What is hydrocephalus and can a puppy with the condition live a healthy life?

April 13, 2012

Hydrocephalus occurs when there is a large accumulation of fluid in the brain. This condition can affect any breed of dog but it is most commonly seen in Chihuahuas, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Pugs and Bulldogs breeds. Hydrocephalus is believed to be a genetic defect of toy and brachycephalic breeds.

One of the objectives in getting a dog is to have a pet that will provide unfaltering loyalty, companionship, some form of entertainment and of course to provide the family with protection. It is possible for a puppy and a prospective owner to hit it off at first glance but the cute appearance of the dog is not the most important factor that potential dog owners consider. Dogs are not only financial investments but emotional investments as well. It is certainly very hard for a family to let go of a loyal friend. Dogs will not stay forever but a healthy one would have longer association with the family. In older dogs, hydrocephalus is commonly diagnosed at age six and up. Hydrocephalus is usually seen before the puppy reaches 18 months old. This would mean the chosen puppy may have already formed strong ties with the pet. Should an owner, as an act of mercy have the dog euthanized? Or should the family keep and care for the pet because hydrocephalic dogs have every chance of living happy, healthy and almost normal lives?

Hydrocephalus is a neurological disease caused by the excessive accumulation of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain. The cerebrospinal fluid has important functions. This fluid acts as shock absorber as it cushions the brain by keeping the tissues buoyant. The fluid delivers nutrients and removes wastes from the brain and balances the change in the amount of blood in the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid is being continuously produced so that an obstruction that will prevent the fluid from draining properly will result to fluid accumulation. This condition can also occur if the body is producing cerebrospinal fluid excessively. There are four ventricles or CSF filled spaces within the brain. If the ventricles are filled with too much fluid, pressure on the brain tissues will occur. This will prevent the development of the brain.

In young dogs, the accumulation of the cerebrospinal liquid in the brain will cause the fontanel to bulge. This soft spot on the skull normally closes after the birth of the puppy. This symptom will not be seen in older dogs as the fontanel has already developed and closed. Symptoms will vary depending on the amount of damage on the brain tissues. In mild cases of this condition, the symptoms will only be manifested when the dog has fully grown. If hydrocephalus is severe, the dog puppy will show symptoms at an early age. The puppy will have a domed shaped skull causing the distance between the eyes to widen. The puppy will develop unusual eye movements. Sunsetting eyes or eyes that are fixed downwards are manifestation of this condition. Hearing and visual impairment as well as lack of coordination will cause the dog to circle and to bump the head. Seizures that can lead to the death of the dog occur in severe cases of hydrocephalus.

Puppies with mild to moderate hydrocephalus can have a normal life especially if the pet owner would devote extra time to care for the pet. Puppies with this condition will be extremely difficult to train. An owner has to accept the fact that the pet will not learn its housebreaking lessons. Maintaining the health of the pet would be a challenge as hydrocephalic dogs are normally picky eaters. The condition will have a significant effect on the mental state of the dog. The family should get use to dealing with a pet that is hyperactive one moment but would cry next without any reason.

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