Exercise induced collapse (EIC) was identified first in 1993 and is becoming more frequently diagnosed, especially in otherwise healthy and fit dogs.  Breeds often affected are:

  • Labrador Retrievers (by far the most common)
  • Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
  • Curly Coated Retrievers
  • Boykin Spaniels

EIC is caused by a gene mutation and thus is often seen in litter mates.  The gene mutation causes miscommunication of the nerves of the central nervous system.

What would happen to my dog if they have EIC?

After 5-10 minutes of high intensity activity (like chasing a ball), the dog will become wobbly.  If they continue to exercise they will eventually collapse.  After about 15 minutes your dog should recover.  It is not thought to be a painful condition.

What can I do to prevent EIC?

There is no known way to prevent your dog from developing EIC.   Genetic testing can be done by breeders to weed out the gene.  You CAN limit the symptoms though by avoiding really high intensity exercise.

What should I do if I think my dog has EIC?

A trip to your vet is warranted.  They can do an exam to rule out other causes of collapse and suggest blood work and genetic testing.

 

The black lab in the photo is Sable.  I asked her owner Shelby to write a bit about their experience with EIC.  Here’s what she said:

Exercise Induced Collapse is a condition that reputable Labrador Retriever breeders include in their health testing panel, but because Sable came to us by way of the Kinsgton Humane Society, we had absolutely no information on her past, including vet records. 

I first suspected Sable had EIC when on an off leash run Sable suddenly laid down in the middle of the trail looking absolutely exhausted, even though this was no where close to the toughest or longest hike she had been on. She is a fit, active dog- a solid 54lbs of muscle- who had never shown any symptoms of any health issues in the little bit over a year she had been a part of our family. After a few minutes, she was back up and acting like her normal, bouncy self. 

To be honest, I didn’t think much of it at first. I figured she had knocked the wind out of herself jumping into the swamp. Until it happened again, this time at our cottage after a few minutes of retrieving in the water (her absolute favourite activity in the world!). I decided I needed to do some research, and that’s when I learned about Exercise Induced Collapse. It checked all the boxes.

  • Dogs with EIC are usually described as being extremely fit and muscular with excitable temperament and lots of retrieving drive. Check. 
  • Rear limbs are “floppy” and the gait is wobbly or “loose.” Check. 
  • Balance abnormalities. Check. 
  • Common in excitable dogs. Anyone who knows Sable, knows she is always super excited, so check! 

The pieces started coming together. In my research I learned that unfortunately there is no cure or treatment, and dogs with this condition can live happy, fulfilled lives as long as their owners are making them take breaks in activity and not “overdoing it.” So, I had my suspicion but no proof. I learned that Embark DNA includes EIC in their health testing portion, and since Sable is from a shelter and appears to be mostly Lab, finding out more about her overall health, as well as breed, was definitely worth the $210.00 for a kit. About 6 weeks after swabbing her cheek and sending our kit in the mail, we received her health results. I was right, Sable is indeed a carrier of DNM1, the gene name for the recessive mutation known as Exercise Induced Collapse. While not all carriers will show symptoms, Sable does. (We also found out that she has a dash of Springer Spaniel in her- which explains some of her personality traits.) 

Since finding out about Sables condition, her life hasn’t had to change a ton. She is still able to participate in her sports like Dock Diving, Agility, Rally-O, and go on hikes, swim at the cottage and play frisbee. We are cautious and force her to take extra breaks and immediately end any exercise if she starts to show any symptoms. Sable does extra rear end strengthening and awareness exercises. She continues to live a very happy and fulfilled life!