Co-sponsors of the 2021 Winning Out
Does your high drive dog suffer from heat intolerance?
Now that our weather has turned warmer, have you noticed that your dog overheats rapidly? Does it put everything into every jump, tunnel, weave poles and after five minutes, it starts panting dangerously hard. Your dog may suffer from a disorder known as Exercise-induced Hyperthermia (EIH) or Border Collie Collapse (BCC). Not much is known about this occurrence except that it is common among highly driven dogs. Mary Whorton thought she had one. When she looked further into this condition, she discovered that her dog did not, in fact, have EIH. This is what she learned.
To see them is to believe them. Many heat intolerant dogs do no more than ten jumps and weave twice before their tongues are hanging out down to their knees. They are 'driven.' They do not know how to do anything in moderation. You take the lead off, and they zoom around as fast as they can go. You try to get them to stay and every muscle is quivering, already using up energy. At the first command they fly at the speed of light. Sound familiar?
While many dogs get hot when exercising and will pant profusely and drink lots of water, there is a difference between ordinary overheating and Exercise-induced Hyperthermia (EIH). The best way to tell if your dog suffers from EIH is by taking its temperature. The temperature of a dog that is merely 'hot' (i.e. in the first category) will not usually exceed 103 degrees. If you watch them, they will recover within 15 minutes, provided that they are relatively fit to begin with. The EIH dog may take hours before it stops panting and its temperature may have reached 105 after only 60 seconds. (If the dog is out of shape as in overweight and/or flabby, you should not be doing agility in the first place.)
to look for
The symptoms consist of:-
Dogs who recover after a heat intolerance episode appear to suffer no ill effects although no one know for certain if long term damage may occur.
The interaction between exercise and the immune system is an area that has received research interest in several species. Limited data is available on the interaction of exercise and the immune response in the canine athlete especially during intense physical stress such as that experienced by sled dogs.
The effect of exercise on the immune response is variable. It has been reported that intense exercise can be suppressive on the immune response (Nieman, 1997). Recent research indicates that exhaustive exercise and overtraining in humans can lead to lower delayed-type hypersensitivity responses (Bruunsgaard et al., 1997), decreased alveolar Mf microbicidal and anti-viral activity (Davis et al., 1997; Kohut et al., 1998; Wong et al., 1990), and increased risk for upper respiratory tract infections (Davis et al., 1997; Wong et al., 1990). Epidemiological and experimental evidence also shows that exercise during the incubation period of an infection may worsen the prognosis depending on the pathogen (Nieman, 1997).
There may be a genetic predisposition to this condition but here, once again, no one is completely certain.
One vet suggested that part of the problem is that a high drive dog might not breath enough. They may hold their breath instead of breathing when excited. They don't pant as much as others, and don't appear to relax when the promise of running or agility is in their head.
Even several hours after the overheating occurred, a vet can determine whether there are any long-term consequences by doing a blood test. They look for changes in the blood profile that would indicate liver or kidney damage.
In sheep herding, on the other hand, the dog spends a lot of time in 'stalk' mode, in which it is hardly moving at all, and even when he's doing faster herding stuff it tends to have an easier canter or trot gait.
If you look at photos of dogs herding, almost without exception its mouth is open, tongue out, panting. Perhaps it is so intent on what it is doing in agility that it doesn't pant and that contributes to the overheating? Or maybe the sudden and strenuous nature of agility (compared to the longer term exertion of herding) doesn't give the dog's body time to adjust to the changing demands.
There is no consensus as to whether or not adding fat to the diet will substantially benefit EIH dogs. It might, it might not.
With thanks to the following for their email comments:- Diana Antlitz, Roger Coor, Helix Fairweather, Ann Gulau, Eileen Madrigale, Pamela Mueller, Joe Sare, Jennifer Shipley
From Dr Janette Mattey BVSc,
This difference may seem pedantic, but EIC is due to a disruption in the transmission of signals to the muscles with rigorous exercise, and is thought to be related to a mutation of the Dynamin 1 gene. A DNA test is available for this disease. The nerves that control the muscles do not fire when they are directed to do so, and this results in collapse, and occasionally death. Dogs are often bright and alert, but may be confused in severe cases. No seizures are reported with EIC
There are certainly similarities in what you describe and EIC but, as far as I am aware, a condition of hyperthermia and suspected mitochondrial dysfunction is not seen in American type Labradors. I would be interested if you have any updated information on the pathogenesis or genetics of this condition in Border Collies. It sounds much like Border Collie Collapse, which is thought to be a disease similar to the EIC seen in Labradors. Research is underway currently to try to identify the genetic mutation and characterise the disease in Border Collies further at the University of Minnesota, and they are still taking DNA samples as far as I am aware.
I know the article on your website is a bit out of date and the information I have provided may already be known to you - but on the off chance you find this helpful in updating your website I thought I would send it to you just in case! I am certainly not trying to be at all critical of you site or article. The main thing is to get the information out there to the dog owners and breeders! (13/02/12)
From Joanne Samuelson
Karla had all the symptoms that this articles talks about. Anyway, 'probably' didn't satisfy me, and I know that it wasn't epilepsy because as a child I had known a few humans with this disease and quivering seizure like symptoms were not the same as an epileptic fit.
Karla was fully conscious, panting so fast that she couldn't get air into the blood stream which was evident by the blueness of the tongue and gums, and it always began with lose of balance. It reminded me of athletes when they hit 'the wall' as they say and loose muscle control.
Anyway, I started looking into things myself and came across a lady who raced greyhounds and she told me about a condition in racing dogs that they called 'tie out' syndrome. It effected dogs that got extremely excited at race meetings and would collapse after the race was run. All the symptoms sounded just like Karla.
I now use a re-hydration supplement on Karla's dinner every night and add re-hydration fluid to her water when training and for over 12 months we have not had one seizure. I can work her for much longer periods of time, more often than before and no matter the whether, though I don't work any of my dogs in hot weather anyway. Everything that Karla does is at full speed; there are no halves with her especially with agility.
While I have complete trust in my vet and they serve me well, sometimes you have to not except the answer you get and do your own looking. For anyone out there that has a dog that is full on and loves to run, jump and play but has this problem, I can say that re-hydration supplements have worked for me. (29/12/02)
I appreciate the issue being addressed and options of things to do. Thank you so much! (31/08/01)
My sister also has a sheepdog who gets in the same state if he has a hard trial on a warm day, or in general work on the farm - so it is not only agility dogs. Talking to trials people, there are actually quite a few dogs that get overheated like this when they are working sheep, and I have also heard of it in lurchers after a long and arduous course. (Chasing type of course, not agility type of course!). (04/08/01)
From Jane Tatam...
I don't know if any of the following is any use. I have two Papillons, one ultra large, one ultra small. The moment we have a hot day neither want to run fast in the ring, and will put something like 16-18 seconds (!) on their average time, running them is rather like trying to push a rock up a hill. So I'm not just talking about a slight slowing down.
We live right by the sea so neither live in a hot environment and they don't moult. They don't show any signs of overheating (as your article describes) but act as though they intend to avoid the problem! Both become listless and normal stimuli like balls and food cease to work. It seems to me that they find the waiting as exhausting as the running, despite creating decent shade for them! Queues at events will work as a total turn-off.
I have tried putting rock sulphur in their drinking water and also give them the homeopathic remedy, sulphur (one a day normally during hot weather, three a day at shows). I have been thinning out their very thick coats.
At shows I have also tried adding a product called Hot Dog to their drinking water (http://www.companionschoice.com/heat.htm). Trouble is they then won't touch the water so I have to give tidbits in the water for them to fish out. Reducing food to less meals seems not to have a beneficial effect, so I give a high carbohydrate lunch snack (a charcoal flavoured Bonio) when I know they won't have to run for a while.
In addition, I thoroughly wet their ears as well as wetting underbellies and using towels. It's sort of working in that I might get one decent run, one half-decent run, but definitely not three!
Going for a walk does not produce the same problems despite quite violent play so I'm not entirely sure what is going on. Sometimes I suspect that heat simply induces listlessness which is worsened by the high degree of non-relaxed non-activity at shows. But that doesn't quite square with your sheep dog analogy.
At times like this I really wish I could have a chat with both my dogs just to discover what is really going on. I do hope others will respond to your article to throw more light on the problem, as I really feel I'm toying with something I don't fully understand.
Collie weaving photo by Tien Trans. Fly owned by Daisy Peel.
© Copyright Agilitynet