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The Genetics of Exercise Induced Collapse

The Genetics of Exercise Induced Collapse

Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC) is a syndrome for exercise intolerance and has been increasingly observed in Labrador Retrievers. Most dogs suffering from the condition come from field trials. Both sexes of known Labrador types such as the black, yellow and chocolate can be potentially affected. The frequency of its occurrence is proportionate among color distribution as seen from field breeding with black male Labradors as the most common ones.

Signs of the disease become more apparent in dogs who engage in heavy training or activities between 5 months to 3 years. For dogs that are used in field trials, the severity of the condition coincides with the age when they started heavy training. Other dogs affected by this disease may or may not show signs depending on their temperament or lifestyle. Dogs that have the disease that show signs of collapse are those that are seen as extremely fit, have prime athletic specimen and greater drive.


Almost 50% of the population of Labrador Retrievers carries a gene for EIC. Although it is not common in a certain sex or color, it is common in dogs that come from field trials. The gene is very common among Labradors and breeding carriers is not at all advisable. However, these gene tests could be used to produce carriers instead of affected dogs. The disease is controlled by a pair of genes, one of each coming from both parents. A Labrador acquires the disease when the dog has the Ee genotype where it gets one carrier gene from each parent.


The symptoms appear in the middle of an intensive exercise and continue to worsen if combined with the dog’s high level of excitement. The excitement is a significant factor that contributes to the collapse. The dog may seem shaky, stumbling or losing coordination and balance. Although these dogs try to continue with the exercise, it is important to be mindful of significant changes of their actions to immediately stop exercise. By continuing the exercise, it may only lead to a fatal collapse. When experiencing the collapse or attack, dogs may appear disoriented while others show alertness. Symptoms may persist after termination of exercise and recovery may take up to 30 minutes.

Some Labradors with this disease can still do exercises without showing first signs of collapse as long as it does not stimulate excitement for longer periods. There are affected dogs that can still engage in mild to moderate exercise but not strenuous exercise. However, severely affected dogs may show signs of the collapse even when exercising only up to a certain extent.


A diagnosis of EIC is done by ruling out muscle disorders instead of making an observation of the dog’s features, history account and lab results. Dogs get a veterinary evaluation to also rule out other joint diseases, heart diseases, anemia, respiratory, muscle, and other systemic problems.


Because the underlying biochemical defect causing EIC is unknown, there is still no accurate treatment method for the disease. As owners of Labradors, it is recommended to feed dogs with food high in fat diet or keep them in weight. But the best treatment for EIC so far is simply to avoid bringing the dog for intensive exercise in combination with their high level of excitement.

Living with Labradors

Labradors with EIC are still able to live a normal and happy life. These dogs just have to give up engaging in strenuous exercises that will cause collapse. Labradors with this disease may still be able to perform physical activities as long as these do not go beyond their normal capacity.

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