Hydrocephalus Water on the brain

Hydrocephalus and toy breed dogs

Hydrocephalus or “water in the brain” is condition of the head that can occur in toy breed dogs as well as other canines. Hydrocephalus increases pressure in the skull and results in swelling of the head. Hydrocephalus is caused by abnormal dilation of the ventricular system as a result of increased spinal fluid.

There are two types of hydrocephalus that your dog could exhibit: “Obstructive” or “Compensatory”. Both can be present at birth or develop over time in your small breed dog.

Dogs that are born with the obstructive form of hydrocephalus had an obstruction already existing in the middle section of puppies brain or infection before birth causing a disruption of the development of the brain. Your dog can show symptoms at a few weeks old or up to a year of age.

Note: The exact cause of this is uncertain but acquired hydrocephalus can occur at any age.

Dogs that develop hydrocephalus after birth were commonly caused by tumors, abscesses, and inflammatory diseases including inflammation caused by hemorrhaging due to a traumatic injury or other causes of bleeding in your dog.

Dogs that do not have a properly developed nervous system can develop hydrocephalus from over active spinal fluid that fills the space where the nervous system fails. If your chihuahua has overproduction of spinal fluid it can also cause hydrocephalus as well as tumors in your dogs eye causing water in the brain.

Potential Causes of Hydrocephalus in Toy Breed Dogs:

  • Congenital
  • Genetic / hereditary
  • Trauma to Head
  • Acquired
  • Prenatal infection
  • Para influenza virus in dogs
  • Vitamin “A” deficiency
  • Masses in the cranium
  • Intracranial inflammatory diseases
  • Drugs that interfere with fetal development in utero”teratogens

Symptoms your chihuahua or dog may exhibit if hydrocephalus:

  • Sleepiness or laziness
  • Excessive vocalizations
  • Hyperexcitability
  • Blindness
  • Coma
  • Crossed-eyed
  • A large dome shaped head (due to intracranial swelling)
  • Gait abnormalities
  • Seizures
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Dog may stiffen all four legs and arch its back simultaneously


What to do if you suspect your dog has Hydrocephalus ?

If you suspect your dog is experiencing water in the brain, take your pet to your Vet for a through exam. Be wary of puppies that have an unusually large rounded skull if you are looking to purchase a puppy. Prognosis for this condition will result in death if not treated.


Providing your veterinarian with a thorough and detailed history, including known parents and genetic background is very important. You should mention any accidental incidents, including falls, or minor head traumas that might have occurred. Your veterinarian will do a complete examination of your chihuahua including blood work, urinalysis and electrolyte panel in order to rule out or confirm trauma, infection and cancer in your dog. Your veterinarian will most likely use diagnostic imaging to diagnose hydrocephalus or may preform an (MRI). These types of imagining is best for visualization in hydrocephalus in your chihuahua or dog.

Treatment of Hydrocephalus:

Your dog may require surgery or in those with less severe symptoms your dog may need medication. How well your dog recovers depends on the severity of hydrocephalus but in lesser cases your dog require the occasional medical treatment to keep it under control.

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