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General Information

Hydrocephalus, or "water on the brain," occurs when excessive fluid accumulates within the skull or the fluid passages within the brain. This fluid accumulation produces increased pressure on the brain.

Signs of hydrocephalus may include an enlarged head, prominent forehead, lack of coordination, impaired vision, mental dullness and convulsions. Animals with mild cases may not show all these signs and may only appear abnormal in times of stress, excitement or head trauma.

Hydrocephalus is usually present at or before birth (congenital) and may be inherited (passed from one generation to another). The disease is most common in small breeds with dome- or apple-shaped heads, such as Chihuahuas.

Mild cases of hydrocephalus can be treated with medication and careful supervision to prevent stress and head injury. Some severe cases are treated surgically. The doctor will discuss the advisability and outlook for surgery with you.

Important Points in Treatment

1. Surgical treatment: If your pet's condition requires surgery, the surgeon will advise you concerning prognosis (degree of expected recovery) and home care.

2. Medical treatment: Medical treatment may be beneficial in mild cases. The success of treatment cannot be predicted. Treatment may not be successful, and your pet's condition may worsen.

3. All medication must be given exactly as prescribed. Please call the doctor if you cannot give the medication as directed.

4. Diet: Follow the instructions checked.

____Feed the normal diet.

____A special diet is required. Feed:

5. Activity: In most cases, activity should be restricted. When possible, prevent your pet from becoming highly excited. Jumping, rough play and strenuous exercise must be limited.

6. Regular examinations and blood tests are usually necessary to properly monitor your pet's condition.

Notify the Doctor if Any of the Following Occur:

* Your pet's signs worsen.

* Your pet's seizures become more frequent and/or severe.

* Your pet's general health changes.

Question and Answer

Hydrocephalus can occur as a congenital condition as well as a result of trauma or a brain tumor, for instance. Hydrocephalus is a condition in which excessive fluid is found within and around the brain. The body may form too much fluid or, as occurs in most cases, the fluid that is produced cannot drain from the central nervous system as it normally does. Within the brain are fluid-filled spaces called ventricles. In a hydrocephalic dog, the ventricles fill with too much fluid. They become swollen, and the increased pressure damages and/or prevents development of brain tissue. Toy breeds such as Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians and Chihuahuas are commonly affected. Hydrocephalus occurs in other breeds as well.

What are the symptoms?
Typically, hydrocephalus is first diagnosed when the dog is young, usually less than four months of age. The head takes on a dome-shaped appearance and the skull bones at the top of the head fail to close. A soft spot may be noticed on the top of the head. This is termed an "open fontanel." The affected dog may be blind, have seizures or have an altered gait. Hydrocephalic dogs are commonly mentally dull and have a limited ability to learn. Different levels of severity exist.

What are the risks?
The hydrocephalic dog typically has a very limited life span. Severity differs, but few dogs with this condition live to be over two years of age.

What is the management?
Most cases go untreated. Veterinary neurologists can be consulted and occasionally the excess fluid can be drained. Sometimes lifelong treatment with prednisone and Lasix is tried. With surgery or medical treatment, however, the dog will rarely live a normal life. Treatment is often unsuccessful and expensive. Hydrocephalus is a congenital disease and dogs with this condition should be removed from any breeding program.

The information on this page was obtained from the site www.peteducation.com