Exercise-Induced Collapse (EIC) in dogs is a common neurologic/brain and spinal cord 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. However, the underlying factors that determine the severity of an episode remain an area of active research.

Genetics of Exercise-Induced Collapse in dogs

EIC has been linked to a mutation in the DNM1 gene, which codes for the protein dynamin. In the neuron, dynamin trucks neurotransmitter-filled vesicles from the cell body, where they are generated, to the dendrites. Scientists hypothesize that in dogs affected with EIC, the mutation in DNM1 disrupts efficient neurotransmitter release, leading to a cessation in signaling and exercise-induced collapse in dogs.

This mutation was first characterized in field-trial lines of Labrador Retriever dogs. This disease is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner, meaning that affected dogs must have two copies of the mutation to show clinical signs. However, this mutation is incompletely penetrant, meaning that not all dogs with two copies of the mutation will show signs of this disease.

What to do if you suspect your dog has EIC

  • Get a dog DNA test from Embark to confirm if your dog is at risk for EIC.
  • Inform your veterinarian, use Embark’s shareable vet report, and know where your closest emergency animal hospital is. 
  • Dogs displaying abnormal behavior should discontinue the exercise. 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. Exercise induced collapse dogs tend to tolerate moderate exercises like hiking or jogging. However, activities that require a high, continuous level of excitement and stress (retrieving, hunt trials) may need to be discontinued.
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How to prepare for Exercise-Induced Collapse

If you suspect your dog has EIC, which usually develops in juvenile dogs, typically before 3 years of age, your vet can help diagnose this condition. They might use genetic testing, clinical signs, and muscle biopsy to diagnose this disorder.

If your dog has been diagnosed with EIC, be prepared by knowing the signs and symptoms. This muscle disorder can cause episodes of muscle weakness and sometimes collapse. After recovering, most dogs are perfectly normal and eager to get back to work. While most dogs appear dazed or confused after an episode, most return to normal quickly.

Exercise induced collapse in dogs with this condition are otherwise normal and healthy, though some severely affected dogs have died during an episode. The factors determining the severity of an episode on a given day or in a given dog are unknown. If your dog is affected, minimizing or eliminating intense exercise is the best way we currently know to prevent complications from this condition.