Monday, April 14, 2014

How To Detect Hydrocephalus In Your Dog

Chihuahua (Photo credit: almass1981)
Not familiar with the term hydrocephalus? It's a condition in humans and animals that's also known as "water on the brain". In reality it's not water at all, rather cerebrospinal fluid - the fluid that fills in the ventricles in the brain. When a person or a pet suffers from this condition, the fluid levels fail to regulate which causes pressure and swelling.

While all types of dogs are theoretically susceptible to hydrocephalus, a few breeds in particular seem more prone to it than others. This list includes:

  • Maltese
  • Pomeranians
  • Chihuahuas
  • Yorkshire Terriers
A key difference between human and canine hydrocephalus is that dogs aren't born with hydrocephalus. While humans can develop it later in life, dogs exclusively develop it later in life most often from anatomical problems. Most commonly, the areas that allow the passing of the fluid (technically known as rostral colliculi) begin to narrow from brain swelling or natural fusing together of bones.

If you begin to notice the following symptoms, it's possible your dog could be suffering from hydrocephalus and you should mention the behavior to your veterinarian:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Vision problems
  • Enlarged skull
  • Vision/hearing issues
  • Unusual gait
Unfortunately, even when symptoms are present it can take a bit of work before a positive diagnosis is made. Your vet will likely run your pet through a batter of tests including a CT scan, MRI, ultrasound or even a spinal tap before getting enough evidence that the symptoms are indeed caused by hydrocephalus.

Treatment can range from changes in diet and hydration to medication to reduce the production of cerebrospinal fluids to mild steroids to reduce brain swelling. Ultimately, though, your pet will be happier and more comfortable once the appropriate treatment is identified. First, though, you must be able to spot the signs, and hopefull this article helped.