Hydrotherapy for Hydrocephalus in Dogs
Smaller dogs, especially miniature and toy breeds are more affected by hydrocephalus. Snub nosed breeds such as the Boston Terrier, English Bulldog and Pekingese are at a higher risk. The Chihuahua, Manchester Terrier, Toy Poodle and Yorkshire Terrier are also predisposed to hydrocephalus.
Hydrocephalus in dogs is where there is an excess of cerebrospinal fluid that has leaked inside the dog’s skull. This causes brain swelling and is often referred to as water on the brain. Increased pressure in the skull will press on the brain tissues and can lead to permanent brain damage or cause death.
Symptoms of Hydrocephalus in Dogs
There are many symptoms of hydrocephalus in dogs for breeders and owners to watch for. Should you notice any of these symptoms, have your dog thoroughly examined by your veterinarian.
- Domed skull
- Wide set eyes
- Erratic or restless behavior
- Bumping into things
- Lack of coordination
- Compulsive circling
- Open fontanel or soft spot on the head
- Standing with legs crossed
- Weak back legs
- Smaller in size than littermates
- Kicking out front legs when walking
- Slow growth
- Difficulty in house training
- Difficulty drinking or eating
Causes of Hydrocephalus in Dogs
Hydrocephalus occurs when there is an abnormal amount of cerebrospinal fluid within the skull. This build-up of fluid within the skull will put pressure on the brain and cause severe problems for your dog. Hydrocephalus can be either congenital or acquired. Hydrocephalus in dogs has two main types with their own causes.
Congenital hydrocephalus is a birth defect. The skull will appear domed or apple shaped and a large open fontanel will be located on the top of the skull. It can be difficult to diagnose congenital hydrocephalus when dogs are very young. There are few obvious symptoms, until the puppy is walking and eating on their own. Not all puppies with large open fontanels will develop hydrocephalus.
Acquired hydrocephalus develops when the cerebrospinal fluid is blocked or altered; possibly by swelling, infection or tumor. Brain tumor is the most common cause of acquired hydrocephalus, but not all cases of acquired hydrocephalus are caused by tumors.
Diagnosis of Hydrocephalus in Dogs
When diagnosing hydrocephalus in young dogs, your veterinarian will look at the clinical symptoms to help determine the severity of the hydrocephalus. Usually, the presence of a large open fontanel and lack of coordination when walking will give your veterinarian an idea of what to look for. An ultrasound evaluation of the fontanel will show dilation of the brain ventricles. A CT scan or MRI scan will determine the exact source of the fluid build up. Tumors or other abnormalities will be seen on the various scans being performed.
Treatment of Hydrocephalus in Dogs
When hydrocephalus is caught in the early stages; treatment is done to reduce the inflammation within the brain tissue or the amount of cerebrospinal fluid being produced. Corticosteroids are commonly used.
Severe cases of hydrocephalus will be treated with corticosteroids, anti-seizure medications, furosemide, acetazolamide or omeprazole as needed and as directed by your veterinarian.
In some instances, surgery to place a ventriculoperitoneal shunt can be performed. This procedure will be performed by some veterinary teaching hospitals or veterinary specialist hospitals. Your veterinarian will refer you to a specialist if this procedure will be performed.
With acquired hydrocephalus, your veterinarian will develop a treatment plan that focuses primarily on the underlying condition causing the hydrocephalus. These treatments can be anything from medication support, surgery or even radiation therapy.
Keep your veterinarian informed of any changes in your dog’s condition. Be sure to follow the instructions on any medications prescribed to your dog for hydrocephalus. If your veterinarian refers you to a specialist, be sure to follow-up with any visits set by either your veterinarian or your veterinary specialist.
Hydrotherapy for Hydrocephalus in Dogs
The benefits of hydrotherapy for dogs who suffer from hydrocephalus are:
- Increase in coordination
- Increase of balance
- Builds healthy muscle
- Strengthens heart, lungs & brain
- Provides safe exercise
- Provides mental release
- Improves organ function
- Keeps skin health optimal
- Lubricates joints
- Strengthens bones
Recovery of Hydrocephalus in Dogs
The recovery time will depend on the severity of the hydrocephalus. In extreme cases, supportive care may be the only course of action to keep your dog comfortable.
Puppies with congenital hydrocephalus generally do well, once treatment has begun and if there has not been severe brain damage. Dogs that have been diagnosed with acquired hydrocephalus have varying recovery times and prognoses depending on the underlying cause and the ability to treat the condition.
Discuss your dog’s prognosis and recovery time with your veterinarian. Also discuss any on-going supportive care that may need to be provided throughout the life of your dog.
About Dip’ n Dogs Hydrotherapy – Orlando, FL
At Dip’n Dogs Hydrotherapy, we are certified and caring professionals devoted to restoring and enhancing the health and happiness of your beloved pup. Encompassing a pool, as well as a certified hydrotherapist, this can provide effective and long lasting results for your pet’s injury or illness. We are conveniently located in Winter Park, FL. Contact us today at (407) 227-0030. Our Services include the following: Outdoor Hydrotherapy and In-Home Mobile Therapy for dogs. We look forward to hearing from you!
Hydrocephalus in Dogs: What You Need To Know
Hydrocephalus is a condition which means ‘water on the brain’. Typically, it affects puppies and is usually congenital, so it will be present before the puppy is born or at birth. In some cases, a dog may suffer from the condition if they have a head trauma, exposure to toxins, bacteria and viruses, cancer or Vitamin A deficiency.
“It is also known as ‘water on the brain’ as it is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the brain as a result of the normal regulatory system via the brain’s ventricles becoming disrupted,” explained vet Andrew Bucher.
Recently, we have been helping a two year old Rottweiler, Bernard, to find a new home and it’s because of him that we have investigated the condition further.
Bernard arrived in rescue around a year ago after being saved by a nurse who saw two men attempting to sell him with a chain around his head. She stepped forward, rescued him and then found a rescue, Rottie Friends Rescue, to take him in.
Bernard, pictured recently
When he arrived it was clear something wasn’t quite right aside from the signs of trauma stemming from the abuse he had suffered.
Angela Curtis, who runs the rescue has spent the last year having him diagnosed and setting him a physio and rehab program – which includes bubble therapy (video below) to help him regain certain life skills after ruling out a stent operation and steroid treatment, which he had an adverse reaction to.
She says, “Bernard functions well with a set routine, good diet and physio and has regular check-ups.”
Bernard, pictured a year ago learning to watch
7 Tips for Owners of Dogs with Hydrocephalus
As a result of his rescue wanting to make sure any potential new owner is fully prepared for life with Bernard, or Bernie to friends, we called upon Andrew’s veterinary expertise to offer advice to potential new owners and any dog owner who may be investigating the condition.
1) Keep a diary – This is useful when talking to your vet, take videos and pictures to show any progression or deterioration.
2) Interaction with other pets – Animals can sense weakness or difference very easily so monitor all contact with other pets very closely. Bernard may also have a slightly suppressed immune system so keep him away from other unvaccinated dogs or animals not in good health
3) Safety – Do not leave Bernard unattended outside of a safe, confined space as normally leaving them loose in the garden or in the house when you are away is not a good idea. Best to leave them in a ‘safe place’ such as the laundry room/spare room if you are away.
4) Friendly home – Bernard seems to have slight gait abnormalities which is normal with hydrocephaly. He may have problems with circling and balance so best to keep things out of reach that could be hazardous, breakable, sharp, electrical or areas he can get stuck in.
5) Care and kindness is essential – Bernard may not be able to respond like normal dogs to commands so be patient and never yell or be harsh with him. Make him aware you are approaching him with a gentle voice and a hello and refrain from picking him up without him knowing as this may be scary for him. You can also give your dog some KushieBites CBD oil to improve its health.
6) Let them be – There is no need to overtly limit Bernard so let him be free to run, play and generally enjoy himself. The key is to be present and to watch them, a bit like you do when you have a 2-3 year old child, but just remember Bernard will always need this monitoring
7) Other people – If you have unknown visitors coming over, it may be better to keep Bernard in his safe zone such as the laundry room or a nice kennel. Regarding children, it is better that they do not handle Bernard until they are mature enough to understand his condition and hence be gentle and calm enough whilst being under adult supervision.
Andrew concluded, “Hydrocephalus in puppies can be quite variable in its prognosis but the fact that Bernard is not on medicines, making steady and continued progress with a set routine, good diet and physio is all very positive.
“Bernard definitely needs an understanding pet parent but the signs do look encouraging for him to lead a happy and good quality of life with the correct support. One never knows the future of course but Bernard should be given the opportunity to find out.”