The Dog House thanks Claire and Sian for allowing us to share with you their experiences with Keira.


Keira is now working her way back to full fitness, her story is told here in Claire and Sian’s own words:



Keira born 2nd June 2005, Cairn Terrier


Keira started collapsing and so we took her to the vet.  Upon examination it was established that her heart rate was approximately 55 beats per minute at rest and it should have been between 70 and 90, there was also an irregular beat.  A scan was done and also blood tests. These were to test her hormone levels, thyroid, liver and kidney function and also for Addison’s and a general health check.


As a result of all the tests carried out it was established that she had a condition called 'sick sinus syndrome'.  As there is no medication available for this condition we were referred to the Small Animal Teaching Hospital at Liverpool University.


Following an initial consultation her tests were all repeated and then she had a 24-hour heart monitor fitted.  We also had to keep a diary over the same time period.  This confirmed that her heart rate had dropped to an average of 50 bpm and she was experiencing gaps in her heart beat of up to 7 seconds.  The only treatment available for this would be a pacemaker, which we agreed to. During the time we were waiting for her procedure she became frailer, lethargic and the collapsing became more frequent.


The procedure places a battery pack in the right side if the neck and feeds a lead from that into the right side of the heart. The pacemaker is set and this can have varying pace levels which can be altered to best suit the dog. This can be altered at her four-week check when they have their assessment and they are ready to come back into exercise.


She was hospitalised for a total of four days and received her pacemaker on the second day.  It was initially set to a lowest rate of 70 bpm for 4 weeks, we monitored it twice a day and kept a record. She was sent home with pain relief and anti-inflammatory and also antibiotics. Her dressing on her neck around both operation sites (one is for the battery pack at the side of the neck, and the other for the lead) was changed daily. She had to be kept very, very quiet for 3 to 4 weeks with no jumping around and caged whenever we were not with her and no exercise (not easy with a cairn).  Her stitches were removed after 10 days by our local vet and her heart rate and lung function checked.


She recovered really quickly with no collapses once the pacemaker was fitted.  At the beginning of the fourth week we started very short 'on lead walks'.  She must never wear a collar again as this could damage the lead which runs through the jugular vein into the heart from the pacemaker.  She must also never have blood taken from the right-side jugular in case of damage.


At her 4 weeks check her pacemaker was checked, and a scan carried out.  It was established that Keira is 89% reliant on the pacemaker but is well and recovering well.  She is bouncy and returning very much to her normal self.  Her heart beat is regular at 76 bpm and no stops or breaks in the heart rate.  We were advised that she could come back into work as usual. We still must take care that she is not jumping around too much or too high and increase exercise gradually.


Six weeks on and Keira is out free running on her walks. She is usually out for about an hour and some of the time she is on lead to keep her quiet. She is still not allowed to run wild with lots of dogs yet, in case she gets knocked or overdoes the enthusiasm as she normally would.  However, she is happy, energetic, much more robust, enjoying life and back to being really cheeky.


We will need to return to Liverpool for 6 monthly check ups or earlier if anything changes.