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New customized vests hold heart monitors on pets

VestAn innovation at Cornell University Hospital for Animals (CUHA) has solved a problem plaguing pet owners whose animals had to wear cumbersome heart monitors. The solution comes in the form of a bright orange vest that is cheaper, lighter, and easier to clean than any previous methods of keeping the monitor devices in place.

Pets suffering from fainting or collapsing problems are sometimes outfitted with a Holter monitor for 24 hours. This device, which is also used on humans, uses electrodes placed on the skin around the chest to track the heartbeat. Veterinarians can then look at its recordings to identify heartbeat abnormalities and match them with a pet activity diary the owners keep during the monitoring period to help determine what sparks the problem and its possible cause. But this device must be attached to the dog or cat in a way that prevents it from falling off or being chewed.

“The Holter monitor is very useful for diagnosis, but nobody likes to have it on,” said Shari Hemsley, licensed veterinary technician in CUHA’s cardiology group. “Humans attach the electrodes and wear the main machine on a belt. On an animal you have to shave their fur to get electrode contact and either wrap the wires and main machine with different bandaging material or keep it under a vest.”

Until recently, the available vests used for this purpose had big Velcro patches that got dirty and were hard to clean. When the company that made them faded out of business, CUHA needed a new supplier. Hemsley checked with technicians from other veterinary schools to see what they were using, but they all had the same problem: their vests were very expensive and hard to keep clean.

After some sleuthing, Hemsley found a company that makes lightweight Lycra vests for dogs that are bright neon orange so their animal wearers can be seen by cars and owners in the dark. Hemsley bought several sizes and brought them to a seamstress, who customized them with red pockets and buttons to hold the main body of the monitors in place.

“It’s snuggly, easier to manage, and the clients really like it,” said Hemsley.

CUHA now offers the improved vests to its own patients and in kits for referring veterinarians that include a monitor, vest, and instructions for using the device at their practice before sending the kit back.