hours to Raleigh for a specific, life-saving surgery for their dog or cat. Now, they have the option to stay in Charlotte for the surgery.

What You Need To Know

  • Pet pacemakers have been around for decades, but until 2020, only one veterinary clinic in North Carolina had the technology to perform the life-saving surgery

  • CARE Veterinary Clinic in Charlotte received pet pacemakers in the fall of 2020, and cardiologists at CARE have successfully performed five pacemaker surgeries

  • The average cost of the technology and surgery can run anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000, and can extend a pet’s life up to five years

Pet pacemakers have been around for decades, but the technology was not available in Charlotte until fall 2020.

Sara Haight’s dog, Fozzy, was one of the first pacemaker recipients in the Charlotte area.

Haight said she started noticing a change in Fozzy when he couldn’t handle their daily walks.

“It would be maybe half a mile and I could just tell he was completely worn out,” she said.

Haight said she took Fozzy to the vet for a routine visit ahead of a teeth cleaning, and found out her dog’s heart rate was dangerously low. She was sent to a pet cardiologist, and was told Fozzy needed immediate help.

“[The cardiologist] said he needs a pacemaker. She kindly and gently told me sudden death was the only alternative,” Haight said.

For years, the only vet clinic offering pet pacemakers was in Raleigh at NC State University. Haight was concerned about making the long commute for the essential surgery.

“Once [the cardiologist] told me about the sudden death, all I could picture unfortunately was you know, me driving him three hours away and something happening,” she said.

Haight learned one vet clinic in Charlotte had the equipment needed to save Fozzy.

The Charlotte Animal and Referral Emergency clinic received pet pacemakers in September 2020.

Dr. Camden Rouben, a cardiologist at the clinic, has performed five pacemaker surgeries in Charlotte: four dogs and one cat. He handled Fozzy’s surgery in June 2021.

“[People] are usually amazed and shocked that you can have that and put pacemakers in a dog,” Rouben said.

The surgery can cost between $3,000 and $6,000, but Rouben said people are willing to open their wallets to keep their pets healthy.

“As more people are gravitating towards having pets instead of children, their willingness to spend money on their pets is drastically increasing,” he said.

Haight said she’s grateful for the technology so she can continue her daily walks with her best friend.

“I prayed a lot. And I’m just grateful for every single day that I have him, every single minute,” she said.

Rouben said a pet pacemaker can extend a pet’s life up to five years, and your pet does have to be referred to the clinic to see if they are a good candidate for the surgery.