Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC) is a condition that can be common among dogs that participate in agility training, particularly highly driven dogs for which the running, jumping and weaving involved in agility is a natural instinct. These dogs don’t know enough to hold back or pace themselves the way human athletes would and therefore they will operate at full speed until they quite literally drop.
A similar condition is Exercise Induced Hyperthermia, also known as Border Collie Collapse. Though many people assume that EIC and EIH are the same thing, there are actually differences between the two. In EIC, the muscles become so overtaxed by intense workout that the nerves that control them fail to fire properly, causing the muscles themselves to stop responding. The condition can manifest as a dragging of the hind legs or complete collapse of the dog.
While Exercise Induced Collapse has been traced to a specific gene mutation, little is known about the cause of EIH. In this condition, a dog engaging in highly stressful physical activity such as running agility courses becomes dangerously overheated. The body is unable to catch up to the dog’s natural cooling process and the dog’s body temperature soars while it pants more rapidly than usual.
Both conditions can be extremely dangerous and if your dog exhibits any of the symptoms of either, you should take steps to aid in his recovery. Since the cause for both EIC and Exercise Induced Hyperthermia is not fully known, there is little veterinarians can do to prevent them. But you can help to ease your dog’s symptoms and avoid further instances of either EIC or Border Collie Collapse by simply approaching your training with the right precautions.
Sabine Glässl / stock.adobe.com
Sabine Glässl / stock.adobe.com
The important thing to remember is that for most dogs, and especially the higher driven breeds like Border Collies, there is no in between. They operate at full speed at all times. Knowing this, it is up to you as a responsible owner to make sure that they are not overworking. Moderate your training sessions, being sure to take regular breaks between runs so that the dog has a chance to cool down. Not only will this avoid overheating, but it will also allow the muscles to recover and hopefully prevent potential bouts of exercise induced collapse.
In order to avoid Exercise Induced Hyperthermia, you can cool your dog off either by hosing him down, giving him crushed ice to eat, or applying a cool, wet towel. And of course, you should always make sure that he is drinking enough water.
Be on the lookout for potential problems, keeping a particular eye out for tell-tale signs such as excessive panting and a temperature over 105 degrees F that does not reduce spontaneously after about 30 minutes. These are the warning signs of a serious problem.
Remember, your dog can’t tell you what’s wrong so you have to be aware of his condition at all times. And even though he may appear to be in perfect health and a skilled athlete, that doesn’t mean that he can’t experience problems when running full out. Your dog will give his all for you; it’s up to you to make sure that he doesn’t give more than he’s got. Be smart and be healthy… it’s the best way to compete.