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Exercise Induced Collapse: Visible Symptoms and Treatment

Know more about Exercise Induced Collapse and the symptoms to check for in labs.

Exercise Induced Collapse is a hereditary illness. It’s the condition where the affected lab shows signs of muscle weakness and lack of coordination when participating in strenuous activities. However, dogs that have EIC can still live normal lives as house pets.

Causes of EIC

For years veterinarians evaluated affected dogs for episodes of collapse, and speculated that their episodes were due to heat intolerance, low blood sugar, cardiac arrhythmias or possibly metabolic myopathies. Now, EIC has been established as an autosomal recessive syndrome caused by a mutation in the DNM1 gene, which causes a defect in nerve communication during intense exercise. To be effected a dog must receive a defective gene from both parents.


In dogs with EIC, certain factors can cause collapse:

  • Temperature
    …if the temperature is much warmer or the humidity is much higher than what the dog is used to, collapse may be more likely.
    …There are dogs, however, who have exhibited collapse while breaking ice retrieving waterfowl in frigid temperatures and there are dogs that have drowned when experiencing EIC-related collapse in the water.
  • Excitement
    …There are some severely affected dogs that, if very excited, do not require much exercise to induce the collapse. Dogs with EIC are most likely to collapse when engaging in activities that they find very exciting or stressful. This can include retrieving birds, participating in field trials, training drills with electric collar pressure, and quartering for upland game.
  • Type of Exercise
    …Activities with continuous intense exercise, particularly if accompanied by a high level of excitement or anxiety most commonly cause collapse. Activities commonly implicated include grouse or pheasant hunting, repetitive “happy retrieves”, retrieving drills or repetition of difficult marks or blinds where the dog is being repeatedly corrected or is anticipating collar correction, and running alongside an ATV.


Signs to look out for:

  • Weakness after 5-15 minutes of strenuous exercise
  • Lack of coordination
  • Dragging of rear legs
  • Dazed, confused appearance
  • Collapse
  • Staggering, falling to one side, or difficulty maintaining balance is common during recovery


Treating Exercise Induced Collapse

Treatment for EIC consists of avoiding intensive exercise in conjunction with extreme excitement, and ending exercise at the first sign of weakness. However, numerous anecdotal reports show that dogs may be able to resume trigger activities (i.e. competition, retrieving) when they are treated with the anti-seizure medication, Phenobarbital. Phenobarbital and other sedative drugs may simply decrease the dog’s level of excitement or anxiety, thereby decreasing the likelihood of collapse. In some dogs; however, Phenobarbital administration will cause noticeably impaired judgment, interfering with training or trialing. Phenobarbital also has potential side effects, so it should only be administered under the direction and monitoring of a veterinarian.

You can read the full article on AKC Canine Health Foundation website here.


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