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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 TerrierEnglish Bulldog and Pekingese are at a higher risk. The ChihuahuaManchester TerrierToy 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
  • Bumping into things
  • Standing with legs crossed
  • Smaller in size than littermates
  • Kicking out front legs when walking
  • Slow growth
  • Difficulty in house training

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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.

Hydrocephalus can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your dog has hydrocephalus or is at risk, start searching for pet insurance today. Brought to you by Pet Insurer, Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Trupanion. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

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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

dog-name-icon

Daemon

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Alaskan Husky

dog-age-icon

8 Weeks

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

Mild severity

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10 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Walking Aimlessly
Walking In Circles
Sleeping All The Time
Difficulty Eating And Drinking
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
Clumsy

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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dog-name-icon

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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8 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Walking In Circles,Erratic Behavior
Unfused Head
Increased Vocalization

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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recommendation-ribbon

8 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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Hydrocephalus Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,400

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