When we deal with genetics, you take the good with the bad. This has been the case with the recent discovery and unveiling of Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC) in purebred Labradors and in particular field trial champion lines. If you do not know, or have not heard what EIC is, then stay tuned, because it is the next large scale breakthrough in sire and bitch testing since Hip Dysplasia. This work has been spearheaded by Dr. Ned Patterson at the University of Minnesota, and his work has been groundbreaking in the Labrador world. He has recently discovered the genetic makeup and inheritance of the condition, and has also patented the only blood test in the world that is available to detect carrier.
Lets first start with a breakdown of what EIC is. Exercise Induced Collapse is a recessive genetic disease effecting skeletal muscle and neuron function. Recessive means that in a pedigree it takes a sire and a dam that are both carriers to have affected puppies. For this particular reason the disease goes unnoticed, simply going from lineage to lineage with no consequence until two carriers pair up. The outcome of such a breeding yields puppies and young adult dogs that are intolerant to high levels of physical activity. Their muscles essentially shut down after 5 to 10 minutes of heavy work or physical strain, and long periods of rest is needed to restore function. Not all puppies of such a breeding are affected however, and some pups have varying degrees of the condition. EIC has no treatment, and the condition is lifelong. Up to 30% of all Labradors have been identified as carriers and researchers estimate that number to remain steady as more dogs are tested.
Selective breeding for dogs clear of EIC is the only way to remove it from the pedigrees. For this reason I stress any person who is passionate about the Labrador retriever, and believes their bitch or stud to be superior enough to breed should have their dogs tested at an early age. The future buyers of puppies and pedigree analyzers will be paying close attention to this and you will not want to be behind the ball when a buyer asks ‘what about EIC.’ I know it can be tempting to say, ‘well I just want one litter for myself,’ because I hear it almost every day in my clinic. Your puppies genetics however will not belong to you. In one to two generations there will be hundreds of families that will own puppies from your lines, and to pass EIC on would be a gigantic blunder.