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Exercise Induced Collapse or EIC in Labrador Retrievers

What is Exercise Induced Collapse EIC in Dogs?

Exercise Induced Collapse, or EIC, is a genetic disorder in dogs which can cause them to literally collapse from heavy exercise.  In my experience, the whole back end of your dog may collapse – as if they were paralyzed from the middle of the back down.  In the beginning EIC was thought only to be caused by heavy exercise.  Through years of research, however, some dogs with extreme cases of EIC have actually been known to collapse from the thought of exerting themselves.

I breed only American Field bred Labradors, so this article primarily describes only what I have witnessed with my own personal Labrador dogs.  Testing is now also available for this EIC in other breeds as well.

Do all dogs that collapse that have EIC? NO!  After testing all of the breeding dogs in my kennel (15 in all), I had three dogs that were affected with EIC. Two of those three (both almost 7 years old) have never collapsed – in fact one of them is an extreme power house.

What happens when they collapse? I have one Labrador retriever that does collapse and it’s a little scary at to actually witness it.  My dog will lose all control of her back limbs and just drag them around until the episode is over…and then they are fine. It doesn’t appear that they are in any pain during an episode, as she continues to try to run, but it is quite disconcerting watching them dragging their back end in pursuit of a bird or a bumper.

Is EIC dangerous? Although I have not witnessed any immediate danger or pain from these episodes, you do have to be careful your dog does not have an episode while in the water, as they could drown.  I recommend keeping a close eye on your dog while in the water – and be ready to assist if needed.

What should I do if my dog has an episode? What I found best to do if your dog collapses is to (1) stop all activity, (2) go sit by them, pet and talk calmly to them to get them to settle down.  Let them know that everything is ok.  Your dog has no clue what is happening to them.   Reassure them and stay calm yourself.  In my experience, if you can calm your dog down they recover quicker from their episode.

How do I test my dog for EIC? There are several ways you can test your dog for EIC.

DNA Test: The least expensive way to test your dog is to do it yourself by swabbing the inside of the cheek with a special, sterile swab.  Seal it an envelope after it has dried and mark it with the dog’s information and send it into a testing center. (see below)

Blood test: Take your dog to a vet and have sample taken.  They can send it in for a number of tests including an EIC diagnosis.

Dew claw testing: New litters can be tested by the dew claws that are taken off by the vet.

To get full information to perform all the testing is listed above:

Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory College of Veterinary Medicine University of Minnesota 1333 Gortner Avenue St. Paul, Mn 55108-1098 Phone# 612-625-8787 or 800-605-8787 Web page

The Fear of EIC When I first heard of EIC I had already purchased most of my breeding dogs to start my business. I purchased some of the best dogs around, out of some of the best bloodlines.  They are great dogs from some of the best kennels across the United States.  At the time, EIC wasn’t even part of the dog community dialog.  As time went on, however, more and more people started discussing it and I began getting inquiries, asking if any of my dogs had EIC.  At first, I replied, “of course not.”  None of my dogs had ever collapsed before…and besides, there are more important things like hips, elbows, eyes, teeth cleaning, etc. to watch out for.  EIC was not even on my radar screen.

The EIC talk got more frequent and louder. “Do you test your dogs?”, I was asked more frequently.   Then I started losing puppy sales because I hadn’t tested my dogs and FEAR began to set in.  What if my dogs do have it?  I have to admit, part of me didn’t want to test my dogs because I didn’t want to find out any of my dogs were affected.  Eventually, I confronted my fears and had all of our dogs tested.  Most of our dogs’ EIC tests came out “clear”.  Three were “carriers” and three were “Affected” (positive).

Next, we had to deal with this new reality.  New rules and systems were enacted at Rosewood Retrievers to ensure that this condition would never be passed down to another generation.  I am now VERY careful choosing breeding pairs to ensure a carrier is not bred to another carrier or affected dog.

Breeding dogs with EIC Following is a breakdown of what EIC test results mean:

Carriers: Dogs carry 1 of the mutant EIC genes. They do NOT have EIC and will never “collapse”.

Affected: These dogs have 2 of the mutant EIC genes.  Affected dogs might collapse – but might exhibit any outward signs of the condition.

Clear: These dogs don’t carry any mutant EIC genes at all.

So when breeding you don’t want to breed two carriers together, or two affected together, or an affected to a carrier.  ALWAYS have a clear dog in the breeding. Here is what has been found through many year of research:

  • A Clear dog to a Clear dog = Clear puppiesA Clear dog to a Carrier dog = ½ Clear and ½ Carrier puppies

  • A Clear dog to an Affected dog = All CarriersA Carrier dog to a Carrier dog = ½ Carriers ¼ Clear and ¼ Affected (Shouldn’t breed)

  • A Carrier dog to an Affected dog = ½ Carrier and ½ Affected (Shouldn’t breed)

  • An Affected dog to an Affected dog = All Affected (Shouldn’t breed)

So the bottom line to all of this madness is to try to breed all clear puppies, and avoid breeding any affected puppies.

There are a lot of fantastic dogs that have been bred over the decades to get the perfect American (Field) Labrador.  Careful breeding in the future is critical to preserve these desirable traits and to prevent the spread of harmful genetic conditions.

This article is the sole opinion of Rosewood Retrievers.

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