When Roberta Frisoni (and her pup Jake) opened an e-mail on the 15th of July, her heart slowed to a crawl. Although she hadn't heard of the condition before, the words "Exercise Induced Collapse" sounded serious enough to cause concern.

What does this mean? Will Jake be okay? What should I do?

EIC is a common muscle disorder that can cause muscle weakness in dogs, leading to a sudden collapse during otherwise normal puppy play sessions. In a 2008 survey, owners reported that episodes were more likely to occur during times of excitement or, less commonly reported, high environmental temperatures. It can strike at a moment's notice. While most dogs become only slightly dazed and confused after an episode and then recover quickly, it can be more serious — even fatal. It is believed to be caused by disruptions in neurotransmitter activity, but the underlying factors that determine the severity of an episode remain an area of active research.

Dr. Erin Chu, from Embark’s veterinary team, reached out to Roberta to explain that Jake has two copies of a mutation in the DNM1 gene: this genotype greatly increases Jake’s risk of developing EIC, though like most genetic risk factors, doesn’t fully guarantee that he will develop the condition.

What should you do if you suspect your dog has EIC? Erin says,

  • Get a dog DNA test from Embark to learn for sure if your dog is at risk for EIC.
  • Inform your veterinarian with Embark's shareable vet report [sample] and know where your closest emergency animal hospital is. (VetLocator.com is a good place to start.)
  • Exercise should be discontinued as soon as the dog displays abnormal behavior: most commonly, dogs will develop a wobbly, uncoordinated gait. If your dog progresses to a full collapse, remain calm. Apply a cool towel to the dog's head and neck while monitoring the dog's breathing and pulse.
  • Most dogs recover within 15 minutes. If your dog becomes unresponsive or has difficulty catching his or her breath, seek emergency care immediately. EIC dogs tend to tolerate moderate exercise like hiking or jogging, but activities that require a high, continuous level of excitement and stress (retrieving, hunt trials) may need to be discontinued.

When Roberta was told to consult her local veterinarian for further diagnostics and monitoring, she took the advice. Her family vet, Dr. Melissa Mroziak, was grateful to learn about Jake's results because it meant she could create a plan of action, should Jake ever experience a collapse. Since that day, Roberta has kept Jake's exercise light—and now she's prepared. More importantly, she's empowered and optimistic.

With the knowledge that the DNA test revealed, Roberta and Jake were able to plan for a brighter future. Roberta said,

"I'm so glad that I decided to have Jake's DNA tested. Embark may have saved Jake's life. I will be forever grateful."

Stories like these inspire the Embark team every day. With your help, we will continue to add even more cutting-edge research into our industry-leading Dog DNA health test—so that we can help more families live healthier and happier together, for longer.

What will Embark discover about your dog?