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Hydrocephalus in Dogs… Causes, treatments and expenses.

Hydrocephalus in dogs is a condition that occurs when cerebrospinal fluid (CBF) leaks from the dog (or cat’s) brain into the outer skull, causing unruly pressure and possible brain damage in the long term for your loved one.

This unfortunate condition…

Is characterised by swelling of the skull and seizures, among a few other terrible symptoms which is why it such a serious medical condition, one that should only be treated and diagnosed by a professionally.

You see…

Hydrocephalus is a condition that must be treated immediately. This is because if the additional pressure on the brain isn’t removed and drained away immediately, it could cause permanent brain damage or death to your pet.


Your vet will want to determine “why” this is occurring so that once the initial danger is removed, they can then initiate a treatment plan that will help remove the cause of the condition in the first place.


Most canine sufferers of severe Hydrocephalus end up euthanised. This is because either the damage that has occurred as a result of the hydrocephaly is significant or unfortunately because the treatment for this condition is so expensive and so specialized some folks simply can’t afford to pay for the care that their loved one needs.

This is why…

We wanted to take a moment and discuss exactly what hydrocephaly is so that if you ever do find yourself in the care of a pet that has been diagnosed with this condition, you’ll know what to expect.

So, what is it and what causes it?

As above, this condition sees CBF leaking into the outer skull. This fluid then cannot “escape” causing it to build up until the intracranial pressure causes brain damage. Now…

There are actually two different types of hydrocephaly that you should be aware of. Your pet can either have hydrocephalus or you can have primary hydrocephalus, with the latter being the type that is inherited and that will start to develop as the pup grows.

Clinical signs and symptoms of hydrocephalus

Clinical signs and symptoms of hydrocephalus can include:

  • Head swelling,
  • Partial sightedness,
  • Extreme trouble with training,
  • And your pup pressing his paws into his head or pressing his head against hard objects.

Often these symptoms will come into play when your pup is roughly ten weeks old – if you have a case of primary hydrocephalus.

That said however…

Dogs can also develop this medical condition in later life as well, usually as the result of head or spinal trauma, some kind of serious infection or another disease. Unfortunately, dogs will usually display irreversible brain damage from one to two years after these symptoms begin.

Dandy-Walker syndrome…

Is a symptom of this condition. While the medical term was coined for humans we use it for dogs as well. In this particular malformation, Primary Hydrocephalus effects the patient to the degree that the third and fourth ventricles are adversely affected. This malformation can be detected via magnetic resonance imaging – another expensive cost to you.

Dog Breeds at risk for developing primary hydrocephalus

Because it has been found that primary hydrocephalus has a genetic link, it is recommended that you avoid buying a pup from any litter with a family history of this disease if your intention is to breed.

Breeds at risk from this condition


Brachycephalic breeds (or short-nosed breeds) of dog are far more likely to inherit this disease. Brachycephalic dogs have a dome-shaped skull, meaning that the CSF flow through their brain is more likely to be obstructed.

Treatment options for hydrocephaly in dogs

As we mentioned before, treatment for this in severe cases is often euthanasia because the cost of treatment is so high (which it truly sad).  However, if you have the financial means or if you have a pet insurance policy in place that will help you cover the cost of treatment (most companies require you to be on a more extensive plan for this to be covered) your vet will likely recommend that you consult with a neurosurgeon who may be able to provide relief to your pet.

In situations like these…

A ventriculoperitoneal shunt is inserted into the brain and the excess CSF is redirected from the brain to a different, less harmful, region of the body. Shunt placement usually connects the brain to the abdominal region.

The shunt will act as a sort of ventricular catheter, filtering the liquid away from the dangerous areas.

Your vet may also…

Manage the condition in the short term with a series of drugs designed to reduce seizures and inflammation.

Which brings us to…

Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians or medical professionals.  All we are is a bunch of folks who just happen to be passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.

This is why…

If you feel like your pet may have hydrocephalus (or any other health issue for that matter) the first thing that you’re going to want to do is have him or her check out by a vet ASAP!


The truth is, an early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering him or her, but beyond that diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!

Which is why…

We here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be right for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Lisa February 7, 2021, 10:54 pm

    Will I still be able to get pet I insurance, on a puppy with hydrocephalus, if he is born with it?

    • indulgeyourpet February 8, 2021, 7:55 am


      As with most serious pre-existing conditions this will certainly make it more difficult for you puppy to qualify for coverage. Our recommendation would be to contact the insurance companies directly and see what they might be able to do for you.

      Thanks and good luck!


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