Is a Dog's Hydrocephalus Hereditary?

by Naomi Millburn
    Constant spinning behavior occasionally signifies hydrocephalus.

    Constant spinning behavior occasionally signifies hydrocephalus.

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    Hydrocephalus describes a medical ailment whereby cerebrospinal fluid accumulates inordinately within the brain's cavities. This collection can lead to elevated strain on the brain and later on to such effects as vision loss and seizures, among others. Dogs sometimes experience hydrocephalus, as do cats.

    Hydrocephalus in dogs indeed is frequently hereditary, although not in 100 percent of cases. The process can start before birth, the emergence of the immoderate fluid doesn't take place until afterward. Signs of inherited hydrocephalus tend to show up early on in puppies, often when they're merely weeks in age.

    Hydrocephalus can appear in dogs who have medical disorders that inhibit the proper movement of the fluid inside their brains. A variety of health situations can trigger hydrocephalus in canines, including brain tumors, encephalitis, infection, meningitis and wounding of the head. This can happen in dogs of all age brackets, young, older or anywhere else in between.

    As a sometimes hereditary condition, several canine breeds are especially prone to hydrocephalus. The disease is especially prevalent in tiny dogs, and also in dogs who have markedly short and wide heads -- the brachycephalic group. These breeds include Lhasa apsos, bulldogs, toy poodles, pugs, Boston terriers, Yorkshire terriers, Chihuahuas, Pekingese, English bulldogs, Manchester terriers, Shih Tzus, cairn terriers and Maltese.

    If a young puppy has congenital hydrocephalus, he might be noticeably tinier than his siblings. During the initial several weeks of his life, you might observe that his head is abnormally big. Other indications of hydrocephalus are vision troubles, difficulties in walking normally, moving in circles, deafness, seizures, whimpering, eyes that point in abnormal directions, a constant head-tilt, exhaustion and antsy behavior. A young puppy with this disease might have issues learning new things, making the housebreaking process, for example, particularly difficult.

    Since canine hydrocephalus can be fatal, urgent veterinary care is crucial. If you notice a puppy showing signs of health abnormalities, hydrocephalus-related or otherwise, take him to the veterinarian immediately. Not all dogs with hydrocephalus necessarily show signs of it; make annual or twice-yearly vet visits part of your responsible ownership.

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    About the Author

    Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

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