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What are Hydrocephalus?

Smaller dogs, especially miniature and toy breeds are more affected by hydrocephalus. Snub nosed breeds such as the Boston Terrier, English Bulldog and Pekingese are at a higher risk. The Chihuahua, Manchester Terrier, Toy Poodle and Yorkshire Terrier are also predisposed to hydrocephalus.

Hydrocephalus in dogs is where there is an excess of cerebrospinal fluid that has leaked inside the dog’s skull. This causes brain swelling and is often referred to as water on the brain. Increased pressure in the skull will press on the brain tissues and can lead to permanent brain damage or cause death.

Hydrocephalus Average Cost

From 591 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,400

Symptoms of Hydrocephalus in Dogs

There are many symptoms of hydrocephalus in dogs for breeders and owners to watch for. Should you notice any of these symptoms, have your dog thoroughly examined by your veterinarian.

  • Domed skull 
  • Wide set eyes
  • Seizures
  • Erratic or restless behavior
  • Blindness
  • Bumping into things
  • Lack of coordination
  • Compulsive circling 
  • Open fontanel or soft spot on the head
  • Standing with legs crossed
  • Weak back legs
  • Smaller in size than littermates
  • Kicking out front legs when walking
  • Slow growth
  • Difficulty in house training
  • Difficulty drinking or eating
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Causes of Hydrocephalus in Dogs

Hydrocephalus occurs when there is an abnormal amount of cerebrospinal fluid within the skull. This build-up of fluid within the skull will put pressure on the brain and cause severe problems for your dog. Hydrocephalus can be either congenital or acquired. Hydrocephalus in dogs has two main types with their own causes.

Congenital Hydrocephalus

Congenital hydrocephalus is a birth defect. The skull will appear domed or apple shaped and a large open fontanel will be located on the top of the skull. It can be difficult to diagnose congenital hydrocephalus when dogs are very young. There are few obvious symptoms, until the puppy is walking and eating on their own. Not all puppies with large open fontanels will develop hydrocephalus.

Acquired Hydrocephalus

Acquired hydrocephalus develops when the cerebrospinal fluid is blocked or altered; possibly by swelling, infection or tumor. Brain tumor is the most common cause of acquired hydrocephalus, but not all cases of acquired hydrocephalus are caused by tumors.

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Diagnosis of Hydrocephalus in Dogs

When diagnosing hydrocephalus in young dogs, your veterinarian will look at the clinical symptoms to help determine the severity of the hydrocephalus. Usually, the presence of a large open fontanel and lack of coordination when walking will give your veterinarian an idea of what to look for. An ultrasound evaluation of the fontanel will show dilation of the brain ventricles. A CT scan or MRI scan will determine the exact source of the fluid build up. Tumors or other abnormalities will be seen on the various scans being performed.

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Treatment of Hydrocephalus in Dogs

Medication

 

When hydrocephalus is caught in the early stages; treatment is done to reduce the inflammation within the brain tissue or the amount of cerebrospinal fluid being produced. Corticosteroids are commonly used. 

Severe cases of hydrocephalus will be treated with corticosteroids, anti-seizure medications, furosemide, acetazolamide or omeprazole as needed and as directed by your veterinarian.

Surgery

In some instances, surgery to place a ventriculoperitoneal shunt can be performed. This procedure will be performed by some veterinary teaching hospitals or veterinary specialist hospitals. Your veterinarian will refer you to a specialist if this procedure will be performed. 

With acquired hydrocephalus, your veterinarian will develop a treatment plan that focuses primarily on the underlying condition causing the hydrocephalus. These treatments can be anything from medication support, surgery or even radiation therapy.

Keep your veterinarian informed of any changes in your dog’s condition. Be sure to follow the instructions on any medications prescribed to your dog for hydrocephalus. If your veterinarian refers you to a specialist, be sure to follow-up with any visits set by either your veterinarian or your veterinary specialist.

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Recovery of Hydrocephalus in Dogs

The recovery time will depend on the severity of the hydrocephalus. In extreme cases, supportive care may be the only course of action to keep your dog comfortable. 

Puppies with congenital hydrocephalus generally do well, once treatment has begun and if there has not been severe brain damage. Dogs that have been diagnosed with acquired hydrocephalus have varying recovery times and prognoses depending on the underlying cause and the ability to treat the condition.

Discuss your dog’s prognosis and recovery time with your veterinarian. Also discuss any on-going supportive care that may need to be provided throughout the life of your dog.

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Hydrocephalus Average Cost

From 591 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,400

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Hydrocephalus Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Daemon

dog-breed-icon

Alaskan Husky

dog-age-icon

8 Weeks

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Sleeping All The Time
Difficulty Eating And Drinking
Walking In Circles
Walking Aimlessly
Clumsy
Confusion,
Pressing Head Into The Wall
Very Vocal At Random Times
Abnormalities In The Skull
Whimpering Anytimehes He Moved
Whimpering Anytime Hes He Moved
Unaligned Eyes
Other Dogs Are Mean To Him Suddenly

I have two huskies and they had a litter of puppies. Daemon was the fourth born and was the biggest. He was reserved and quiet the first 7 weeks. He'd play with his siblings and would play with us,however he always seemed odd, just more reserved not all there all the time, we chalked it up to being shy. But that last few days he's gotten worse. He screams bloody murder for no reason and won't stop unless I pick him up and hold his head firmly to my shoulder. Then he ran head first into this aluminum container my grandmother collected. I mean he ran into it head first, like he was running around the room and ran into it. Then he started to push his head against walls and straight up walked into the wall. He started walking in circles and almost tripping over his own feet. He sleeps funny too. He extends his head out and his paws out as far they can unless I put him in my bed then he'll lay just his head on my pillow and lay on his side and he'll stay there for hours. It's what he's currently doing. This morning he'd only sleep when I was holding him firmly and I was afraid I'd crush him while I slept. He was the biggest of the litter but now his siblings are getting bigger although his head is bigger. We are taking him to the vet, any vet that we can find this week but we live in a small town. Besides taking him to the vet what can I do in the mean time to help him.

Sept. 10, 2018

Daemon's Owner

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Sebastian

dog-breed-icon

Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

6 Weeks

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Increased Vocalization
Walking In Circles,Erratic Behavior
Unfused Head

I have a 6 week old Chihuahua, whom I've had since birth, and I believe he has hydrocephalus. He shows most of the symptoms I've found such as a large head, increased vocalization, walking in circles, unfused forehead, restless behavior, etc. However he stopped eating and drinking and is losing weight, I must force feed him. I am bringing him to the vet today, but I cannot afford surgery. What do you think would be the best course of action for him?

May 15, 2018

Sebastian's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Firstly you need to visit a Veterinarian to examine Sebastian and make a diagnosis. Whilst surgical treatment is usually considered a treatment of choice, however there are some medical management options but are not as effective as the surgery which includes corticosteroids, diuretics and omeprazole; your Veterinarian will talk you through your options if the diagnosis is confirmed as hydrocephalus. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.ufaw.org.uk/dogs/chihuahua-hydrocephalus

May 16, 2018

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Captain

dog-breed-icon

pitbull

dog-age-icon

5 Weeks

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Ventrolateral Strabismus

My girlfriend and I recently rescued a pitbull, he was 2 weeks old when we took him in, his mom rejected him so we had to bottle feed him, we took him in to the vet today and found out he has hydrocephalus, due to ventrolateral strabismus, he is now 5 weeks old, and we want to give him the best longest life possible, we can’t afford surgery, so we want to find the best cheapest route possible, I read an article saying that if it gets treated soon, he might be able to have a longer life, what medicine would you recommend? Or what would you recommend to do next?

May 14, 2018

Captain's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

There are medical management options available but success varies with numerous factors; medications like omeprazole, furosemide and corticosteroids may be beneficial but would need to be discussed with your Veterinarian as this is a delicate condition to manage and I cannot make any specific recommendation without examining Captain myself. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 15, 2018

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Moses

dog-breed-icon

Poodle

dog-age-icon

5 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Circling

My puppy has congenital hydrocephalus,he is 5 months old now and doing well.We started him on prilosic when he was 2 months old. He eats good,he is a little over 5 pounds( he is a teacup poodle)he sometimes when playing or gets excited starts circling.My question is what can I be doing( specific diet,homeopathic remedy,herbal treatment,etc.) That might help give him the best,longest life possible?

March 4, 2018

Moses' Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Prilosec (omeprazole) is the medical treatment of choice for managing cerebrospinal fluid pressure along with diuretics and other medications as deemed necessary by your Veterinarian; if medical management is unsuccessful, there are surgical options which can be explored. When it comes to Homeopathy, it has been disproven too many times to consider and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (herbs etc…) are given based on the specific case after an examination by a Practitioner (find a list of Veterinarians certified in TCVM in the link below). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.tcvm.com/Resources/FindaTCVMPractitioner.aspx www.cliniciansbrief.com/sites/default/files/attachments/CV_Congenital%20Hydrocephalus.pdf

March 4, 2018

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Ralpg

dog-breed-icon

Pug

dog-age-icon

6 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Wobbly Legs

Hi there, my dog is having an MRI scan on Tuesday, and I’m just wondering how much surgery or an estimate of surgeries and how much they cost. It would be much appreciated, the cost of my MRI scan is £1700.

Jan. 26, 2018

Ralpg's Owner

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0 Recommendations

The cost of hydrocephalus surgery is dependent on various factors but you would be looking at the £2,000 to £6,000 ballpark in the UK; I haven’t lived in the UK for well over a decade but I would recommend you call some specialist centers in the UK like the two links below to ask about a more accurate ballpark figure. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM http://vetspecialists.co.uk/Home.htm www.fitzpatrickreferrals.co.uk

Jan. 27, 2018

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Harper

dog-breed-icon

French Bulldog

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Wobbly Rear Gait
Lethargy
Wobbly Rear Gait Sleepy

My french bulldog is 3. She used to be alert, spunky and super smart. She still is but she is off a little now. She was skunked in Sept. And maybe its not related but a few weeks later she seemed a little sad. Depressed- just not herself. then i noticed she was wobbly. sometimes off balance. she holds her head down with a tilt. the vet thought maybe she tweaked something in her legs, but I don't think that is it. she still loves to go for walks and climbs stairs just fine. but something is not right. we did prednisone and really no change. I did notice her head feels strange. one side almost concave but like where her jaw is, it feels odd. i don't know. im looking for help or direction. thank you.

dog-name-icon

Baxter

dog-breed-icon

Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Pain
Walking Tenderly
Disorientation
Wobbly
Urinating In House
Vacant

My little Baxter had congenital hydrocephalus and atlantoaxial subluxation. When he started showing symptoms, which happened very quickly when he was 6.5 months old we were lucky enough to have an amazing vet who referred us to Fitzpatrick’s (The Supervet). Within a day he was having surgery on his spine, where he was one jolt away from serious injury/death. This was majorly difficult surgery as he weighed 2 pounds. Then within 2 weeks he had the first of 3 surgeries on his hydro. He had already had some testing in his brain, but the shunt helped drain the fluid. Unfortunately there was over shunting and his brain collapsed and tore away from the inside of his skull. The shunt was tied off until a custom pressure valve could be made available. When that was fitted his recovery was amazing. He still suffers from a bit of the “wobbles” but he is amazing. He even goes outside for his toilets when I tell him too, even if he is in deep slumber at the time. He does regularly get dehydrated, any little belly bug causes him to be on IV fluids. My only concern is the amount he sleeps in the morning, it’s now 10.20 and he is still out for the count!! Any thoughts?

dog-name-icon

Moo

dog-breed-icon

Pit bull

dog-age-icon

8 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling
Drowsiness
Lethargy
Head Swelling
Droopy Eye
Bumps
Sleepiness

I have an 8 month old Pit Bull. I noticed in April (a few days after his first lyme vaccination) his head had a huge bump on the left side of his head one night and he was not acting himself. Very tired, lethargic and droopy eyes. He would just go lay in the corner by himself when he usually just jumps right into bed with us. I got very nervous and brought him into the vet ASAP. The doctor assumed he hit his head or it was from some type of trauma. She did X-Rays that day with only one view (without sedation). She put him on prednisone for the time being. When the report came back it said "soft tissue swelling, possible frontal sinus hemorrhage." He did better on the prednisone and the bump went down significantly. As soon as we ran out of the medication the bump came back on the same side. Then a few days later I noticed it was now on the right side. So I brought him back in. The doctor was stumped. She is thinking maybe a mild form of congenital hydrocephalus. We then had X-Rays (with sedation) using different views this time around. We are still waiting to hear back from the X-Rays. I strongly think it's some sort of fluid. I really don't think it's from trauma. I don't think it has anything to do with the lyme shot because according to the doctor reactions would have happened the day of and the bump came out a few days later. And also we had just gotten another puppy right when we first originally noticed he wasn't acting himself and thought maybe he was depressed that he wasn't the center of attention anymore but I really really don't think that is the case. It has to be some type of fluid. But I guess we will find out?

dog-name-icon

Arthur

dog-breed-icon

Dachshund

dog-age-icon

1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Vision Loss
Sleepiness
Ataxic
Uncoordinated

Our dog has had a long history with issues since 12 weeks old. He became ill following his puppy vaccinations. He was very sensitive to food and would vomit regularly. It took a long time to find a food that didn’t upset him. He struggled to put on weight. He was castrated in hope to improve weight. Months later following blood tests he was diagnosed with a large extrahepatic portosystemic shunt. He was changed to a low protein raw food diet which his weight slowly increased with and no vomiting. Medical management was not sufficient enough due to shakin/tremors which didn’t improve after a few weeks of antibiotics and lactulose. He underwent surgery successfully constricted the shunt reducing blood flow through it and came home two days later. He was tired and to be as expected following major surgery. The following day he presented increasingly ataxic, head pressing, increase in shaking, but eating with good urination and bowel movements. We returned him to the vets and he was readmitted. They said he had pressure on the brain from fluid build up. He has been receiving double enemas twice daily with iv antibiotics. He is not processing vision, is showing compulsive behaviour and is distressed. They want to give him time to adjust to the medication we are unsure at this point what the prognosis is.

Hydrocephalus Average Cost

From 591 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,400

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