PULLMAN, Wash. –.Washington State University veterinary cardiologist Dr. Lynne Nelson and cardiology resident Dr. Sunshine Lahmers successfully performed the first surgery to place an implantable cardiac defibrillator in canine clinical patient on Thursday, May 1.

The device and wires alone cost nearly $30,000 and were donated by Medtronic, Inc., a Minneapolis-based world leader in implantable medical devices. The $2,500 cost for the surgery and attendant services will be paid by the owners and the college.

“WSU’s veterinary community is proud to have been part of this first ever surgical procedure for the benefit of Honus, our students, and the veterinary profession,” said Dr. Warwick Bayly, dean of the college. “This case represented a world-class teaching opportunity and we’re grateful to the owners and Medtronic and as such will absorb part of the $2,500 costs.”

Since the groundbreaking surgery was performed, Honus, a 2-year-old male boxer, has had a near perfect recovery and is scheduled to return home this week but not before being a darling of the national media.

Beginning with the first local news reports last week, Honus’ case has attracted the likes of CBS television’s “The Early Show,” and ABC television’s “Good Morning America.” Both networks are tentatively scheduled to originate live broadcasts from WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital on Wednesday morning. In addition, inquiries about the story have also been received from People magazine, CNN, Inside Edition, The New York Post, In Touch Weekly, The National Enquirer, The National Examiner and British newspapers.

Honus originally came to WSU suffering with a rapid heart rate that was later controlled with drugs. But the episodes of rapid heart rate reoccurred and became progressively harder for the dog to tolerate. He frequently became lethargic and temporarily lost some muscle control. He also vomited during some of the episodes. Honus was diagnosed with a genetic abnormality causing the condition known as boxer cardiomyopathy.

Boxer cardiomyopathy is primarily an electrical conduction disorder that causes the heart to beat erratically (to have an arrhythmia) some of the time. It is an inherited genetic disorder.

If the erratic beats occur infrequently and singly the dog will probably not have symptoms of heart disease. If the erratic beats occur in sequence, then weakness, collapse or sudden death may result.

Some estimates are that up to 40 percent of the boxer breed may have boxer cardiomyopathy to some degree although most cases are not life threatening. The disorder often shows up late in life after the dog may have whelped or sired a litter thus passing the genetic disorder on. Boxer breeders are working hard with veterinary researchers to develop tests and use genetic testing to eliminate the disease from this popular breed.

Honus is owned by the Bryan and Colleen MacDonald of Pullman.