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I adopted Sydney, a 1 & 1/2 year old black lab/australian shepherd mix, a week ago. Since we started our family together things have gone incredibly smoothly for the most part.

However, there's been a random issue during exercise, and I've kind of hit a wall.

Sometimes in the midst of playing fetch (or doing sprints), Sydney's whole body will completely cramp up. It starts in the back legs, moves to his front legs, he starts breathing really heavily/rapidly, then he'll hit himself in the snout a few times, the breathing begins to regularize, and soon enough he's back up and walking.

The episodes generally last two-three minutes (though they feel like forever). They've always happened in my back yard, but near no consistent plant life nor in any particular spot. He is responsive to his name (though can't always move his head, sometimes just his eyes), and generally looks a little freaked out during the high-point of the attack.

Now, Sydney and I have been to the vet (three times, in a week) and are working on possible neuromuscular & cardiovascular diagnosis, but there are a lot of other factors at work:
1) Sydney is slightly underweight;
2) Sydney has lived in a shelter for a year and has weak hindquarters as a result;
3) I live in a very hot/humid area of Texas (though, none of these episodes have happened in temps above 88 or humidity above 70%);
4) Neither the first guardian, nor the shelter have ever seen any of these symptoms before;
5) The episodes are completely random. Sometimes he can play fetch for 30 mins after a 35 min walk & with a 35 min walk following. All of these episodes have happened in under 15 minutes of intense exercise, and he never shows signs of imbalance or wobbliness before they begin--they just hit him like a ton of bricks.

The vet is leaning towards a possible diagnosis of Exercise Induced Collapse, but I'm not convinced because of the inconsistency. We'll play in the river for hours without a sign of issues.

If anyone has had any experience with anything similar, please let me know. Also, understand I am not trying to make this happen to Syd, nor do I encourage him to keep playing if he lays or sits down (which he's also perfectly comfortable doing, he knows when he's tired and/or hot, and is Extremely willing to take breaks).

I'm stumped. I don't want to not exercise with my dog (exercise is a huge part of my life), but I don't want to put him in danger either. Help me out?
 

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EIC was my first thought as I was reading through your post. There are some variant forms of EIC that are cropping up here and there that aren't the "typical" pattern. There is a test that can be done through the University of Minnesota that your veterinarian should be able to help you out with.

There's also a condition called malignant hyperthermia that can cause dogs to get seriously overheated and collapse during exercise. If you just take his temperature (just get a rectal thermometer made for babies) during an episode you should be able to rule that out, though.
 

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Wow, thank you!

Malignant hyperthermia seems to me more likely than EIC.

I hadn't thought about it, but all episodes have happened on days that Sydney ate his food in two meals. Whereas all of our longer outings with higher levels of intense activity have involved small meals throughout the day (being a new dog owner and still working through my behavior and training books, I haven't gotten to any about canine health or physiology yet, so I've just operated on the principle that he would respond like a human athlete and maintain sustained energy & electrolytes if he ate small meals throughout the day).

While that's certainly no grounds for a definitive diagnosis, it's a pattern that I was oblivious to earlier.

I'll keep a thermometer on hand in case of future episodes so that I can get more data for the doc.

We are planning to do a full-round of genetic testing (and have already done some tests), but there's a slight issue with my pet insurance provider's clause regarding genetic/congenital disorders which requires the pet to be covered for six months before they're covered and any pre-existing (or issues discovered during the initial six-month coverage) are excluded from coverage. This puts me in quite a pickle regarding Syd's care, as I don't want to wait for a stupid insurance clause to become mute before getting proper treatment, but I also recognize that I simply will not be able to afford (I'm an educator in Texas, after all) any serious continuous care (should it be necessary) without the aid of a pretty good policy (which this is once everything is active--it's been a literal life-saver for my cat).

So again, I thank you for your insight and welcome anymore that may be out there. If anything changes, I'll update.
 

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We are planning to do a full-round of genetic testing (and have already done some tests), but there's a slight issue with my pet insurance provider's clause regarding genetic/congenital disorders which requires the pet to be covered for six months before they're covered and any pre-existing (or issues discovered during the initial six-month coverage) are excluded from coverage. This puts me in quite a pickle regarding Syd's care, as I don't want to wait for a stupid insurance clause to become mute before getting proper treatment, but I also recognize that I simply will not be able to afford (I'm an educator in Texas, after all) any serious continuous care (should it be necessary) without the aid of a pretty good policy (which this is once everything is active--it's been a literal life-saver for my cat).
Yes, insurance companies always manage to have exclusions on the things you need most! I don't have insurance anymore; I got too fed up after one "unnamed" company wouldn't pay for my corgi's hip dysplasia surgery. Ran me close to three grand. Now all I have is my (steadily growing) dedicated bank account and prayers. I do have an "alternative to pet insurance" plan with Pet Assure, which discounts me 25% at the vet, but that's the closest I'll ever get to getting insurance!
 
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