Hydrocephalus is the condition of increased fluid in the brain.  There are both acquired (develops secondary to a brain disorder which occurs later in life) and congenital (present at birth) forms of hydrocephalus.   In pets, congenital hydrocephalus in dogs is the most common form of hydrocephalus and will be discussed in below.

Congenital hydrocephalus is most common in small breeds such as the Chihuahua, Pekingese, Pug, Boston terrier, Yorkie, and Pomeranian.  The accumulation of fluid within the brain causes damage to neurons resulting in clinical signs of behavioral abnormalities and difficulty with training.  In some cases, seizures and difficulty walking also develop.  Clinical signs usually appear in the first year of life in affected dogs.

The diagnosis of hydrocephalus is made by performing an MRI of the brain and ruling out other potential causes of abnormal behavior in a puppy, such as a portosystemic (liver) shunt.

There are two arms of treatment for congenital hydrocephalus:

  1. Medications to decrease fluid production in the brain, such as omeprazole and prednisone.  While some success can be seen with this treatment, many dogs will continue to experience worsening of their clinical signs.
  2. Surgery to divert (shunt) fluid from the brain to the abdomen, termed a ventriculoperitoneal shunt (VPS).  Placement of a shunt is the recommended treatment for most dogs with congential hydrocephalus.

Shunt placement is not without its risks, which include blockage and infection of the shunt.  Our Neurologist  will discuss these and other considerations with you prior to your pet’s VPS procedure.  You may schedule a consultation with our Neurologist by calling us at our Manchester or Newington location today.