What is Hydrocephalus?
Commonly called "water on the brain," hydrocephalus is actually the accumulation of too much cerebrospinal fluid in the spaces within and around the brain. It can affect brain structure and function.
How does my dog get Hydrocephalus?
Hydrocephalus can result from head trauma or from tumors that block the normal flow of fluid, but it's more often caused by an obstruction blocking the flow that is present at birth. In rare cases, certain prenatal infections may contribute. Small and flat- faced dogs are more likely to be affected.
How do I know if my dog has Hydrocephalus?
In congenital cases, the signs are usually apparent by a few weeks of age. The head may look overly large and domed, especially over the eyes. There is often a soft spot in the top of the skull (although many toy breeds with soft spots do not have hydrocephalus). The eyes may look toward the sides of the head, the opposite of being crossed. The dog may be abnormally sleepy or dull acting, and the gait may be abnormal. Some dogs may be overly excited, and some may be blind. It is not unusual for dogs with hydrocephalus to have seizures. Your veterinarian can take radiographs of the skull to look for characteristic features. If there is a soft spot, ultrasound can be aimed through it to look for abnormal brain spaces. Cerebrospinal fluid may be collected to rule out some other disorders. MRI and CT scans offer the most definitive diagnoses.
What can I do about Hydrocephalus?
Mild cases may not need treatment, but other cases may need surgery to redirect the excess fluid into another part of the body. Medicines are available to decrease cerebrospinal fluid production or reduce intracranial pressure.
Is there anything I can do to prevent getting Hydrocephalus?
Good prenatal care may help prevent a few cases, but overall, except for avoiding toy or flat faced breeds, there is nothing you can do.
Are there certain breeds that get Hydrocephalus more often?
Toy or flat faced breeds are most prone, especially Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Pomeranians, Pugs Toy Poodles, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, Bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos, and Cairn Terriers.