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."

Watch Bernard playing, see more photos and read more him on his page on dogsblog.com

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