What is hydrocephalus in dogs? There are two t…

What is hydrocephalus in dogs?
There are two types of hydrocephalus in dogs: congenital which is present at birth and acquired.

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Congenital hydrocephalus is a birth defect most often associated with a dome-shaped skull sometimes referred to as “water head” or “apple head” (chihuahua’s with round, smushed faces are often called the same) Clinical signs (symptoms) associated with congenital hydrocephalus include abnormal or spastic walking, changes in behavior, circling or falling over on one side, and failure to housetrain or learn basic commands. Dogs may not show any symptoms when very young.

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Acquired hydrocephalus develops when the flow of CSF is blocked or altered by infection, tumor, or swelling. The most common cause of acquired hydrocephalus is a brain tumor. Clinical signs are similar to those of congenital hydrocephalus and include changes in behavior or training, circling, head pressing (a term used for pressing of the head up against a wall or other structure), listlessness, loss of vision, pacing, restlessness, and seizures.    

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Brachycephalic breeds (smushed faces dogs) such as English and French Bulldogs as well as Boston terriers and Pekingese, would fall into this category. Most small, toy and miniature breeds pushed for conformation are likely to be affected by Hydrocephalus.

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Clinical signs consistent with hydrocephalus are usually all that is CT and MRI scans can also diagnose and give a definitive diagnosis. needed to make a presumptive diagnosis.

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If caught early, hydrocephalus would be treated with corticosteroids to reduce CSF production and inflammation. In severe or chronic cases, anti-seizure medications will also be needed. Surgery to place a tube that runs from the open spaces in the brain to the abdomen (ventriculoperitoneal shunt) can be performed at some veterinary teaching or specialty hospitals. Success rates as high as 80% are reported in cases treated early.

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