Exercise Induced Collapse in Border Collies

If you have a border collie that has episodes like Piper does the University of Minnesota wants to hear from you. Check out their website for information on submitting samples. Your dog does NOT need a pedigree to be included in the study.

“An exercise-induced collapse syndrome similar to the EIC syndrome in retrievers has been recognized in Border Collies and may be called Border Collie collapse (BCC) or exercise induced hyperthermia. It is most common in dogs used for working stock but has also been seen in dogs training for agility or flyball competitions and in dogs repetitively retrieving a tennis ball. Affected dogs are normal at rest and seem healthy but become abnormal after five to fifteen minutes of strenuous activity, particularly in warm weather. Some dogs will develop a stiff, stilted gait with short strides and others will become wobbly and then collapse. Some dogs develop a balance problem or are mentally abnormal during an episode, and a few dogs have died during collapse.

This syndrome has not yet been well characterized so we are uncertain whether this is a metabolic, muscular or nervous system disorder. Affected dogs are negative for the dynamin 1 mutation causing EIC in Labrador Retrievers.

If your dog has had 2 or more episodes of collapse we would like your help as we try to describe the syndrome and search for the genetic cause. Please take the time to fill out the questionnaire and send us a DNA sample and pedigree from your affected dog. If you have a video of your dog having an episode we would like to have the opportunity to view that as well.”


  1. Holy cow! That's amazing. Piper has had 2 episodes, right? At least you know now that you are not alone in this mystery. Thanks for the information.

  2. RaisingRiver says:

    Yep, not alone. River has done that several times – probably about 5 and within the last 2 years, I make sure it NEVER happens. I bring my own tub of water to every disc event and she goes in it EVERY time after her runs – even if it was only 5 long catches. :) Thanks for the link.

  3. CelebrityPixx says:

    Hi from Australia. My beloved agility bc has had 4-5 of these strange leg stiffening wobbly attacks over the last few years. I am extremely worried about this condition affecting his trialling career as he is a once in a lifetime dog to us. They seem to be brought on by extreme excitement coupled with exercise but tonight he had an attack with very little but massive excitement as my husband was using a loud grinder and he went nuts over it. Im very stressed as we are flying him to the other side of the country for the agility nationals soon and he is terrified of flying like most dogs. I just hope the stress doesnt bring on an attack!! I am holding my breath on the latest research findings when they become available. Cheers from oz x

  4. Dear CelebrityPixx, please forgive me if I'm being overly neurotic, but yikes! Your BC has had 4-5 these collapses, and one merely stress-induced…? I do appreciate how much work and training you've invested in agility trials, but you are talking about the stresses of long flights and competition in Australia's hottest season. Again, forgive me if I'm overstepping, but is competing in the nationals worth the risk of losing your dog? :-\

  5. The Border Collies says:

    To be fair everyone, nobody knows what causes these episodes, which is in part is the point of the study – to see if there is a genetic marker, or if it's something else altogether. Piper was well over 6 years old before she did it the first time, and since those two episodes, we've not experienced it again. Nobody knows exactly what it is – WHAT stressor will induce it, WHICH circumstances will set the dog off … putting the dog in a bubble is not the answer. Piper experienced her episodes playing ball, but has never done it while playing agility or working sheep, or at flyball. Should she never play ball again? If it's induced by excitement, should she spend the rest of her life on a leash in a white padded room? My point here is, don't be too quick to judge. Many dogs who suffer from this condition, whatever it is, can go on to continue doing what they love, with precautions. A frisbee game could set it off, but a flight across the country may not. We just don't know. And to be clear, this is not the same as heatstroke, and there's no proof it's damaging or fatal. Many dogs have long working and performance careers with this problem from time to time, so please – don't assume anyone is endangering their dog by continuing to play with them :)

  6. I've never heard of this before. I bet this is scary to witness, especially when you don't know what's going on. Eeek!

  7. Love, love, love the new posts recently. It's been fun to watch Dexter grow and change!

    Has anyone looked at diet in these cases? There's been a few studies done on hypoglycemic collapse of working dogs fed primarily a raw diet or high protein/extreme low carb diet. If these dogs are exercised within 30-90 minutes after a meal, they can become severely hypoglycemic, collapse, and in extreme cases, may die, because protein is not converted to usuable blood glucose as fast as carbs are. Protein takes much longer -around 1.5 to 2 hours.

    As an FYI, Hilary Watson recently published an article on this in her newsletter, and suggests working or performance dogs be fed carbs prior to competition or strenuous exercise.


    This is why high performance human athletes eat carbs prior to competing. Yay, pasta! :)

  8. bonnie illerbrun says:

    I have a 3 year old aussie. She has experienced 3 episodes of stiffining and collapsing in her back end. She also eliminates each time. It is random and does not necessarily follow exercise. Once she had one at 4 in the morning on the bed. She peed and then she hit the floor where she continued to try and stand up. I found her leaning against a table. The episode lasted about 15 minutes and then she was a good a new. Running up and down stairs and happy as if nothing had happened. I have just began my journey to find out what is going on with my girl.

  9. Hi: Our border collie, Izzy, was diagnosed a few years ago with EIC. She just turned five and started having these issues at about one year-old. Her amazing doc came to our field to test her – twice. She experienced her episode in front of him and her temp had elevated pre-test to the danger zone in minutes. We were so glad to pay the vet team to determine what was wrong with her!

    We keep an eye on her but sometimes she has her episodes even when it’s cold and without warning while we’re just playing with a frisbee or tennis ball. Of course, telling a border collie not to exercise is like telling me not to eat peanut butter. (I LOVE peanut butter!)

    Anyway, our kids are grown and having a special needs family member like Iz is truly a blessing – we would be lost without her. :)

    Evansville, IN

  10. Hello
    I have a 5 year old BC and she has exactly the same. She did it 5-6 times last year, and again today. I dont think it has anything to do with the food, because it comes either she has just being eating or if it is 4 hours since last meal. It comes when she is playing with our other BC. She cant control her bagpart, she is mentally abnormal, wobbly and have difficulting breathing. It takes about 30 minuts before she is normally again. Do you know if there is a cure? Medicine ect.? What is a border collie quality for life if they cant play and run.

  11. The full article is on my website at:

    The Syndrome and How to tell BCC from heat exhaustion / heat stroke.

    Border Collie collapse (BCC) is an episodic nervous system disorder that is triggered by strenuous exercise. BCC is recognized throughout North America, Europe, and Australia and is observed in dogs used for working stock, as well as dogs participating in agility or fly-ball competitions or repeatedly retrieving a ball. This disorder has also been called exercise induced collapse (EIC), exercise induced hyperthermia, stress seizures and “the wobbles”.

    Affected dogs are normal at rest and seem healthy. Typical collapse episodes begin 5 – 15 min after onset of exercise and include disorientation, dull mentation or loss of focus; swaying, staggering and falling to the side; exaggerated lifting of each limb while walking and a choppy gait; scuffing of the rear and/or forelegs, and crossing of the legs when turning. All of the factors contributing to the tendency for an affected dog to collapse on a given day (excitement, heat, intensity of exercise) have not been determined. Some dogs seem relatively normal while they are exercising but only show symptoms about 5 minutes after exercise is halted. Dogs are abnormal for 5 to 30 minutes, but then recover completely with no residual lameness or muscle stiffness or discomfort. Affected dogs are often unable to exercise and must be retired from competition and work.

    Video of BCC Affected Dogs
    AHC CVM Mickelson BC Wave Pic

    Mild BCC episode 1 http://www.vimeo.com/9378972
    Mild BCC episode 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmscX8BXkdw
    Severe BCC episode 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_5u-BeaF9M&feature=related
    Severe BCC episode 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jynDHZnyJC8

    The Project

    Investigators at the the University of Minnesota (Drs. Ned Patterson and Jim Mickelson, and Katie Minor), University of Saskatchewan (Drs. Susan Taylor and Cindy Shmon), and the University of California, San Diego (Dr. Diane Shelton) are involved in a large-scale project to investigate this disorder. The objectives of the project are to (1) establish clinical, hematologic and biochemical parameters for normal Border Collies participating in a standardized exercise protocol, (2) to evaluate dogs with BCC participating in a standardized exercise protocol to determine clinical or clinicopathologic markers for BCC at rest or after exercise that will help veterinarians diagnose BCC and help us understand the cause of collapse, (3) to fully describe the clinical features of BCC to facilitate recognition by dog owners and veterinarians, (4) to evaluate the heritability of BCC, (5) to determine the genetic cause of BCC, and (6) to develop a genetic test for BCC to aid diagnosis and to allow breeding decisions to be made to avoid producing affected pups.

    Dr. Sue Taylor (University of Saskatchewan – Western College of Veterinary Medicine) is currently performing strenuous exercise studies (sheep herding and ball-chasing) with normal Border collies and dogs with BCC. Dogs with BCC have normal physical, orthopedic and neurologic examinations at rest. Dogs with BCC and normal Border collies develop alterations in rectal temperature, hematologic, biochemical, blood gas and acid base parameters that are very similar to those previously described in normal exercising Labrador retrievers. No abnormalities have been detected in serum electrolytes (sodium and potassium), blood sugar, blood cortisol, ability to ventilate, or heart rhythm that can explain the collapse in dogs with BCC. Dogs with BCC and normal Border collies all develop very high body temperatures (often >41.7C, >107F) after 10 minutes of strenuous exercise, but they cool down quickly when exercise is halted. Normal and BCC affected dogs are negative for the dynamin 1 mutation causing EIC in Labrador Retrievers. Thus far no differences between the normal dogs and the dogs with BCC have been identified except that the dogs with BCC exhibit gait and mentation abnormalities as described above. Dogs with BCC remain abnormal for 5 to 30 minutes, but then recover completely with no residual lameness or muscle stiffness or discomfort.
    **Free Exercise Study Opportunity**

    How can I tell BCC from heat exhaustion / heat stroke?

    A commonly asked question is how to differentiate BCC episodes from recurrent heat exhaustion or heat stroke. For years, dogs with episodes of BCC have been labeled as “heat intolerant” because collapse is most likely to occur in hot weather. Dogs with BCC certainly are hot after exercise but their body temperatures are not higher than normal dogs performing the same exercise so it is not simply overheating causing collapse. Also it is important to recognize that the collapse episodes we see in dogs with BCC are very different from those associated with actual heat stroke. Heat stroke severe enough to cause mentation changes, gait abnormalities and collapse in a dog will be life-threatening and often fatal. Recovery, if it does occur, is slow and prolonged (hours to days) even with intensive treatment. Laboratory evaluation reveals a dramatic increase in the muscle enzyme CK and many affected dogs develop acute kidney failure. More than 80% of dogs collapsed due to heat stroke exhibit mentation changes that are severe, progressive and persistent (for hours to days). Damage to blood vessel walls leads to widespread clot formation, damage to multiple organs, low platelet numbers and often widespread bleeding. In contrast, dogs with BCC-related collapse episodes show no laboratory abnormalities and recover quickly – returning to normal within 5 to 30 minutes. Besides the severity of collapse episodes, the recurrent nature of BCC-related episodes and the fact that collapse can occur even on days with moderate or cool ambient temperatures helps to distinguish BCC from heat-related illness.

  12. We have a 3 year old who is a very active dog. She has had a number of these episodes over the last few weeks. We were recommended to take her to a heart sepcialist, which we have done, she has been xrayed, blood tests done and ecg done – cost a fortune, but nothing showed. Tomorrow we are having a holter fitted for 24 hours to measure all her heartbeats and during this time we have to try to get her to drop so that they can see if her heart rate changes. Can someone please find a treatment for this?

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