News & Advice

Hunter’s Hind Legs

Dec 18, 2018 | Dogs, Pet Health

Hunter is a fit and healthy dog, who loves spending time with his family. He loves swimming and running, and has always had plenty of energy to burn. Hunter belongs to one of Anexa’s Vet Nurses, Gillian from our Thames Clinic. He has always been happy and full of life, then one day something wasn’t quite right…

It was a lovely hot day in October 2015, Hunter was staying at Gillian’s parent’s farm with plenty of space for running around and having fun! Suddenly his back legs gave way, thankfully after around 15mins of rest, his legs regained their strength and the collapse was put down to low blood sugar, or overheating. The family didn’t worry about it too much, until just over a year later when it happened again.

In February 2017, Hunter had another ‘episode’, this time Gillian was with him. He had run about 2km down to the river for a swim, only to half sink to the bottom when he jumped in! Hunter was rescued and brought over to the rivers edge. Being a typical Labrador just wanted to get back in the water but his hind limbs were weak, and he couldn’t swim properly. He rested on the river bank for about 10 minutes until he could stand up. Gillian kept track of his vital signs, measuring his heart and respiration rate, and to her confusion, these vitals were all within a normal range! He was completely alert and calm, he wasn’t concerned at all.

The following day, Gillian took him in for a consult with Anexa Thames Veterinarian Cath, to discuss what could be going on with him. There were many potential causes, but the one that stuck out was a genetic condition called Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC). Hunter seemed to fit the symptoms for this condition – Labrador breed, high energy, lean and well muscled. The test for EIC is very easy, just requiring a saliva swab to collect DNA, which is then sent away for analysis. Six weeks later the results came back, and Hunter was positive for the gene.

It is thought a genetic mutation in affected dogs prevents the brain producing the protein required to drive muscle function when under a high work load. So the signals in Hunter’s brain stop communicating with his muscles and his hind leg muscles stop working. There is no cure for the condition but the good news is, it isn’t a progressive disease, and by avoiding the “trigger” situations affected dogs can live a happy life.

Now that Gillian and her family know the signs to look out for, they have been able to manage Hunter’s condition. There are subtle changes in the way he runs, he starts to look a little wobbly, and his back end sways more than usual. This is when they stop, before he even gets close to collapsing. Hunter doesn’t get exercised on hot days, because heat seems to be a factor in how quickly he ‘collapses’. He is an exercise loving dog, with extremely high energy, so denying him these pleasures was not an option for them, and thanks to their vigilance he has not collapsed since the confirmation of his diagnosis in 2017. Hunter continues to be a goofy, high energy, and much loved member of their family.

Like humans, some pets have health issues that their owners need to manage, but first they need to know these health issues exist. If you notice something isn’t quite right with your pet, we encourage you to book an appointment, and have them checked over. Often when health issues are caught early they are much easier to manage, preventing further harm to your pet.

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