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Hydrocephalus in Pets-Symptoms And Treatment

 09/28/2018

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What Is Hydrocephalus Disease?

Hydrocephalus or brain swelling as it is termed is a condition in which the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) accumulates in excess inside the skull which puts pressure on the brain tissues, eventually leading to expansion of the head. This deposition of extra fluid interferes with the cognitive functions of the brain which results in detrimental cognitive growth and failure of mental agility. Hydrocephalus is a serious disease which can lead to demise of the pet if not addressed on time. Dogs and cats affected with hydrocephalus usually have a protruded kind of appearance in the head.

Types of Hydrocephalus Diseases

There are usually two categories of hydrocephalus that hit the pets. In most of the cases it is usually congenital (present from birth) and is known as Primary Hydrocephalus and the other one is Secondary which is normally acquired over time.  

Primary Hydrocephalus: This type of hydrocephalus is a birth defect in which the skull seems protruded, dome-shaped and the pet usually has a steady downward looking gaze due to excess accumulation of CSF in the brain. Primary hydrocephalus usually occurs in small pets and can be caused due to an infection during the pregnancy of mother dog, could be hereditary, a reaction of drugs or probably a result of any trauma and injury during the birth of the pet.

Acquired or Secondary Hydrocephalus: Brain tumor, infection or swelling of the brain can cause blockage of CSF in the pet’s brain. This leads to excessive deposition of CSF at one place that hinders cognitive functions and causes dementia, seizures and behavioral issues in dogs and cats.

What are the Symptoms of Hydrocephalus In Cats and Dogs?

Hydrocephalus can go completely unnoticed in dogs and cats because the symptoms are subtle and may seem quite normal to pet owners. However, pets, especially the younger and smaller ones, are quite prone to having hydrocephalus by birth or during their lifespan. Here the symptoms you can watch out for in your pet:

  • Domed appearance of the skull
  • Cognitive failure
  • Tiredness
  • Dullness
  • Poor learning ability
  • Aggression
  • Listlessness
  • Lameness
  • Hyper excitation
  • Stunted body
  • Respiratory troubles
  • Abnormal gaze
  • Abnormal gait
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Death

Dogs Breeds That Are Susceptible To Hydrocephalus

Smaller pooches and tiny breeds like – Pugs, Pomeranians, Pekingese, Maltese, Toy poodles, Yorkshire and Boston terriers, Shih Tzus, Bulldogs and Lhasa Apsos are very prone to getting Hydrocephalus by birth or acquire it easily over time.

How is Hydrocephalus Treated In Cats and Dogs?

After the vet has conducted the CT or MRI scans for fluid build-up in the animal, corticosteroids are generally prescribed to reduce the inflammation of the pet’s brain. Some anti-seizure medications may also be included in the treatment. On the other hand, Acquired hydrocephalus usually requires surgery if the cause of the disease is a tumor.  Sadly, in severe cases where the situation is incurable, the dog or cat is euthanized to save them from unnecessary suffering.

Hydrocephalus is a fatal disease which can immensely deteriorate the pet’s ability to think and act appropriately. Thus, make sure if at all you see signs of hydrocephalus in your cat or dog, get them checked immediately. Pets born with hydrocephalus require intense care and thus pet owners must prepare their minds to deal with the responsibility at hand.

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