Here we discuss about what is hydrocephalus, and how does it effect our beloved pet and to what extent.
Toy breeds are one of the favorite breed for the Nepalese community. It is often chosen due to the various factor some being, ease of the care, ability to carry it around in the arms as if it was a toy, ease of train and minimum outdoor activity requirement being some.We often associate these dogs are picked up by the female member of the family, usually the daughters are the one who usually pick up these breeds. We often see the positive side of the breeds and usually neglect the most important factor of the breed, its primary health.
When we talk about the toy breeds, the following are some of the toy breeds that are very famous in Nepal and are mostly demanded accordingly by Nepalese.Non of these are native to the Nepal and have been imported to Nepal by various agencies and now they are often bred over here itself.
- English Bulldogs
- Lhasa Apsos
- Toy Poodles
- Yorkshire Terriers
- Shih Tzus
Hydrocephalus is a kind of disease that usually affect all sorts of dogs but they are mostly prone to the toy breeds. When, I give you the definition of Hydrocephalus then you can imagine why it has targeted these poor breed.The head or skull of the dog is surrounded with a fluid inside. This fluid is called cerebrospinal fluid or CSF. Normally, it provides protection and nutrients both to the dog. In Hydrocephalus this fluid is unable to drain away normally and causes pressure in the brain or the frontal lobe.It is also called as if having ” water in the brain”.
Hydrocephalus is a very serious condition and can cause permanent brain damage and often resulting to death but the process towards death is long and painful for the breed.
There are two main types of hydrocephalus in dogs: congenital (present at birth) and acquired.
Congenital hydrocephalus is a birth defect most often associated with a dome-shaped skull (sometimes referred to as “water head” or “apple head”), a large fontanel (“soft spot”) on top of the skull, and eyes that appear to gaze downward (called the “setting sun sign”). Clinical signs associated with congenital hydrocephalus are and including but not all abnormal or spastic walking, changes in behavior, circling or falling over on one side, and failure to house train or learn basic commands. It is important to note that not all puppies with large fontanels will develop hydrocephalus. Since, we Nepalese usually acquire pups before 3 months of birth from the mother, it is very important to look at these symptoms at the early stage.
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.
We humans have often done things to other species for our sake of experimentation and maybe foolishly. Dogs are not usually designed to be like toy breeds. Miniature dogs with their small heads has changed the skeleton faster than the soft tissues inside, resulting in a brain that is too small for the skull . This means that the skull itself is blocking the outflow of CSF.
Symptoms of Hydrocephalus in Dogs
Usually big eyes and doomed head are considered normal traits of some of the toy breeds, there are some symptoms if found upon can be guessed as Hydrocephalus. Remember it can be guessed only not diagnosed.
- Domed head appearance
- Large, open fontanel (or soft spot) in the skull
- Decreased vision or blindness, slowly getting blind.
- Difficulty in house training or learning basic commands, unable to let them listen to you.
- Regular circling
- Pacing and restlessness
- Spastic or high-step walking
- Head pressing against a surface—usually a wall or corner
Treatment of Hydrocephalus in Dogs
Having a dog as a pet is a huge responsibility. It can’t speak so it is entirely upto us to find the problem and also the solution as well. Few years back our veterinary system was really a crap and I would call it really so pathetic.It is a good thing that we have progressed in the Vet industry and even there is a 24 hour emergency clinic stationed at Kathmandu.
I am not sure if all the vets have the proper techniques required to perform the treatment of Hydrocephalus.And actually this is where it should end cause the professional would take ahead from here but if you want to know if your pet can be treated or not. 95% of the dogs infected with this disease is not that it is not curable, but because it is so expensive that many of us would not go that way.
When hydrocephalus is first diagnosed, treatment is aimed at reducing the clinical signs—such as seizures, if they occur—and stopping the production of CSF. The vast majority of dogs will be managed with medication, and the condition will never be totally cured.
If your dog has congenital hydrocephalus, the first medication started after diagnosis is usually a steroid, such as prednisone or cortisone. This takes down any inflammation and reduces the production of CSF. They may also require anti-epilepsy medication, which controls seizures.
The sooner your dog starts treatment, the more favorable the outcome, so it’s important that medications are started right away.
A surgery—whereby a drain or shunt is placed into the brain to remove the fluid—is possible, but it is not performed by all veterinarians and requires a surgical specialist. The surgery success rate is around 80 percent, but complications can be severe, ranging from severe pain to a blocked shunt requiring a second surgery.
Remember, congenital hydrocephalus cannot be cured. However, successful surgery can provide dogs with a longer lifespan and a better quality of life.
If your dog has acquired hydrocephalus, the only option is to find the cause of the condition and try to treat it. For brain tumors, radiation therapy may be used, but for infections, antibiotics and antiviral medications may be required. Treating these conditions can take time, so a shunt may be placed in the brain to drain the fluid and provide immediate pressure relief while waiting for the other drugs to take effect.
The prognosis for dogs diagnosed with hydrocephalus varies depending on the cause. For instance, a dog with a simple infection, once cured, may have a normal lifespan. But a brain tumor carries a far worse prognosis and it may be challenging for these dogs to recover or live a normal life.
How to Prevent Hydrocephalus
In most cases, hydrocephalus in dogs cannot be prevented. In cases of congenital hydrocephalus, which is possibly genetic, the litter should never be used for breeding and the parents should not be bred from again.
For adult dogs, regular vaccination with the parainfluenza vaccine and anti-parasite treatment may prevent some causes of hydrocephalus. The most common cause in dogs—a brain tumor—cannot be prevented.There fore we might think that the normal annual vaccination might not sound much but these might be the life saver for your pets.