On a hot summer day, intense training can be potentially fatal if your four-legged hunting buddy has a hereditary condition known as exercise-induced collapse (EIC). Here’s what you should know about this malady, and what to do if your dog has it.
Incidents of this nervous system disorder can occur during bouts of strenuous exercise, such as retrieving drills, when an otherwise fit and healthy dog becomes weak in the hindquarters and stumbles awkwardly. In some dogs, the weakness also moves into the forelimbs. Exciting or stressful activities lasting more than five minutes can also be triggers, especially in hot weather. EIC-related collapse often occurs without warning, though excessive panting is an early symptom. The condition is not painful, and it typically resolves within 25 minutes. It may take longer for the dog to regain the use of its legs, however, and rushing the recovery can cause muscle damage. In some extreme cases, EIC can be fatal.
While any dog can inherit EIC, it’s prevalent in several sporting breeds. That includes retrievers (especially Labs), German wirehaired pointers and some spaniels. Genetic testing can determine if your dog has the gene that causes EIC. For breeders, such testing is even more critical, as some dogs can be carriers without being affected. That means there’s a 50 per cent likelihood they will pass on the condition to their offspring
FIRST AID & TREATMENT
If your dog is diagnosed with EIC, avoid intensive activities in the first place, especially in hot weather. If an EIC episode occurs, the treatment is similar to that of other heat-related health emergencies. For starters, stop the activity at the first sign of the dog wobbling and move it to a shady spot where it can cool down and rest. In some cases, the dog may need to be carried home or back to the vehicle; a dog sling, such as the emergency model in Ruffwear’s Backtrak Dog Evacuation Kit, makes the job easier with large breeds.