Hydrocephalus in Dogs

A dog with Hydrocephalus
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Hydrocephalus, more commonly known as water on the brain, is a disease that affects a wide range of species. Unfortunately, dogs are one such species, so it’s important for pet lovers to know at least the basics about it. As such, we’ve put together some of the most important facts on hydrocephalus in dogs, so you’ll be able to catch it early and adequately care for your pet’s special needs!

About Hydrocephalus: A Basic Overview

Hydrocephalus is the result of spinal fluid traveling to the brain at a young age. At this point, a puppy’s bones aren’t fully developed yet, so they’re typically softer and more flexible. As such, there’s room for the fluid to enter at the time. Once the skull begins to harden into its final shape, the excess fluid can prevent the skull from fully hardening, leaving soft spots. In addition, once becoming inflexible, the skull will no longer be able to accommodate the fluid, which puts pressure on the brain.

What Are the Symptoms of Hydrocephalus in Dogs?

While the most noticeable symptom of hydrocephalus in dogs is the oversized dome-shaped head, there are several others to look out for. Visual and motor impairments, seizures, difficulty recognizing stimuli, and other strange behaviors as symptoms typical of the disease. If your puppy exhibits these symptoms, it’s probably best to get them checked out with your local vet.

A dog with Hydrocephalus
Source: dogscatspets.org

Can Dogs Survive Hydrocephalus?

Dogs absolutely can survive hydrocephalus, and even have a fair quality of life! However, it’s not something that owners can ignore. If left untreated, the dog’s chances of survival decrease significantly. However, with the proper medications and surgery, it’s possible to manage the symptoms, allowing your dog to live the good life that every dog deserves. Be aware, many dogs with hydrocephalus still experience motor function issues, learning difficulties, and may require more care and attention than a dog without hydrocephalus. 

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What is the Life Expectancy of Hydrocephalus?

Unfortunately, due to the nature of hydrocephalus, most afflicted dogs have a shorter life expectancy than normal. This tends to vary based on the severity of the case. While milder cases can be treated, severe instances are often difficult to treat, so the life expectancy of these cases is much shorter. How much shorter depends on the severity of the dog’s condition and what types of intervention are provided early. 

Can Puppies Grow Out of Hydrocephalus?

a Dog With Hydrocephalus
Source: @princesspenelopea

Though hydrocephalus in puppies isn’t exactly common, once the symptoms begin to appear, they won’t typically go away. Naturally, this means that you’ll need to account for treatments and surgery as needed to ensure their continued quality of life. If you’re planning to adopt a puppy with hydrocephalus, you need to be committed to caring for their lifelong needs.

How Fast Does Hydrocephalus Progress in Dogs?

Symptoms of hydrocephalus most often become noticeable in puppies between the ages of 8-12 weeks. However, it’s also possible that due to other circumstances such as a tumor, an adult dog develops the disease. 

Treatment Options for Dogs With Hydrocephalus

Dog in a hospital bed

Though it varies depending on the severity of each individual case, treating a dog with hydrocephalus can be simple and inexpensive. In more mild cases, the proper medications will do the trick, but in the event of severe cases, surgery is typically required. Hydrocephalus treatment surgeries involve the installation of a shunt. This shunt is designed to drain fluid from the brain, decreasing pressure in the cranium and potentially alleviating the symptoms. Fortunately, this surgery tends to have a high success rate and can be very effective in treating hydrocephalus.

How Much Does Hydrocephalus Surgery Cost?

The drawback to treating hydrocephalus with surgery is the cost. The expenses will typically range anywhere from $5,000-$10,000, so while it’s an excellent treatment option, you should be sure you’re in a good position to pay for the procedure. However, assuming everything goes well, your pup will enjoy a significantly higher life expectancy and quality of life.

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Natural Treatment Options for Hydrocephalus in Dogs

If you’re looking for a treatment that’s not as harsh for your dog with hydrocephalus, natural treatments are available! Your best bet will be natural cognition-boosting medicines designed for pets. This will help alleviate the mental sluggishness that many afflicted dogs suffer from. In addition, medications and tinctures designed to help with seizures and headaches in dogs could dampen other common symptoms. If you’re planning to go the natural route, be sure to consult your vet so you can be sure you’re doing everything correctly.

Ollie, a Dog With Hydrocephalus

Ollie, a Dog With Hydrocephalus

Located in Oradell, New Jersey, Ollie is a Welsh-Springer Spaniel that’s a little under one year old. As he suffers from hydrocephalus, he’s blind, and occasionally suffers from seizures. However, he doesn’t seem to suffer from any motor impairment, and his medication largely prevents his seizures. Though his blindness can make moving around more difficult, it just takes a bit of time for him to acclimate to new spaces, after which he’ll have no trouble at all.

As with most dogs, Ollie is very loving and affectionate, so you’ll be able to bond with him quickly. He loves walking, playing in the yard, his plushie, and pets, especially behind his ears. As long as you give him all the love, care, and attention a dog needs, he’ll be a happy and loyal friend. Despite his disability, he’s able to lead the same peaceful life that other dogs enjoy as long as his human is able to accommodate his needs. If you’re that person, feel free to fill out an adoption form today, or share this article with someone who can care for him!

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