About the only thing worse than seeing your dog collapse during
a fun game of fetch is not knowing why.
Hailey is a happy, healthy black Lab with a drive that doesn’t have
a Stop or Slow Down button. So when she stopped suddenly and
wobbled a bit in the middle of a hike with our other two Labs,
Steve and I looked at each other. When she collapsed and began to
pant heavily, he ran to get the truck, which was about a mile away,
and I kept her as quiet as I could.
Panic stricken, I didn’t know what to make of it. Our first thought
was heat stroke, although it was barely 70 and the other two
(older) Labs were fine, albeit a bit puzzled as to why their
housemate didn’t want to play anymore. Even they knew that was
unusual for Hailey.
After a dousing with water and an air-conditioned ride home, she
was fine in about 15-20 minutes.
We didn’t think much of it and all was well for about a year.
During a game of fetch in the driveway, she again stopped in the
middle of the game, wobbled a bit and went down, panting. She was
conscious throughout the whole thing and, once again, cold water
and a bit of a rest brought her back in about 20 minutes.
Fast forward to 2009 when, after a couple of more episodes, we
mentioned it to a research vet at Cornell University as Hailey was
giving her DNA to doggie science. The vet mentioned it could be
either Exercise Induced Collapse or a unique form of seizure that
affects Labrador retrievers.
In the EIC dog, the back legs will give out as the dog continues to
try to play or fetch. It didn’t look entirely like Hailey’s
situation and a blood DNA test confirmed that she is clear of the
That doesn’t, however, help us with what she might have.
The University of Minnesota, where the ongoing EIC research is
focused, has noticed that a number of Labs, whose owners were
testing for EIC because of the symptoms, are now finding their dogs
clear, with no explanation.
Enter Atypical Collapse Disorder. A broad spectrum of symptoms can
occur, but mostly it’s that staggering, dazed look and/or a period
of sluggishness. Exercise or excitement can be a trigger in some
dogs. Researchers think it may be an inherited form of epilepsy
that affects Labs. The fact is, they don’t know. And they won’t
know until they can do more research.
And you can help.
If you’ve seen any of these symptoms in your labs, or know someone
who has, check out the University of Minnesota website dealing with atypical collapse. There,
you’ll find information about this disorder and inks to information
about EIC. It doesn’t take a superhuman dog (or owner) to
contribute to medical research and, most of the time it costs you
nothing more than a trip to your vet for a blood sample. But the
implications of that vial of blood can be enormous.
We may never know what’s up with Hailey; but for the Haileys yet to
come – in our family and yours – perhaps we cannot only find an
answer, but a cure or treatment as well.