An American University Created Actual Zombie Dogs Using Horrifying Soviet Science

Rover’s come back to life! That is, a few Rovers have, at the hands of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Safar Center for Resuscitation Research, the birthplace of CPR. In 2005, a team of doctors used some interesting techniques based on mid-19th century experiments (which bordered on horrific) to decease and revive several dogs over the course of a few hours. This project earned the nickname "zombie dogs," and was controversial because the dogs used in the experiment were not already dead but in fact lethally injected by the researchers.

Ultimately, doctors and scientists created said zombie dogs through some sketchy science. Not that sketchy science isn’t something that’s foreign to us. Humans have a long history of doing pretty terrible experiments on ourselves. Specifically, there’s a long history of people trying - and succeeding - to revive long-dead corpses, from animals to human babies. Awful science experiments creating zombie dogs seems to be par for the course. 

But can resuscitation research or bringing dogs back to life only be a bad thing? After all, there is something to be said for some of the experimentation that has paved the way for human organ transplants and other lifesaving medical action. Hopefully, though, all this science experimentation won't cause a massive true-to-life zombie apocalypse first: hungry zombie dogs slobbering all over sounds like a truly awful idea.


  • The Zombie Dogs Were 'Suspended In Animation' By Draining Them Of Their Blood

    The Zombie Dogs Were 'Suspended In Animation' By Draining Them Of Their Blood
    Photo: YouTube

    In 2005, the Safar Center for Resuscitation Research at the University of Pittsburgh was the epicenter of somewhat disturbing experiments on dogs, unofficially nicknamed the "zombie dog" project. In a process similar to death row prisoners being injected with a lethal cocktail, the blood of living dogs was drawn out and then replaced by a saline solution mixed in with oxygen and glucose. That solution induced cardiac arrest in all of the dogs, by inducing extreme hypothermia. The team called it "suspended in animation," but when the dogs’ hearts and minds stopped working, they could be declared clinically dead. Afterwards, warm blood was pumped back into their bodies in an attempt to revive them.

  • The Resurrection Led To Serious Damage In Some Of The Dogs

    The Resurrection Led To Serious Damage In Some Of The Dogs
    Photo: James S Watson / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    After reviving the dogs by giving them warm blood transfusions and a gently stimulating electric shock, all the dog survived but four of the 14 dogs showed serious signs of neurological damage thanks to the process. Three of the dogs had multiple organ failures which meant they needed mechanical assistance to continue living. Even though most of the dogs came out relatively normal, having 28% of your specimens show signs of permanent damage shouldn't be considered a success quite yet.

  • Escaping Death Through These Experiments Is Only Possible Within A Four-Hour Window

    Escaping Death Through These Experiments Is Only Possible Within A Four-Hour Window
    Photo: Julia Caspar/Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

    Scientists at the Safar Center found that dogs that were dead for more than a couple of hours couldn't be resuscitated, no matter what they tried. However, adding the oxygen and glucose to the cold saline solution did give them an extra hour to that limit. After some time of experimentation, they increased that to four hours. In pushing the boundaries of those limits, various life-saving procedures could be applied in the event of an emergency. Imagine a soldier that has been torn apart by an explosion - they could be saved if death could be delayed long enough to put them back together.

  • In 1939, A Soviet Scientist Made A Severed Dog’s Head Move

    In 1939, A Soviet Scientist Made A Severed Dog’s Head Move
    Photo: National Library of Medicine - History of Medicine / Wikimedia Commons

    And of course, the scientist filmed it, the footage of which is eerily fascinating and a tad gruesome. But the head not only moved; it also apparently responded to external stimuli. The scientist’s name was Sergei Sergeyevich Brukhonenko, but he wasn’t just some quack. He was a leading researcher at the Research Institute of Experimental Surgery, and helped pioneer open-heart surgery. He used a device he created, which he called an "autojektor," which allowed the severed head to remain alive for another 100 minutes. Being a man of science, this wasn't the first severed dog's head he attempted this experiment on - it is said that he did this on hundreds of dogs.

  • Experiments In The Revival Of Organisms Had Been Prolific In The Soviet Union In The 1900s

    Experiments In The Revival Of Organisms Had Been Prolific In The Soviet Union In The 1900s
    Photo: YouTube

    A 1940 film showed experiments where dead hearts and dog heads could be brought back to life, using Brukhonenko's research and autojektor to prove it. It was released as a joint scientific find by the United States and the USSR in the name of mutual friendship, because you and your friends totally go out and revive the dead all the time, right? Well at the very least the video was created as Allied propaganda. After all, what could scare your enemy more than the very notion of their soldiers coming back from the dead? And possibly really hungry for brains, too?

    While some contend that the video is fake, there is no evidence of this claim.

  • Another Soviet Scientist Had Attempted To Revive A Dead Man’s Heart In The 1920s

    Another Soviet Scientist Had Attempted To Revive A Dead Man’s Heart In The 1920s
    Photo: brianparra / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Around the same time Brukhonenko was starting his experimenting with dog heads, Aleksei Kuliabko wanted to experiment with actual adult humans. They had a patient who had died from surgical complications not more than 24 hours prior, and so had the opportunity to try a new experiment. He and his staff successfully restarted his heart for 20 minutes using a solution designed by Frank Spiller Locke, a solution he used more than 20 years earlier to restart a dead baby’s heart. The man’s revival was fraught with violent shaking and wet choking sounds - enough to terrify his assistants and make them run out of the operating room. US magazine Time even reported that “Vague reports have been reaching the U.S. that Russian scientists have revivified corpses!”