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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Condition Overview

Hydrocephalus is caused by the excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain.


Hydrocephalus causes seizures, partial or complete blindness, and dementia.


The enlarged ventricles damage the cerebral cortex by compressing it against the skull. Most cases are congenital. Some are acquired through trauma, brain infections, or tumors.

Breeds with an increased risk of congenital hydrocephalus include the Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier, Chihuahua, Llasa Apso, Pomeranian, Toy Poodle, Carin Terrier, Boston Terrier, Pug, Pekingese, and Bulldog.


The diagnosis is made by skull X-rays, ultrasound of the ventricles, and (in difficult cases) by CT scan or MRI. A characteristic enlargement of the dome of the skull occurs in congenital hydrocephalus, but this may not be seen until the puppy is several months old.

An increase in ventricular size without clinical signs has also been noted. This is called subclinical hydrocephalus. in certain lines of toy breeds with a high incidence of clinical and subclinical hydrocephalus, EEG screening and breeding only dogs with normal EEGs has reduced the incidence of hydrocephalus.


Treatment is directed toward decreasing the production of cerebrospinal fluid with corticosteroids and diuretics. Surgery has been beneficial in some cases. The long-term prognosis is favorable if diagnosis and treatment is begun before the brain is damaged. Despite successful treatment, affected dogs often appear dull and have a limited ability to learn.


Dogs found to carry this trait should not be bred.


Please contact your veterinarian if you think your pet may have this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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