Hydrocephalus in Cats and Dogs


Hydrocephalus, which literally implies “water on the brain”, is an accumulation of fluid inside the skull. This build-up puts pressure on the brain, triggering signs such as a bigger, dome-shaped head, seizures, loss of sight, and behavioral modifications. The condition is often congenital, indicating that is present before or at birth, and can occur in both dogs and cats. Small dogs are particularly susceptible. In moderate cases, drugs can assist treat signs, however severe cases frequently end in euthanasia, as surgery is costly.

Hydrocephalus in Cats and Dogs


With hydrocephalus, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) builds up inside the skull and the brain. The congenital kind of hydrocephalus is called primary hydrocephalus. Secondary hydrocephalus is obtained later in life and is frequently related to tumors, trauma, or swelling, which may obstruct the flow of CSF or modify the normal production or drain of the fluid. Just the main kind will be discussed here.

Genetic hydrocephalus can be caused by a number of factors, including heredity, prenatal infection, direct exposure to drugs that cause abnormality, and injury from a difficult birthing process. After birth, they experience fluid buildup, which exerts destructive pressure on the brain.

Symptoms and Identification

Afflicted animals will typically begin revealing signs of head enhancement in the first weeks after birth. This is because the bones of the skull have not yet fused, making augmentation possible. As soon as the skull reaches its growth limitation, the fluid continues to develop, triggering pressure on the brain and resulting in neurological symptoms, which typically begin around 8 to twelve weeks.

Young animals with hydrocephalus are typically the “runt” of the litter, being smaller sized in size than littermates and slower to find out. Approximately 75 percent of detected dogs were reportedly impossible to housebreak.

Other signs can include seizures, head pressing, eyes that look downward and outward (called ventrolateral strabismus), gait irregularities and blindness. Some animals with hydrocephalus may reveal no scientific signs, or have signs that gradually get worse gradually.

Diagnosis is typically presumed, based on history and physical exam, without taking extra actions to confirm the condition. Severe cases, however, will become uncontrollable well before then and require a definitive diagnosis via CT scan or MRI in order to determine the extent of fluid accumulation. If offered, EEG, or electroencephalography, might help support the medical diagnosis of hydrocephalus. An ultrasound can also be practical but might only be possible when the skull has not fused completely. Even when hydrocephalus is detected, the underlying cause is often unknown.

Affected Breeds

Lap dogs are inclined to the condition, consisting of Cairn Terriers, Chihuahuas, Maltese, Pomeranians, Toy Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Boston Terriers, English Bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos, Pekingese, Pugs, and Shih Tzus. Siamese felines might also be inclined to the condition.


Definitive treatment involves a shunt that reroutes CSF from the sensitive site surrounding the brain to a more benign place, such as the abdominal cavity, where it can be quickly reabsorbed. Since the procedure is pricey, and requires a specific brain surgeon, most dogs never get it.

Symptomatic treatment can consist of drug therapy to decrease seizure activity, corticosteroids to ease brain swelling and swelling, and diuretics to lower the amount of fluid. Nevertheless, most medical treatment just offers a temporary service to the issue.

Unfortunately, euthanasia is the most common result for pets that suffer anything however the mildest signs of the disease.


All impacted dogs should be removed from the breeding swimming pool. Any animals with a household history of hydrocephalus ought to be considered carefully during reproducing choice.

Also read: Brain Tumors in Dogs


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