Could My Pomeranian Have Hydrocephalus?

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Though now tiny, Pomeranians are descended from large sled dog breeds. This may explain their big attitude. Anyone who knows one knows exactly how fearless they are. They will never back down from a fight, no matter how large the other dog may be (just be prepared for the accompanying onslaught of excessive barking). But these dogs are not only brave, they are also sweet and cuddly, making them perfect for cuddles on the couch.

Pomeranian Hydrocephalus Explained

Keep in mind that all toy breeds, including Pomeranians, have an elevated risk of certain inherited diseases, including heart disease and degenerative valves (which can lead to heart failure), dental disease and periodontal disease, patellar luxation, alopecia x (hair loss), tracheal collapse, and hydrocephalus. Of all these genetic predispositions, hydrocephalus is by far the most serious.

The brain and spinal cord of your dog are bathed in a clear fluid called al cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid circulates around the brain and spinal cord. In hydrocephalus, there is too much of this fluid, either because it is not draining or because the dog’s body is producing too much of it.

Because hydrocephalus begins at birth, the skull is still soft enough to expand with the extra fluid inside the brain. The problem arises when the skull bones eventually harden, and then there is no more room to accommodate the increasing fluid inside. This results in pressure on the brain.

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Causes of Hydrocephalus in Pomeranians

There are two kinds of hydrocephalus that may affect your Pomeranian. It may be congenital (a birth defect), or it may be acquired later in life. In congenital hydrocephalus, puppies are not actually born with the condition but rather with anatomical problems that lead to it shortly after birth. Hydrocephalus may also be the result of a brain hemorrhage in a newborn after a difficult labor or from exposure to certain drugs while in the womb. It may also result from a prenatal infection.

While congenital hydrocephalus is a puppy disease, acquired hydrocephalus usually occurs in adult dogs. Most often, it is the result of a brain tumor but may also be caused by the parainfluenza virus, also known as kennel cough, or other infections. Sometimes it is caused by an inflammatory brain disease, which can cause swelling and so obstruct the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid.

How Hydrocephalus Can Affect Your Pomeranian

It’s essential to see your vet at the first sign of hydrocephalus in your Pomeranian, as they may be in severe pain. This will allow you the maximum amount of time to decide on the best possible treatment. Puppies with congenital hydrocephalus generally do well once treatment has begun, providing there has not been severe brain damage. If the condition is allowed to progress untreated, it is usually fatal.

Because congenital hydrocephalus is a birth defect, you should not breed a dog with this condition.

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Life Expectancy of a Pomeranian With Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus in dogs is a very serious, life-threatening condition. If appropriate treatment doesn’t begin right away, hydrocephalus can lead to brain damage and death. But as long as you catch congenital hydrocephalus early and your pup receives the proper treatment, there is no reason your Pomeranian cannot go on to live a long life.

If it’s a case of acquired hydrocephalus, your dog’s life expectancy will be determined by which underlying condition is to blame. If it’s a brain tumor, the average survival time is around two months. If it’s a question of an inflammatory brain disease, your vet will most likely be able to bring this under control, and your Pomeranian will go on to live a long life.

Signs That Your Pomeranian Might Have Hydrocephalus

In cases of congenital hydrocephalus, your Pomeranian won’t show any clinical signs until they are about 8 to 12 weeks old or until they are walking and eating on their own. One thing to look for is a dome-shaped head. This results from the cerebrospinal fluid pushing on the puppy’s still soft skull. You may also find an open fontanelle (skull soft spot) on the top of the head. But if you do see these signs, don’t panic! Many dome-headed puppies that have open fontanelles never develop any other symptoms. However, you should still see a vet for a consultation right away.

The real worry is when you see a domed-shaped head along with other clinical signs. You will usually see these indications in the behavior and mental development of the puppy. Puppies suffering from hydrocephalus won’t be able to become housetrained, learn basic commands, and generally have difficulty learning.

Other signs you should be on the lookout for include wide-set eyes, slow growth, a spastic gait, circling or falling over, disorientation, lethargy, lack of coordination, compulsive circling, head pressing, standing with legs crossed, and kicking out front legs when walking. Your Pomeranian may show what is called the setting sun sign, which means the eyes are directed downwards and possibly outwards.

If your dog is suffering from acquired hydrocephalus, you won’t see the domed skull (assuming they are not still a puppy). Otherwise, the signs are the same as above, along with possible blindness, difficulty drinking or eating, and dementia. If the disease has progressed past a certain point, your Pomeranian may begin to have seizures.

Since seizures are a common component of hydrocephalus, let’s talk about what to expect. Before the seizure, your Pomeranian may experience what is known as an aura stage. They sense the approaching seizure and appear anxious, frightened, or dazed. They may also seem unsteady or confused, and you may find them staring off into space.

Once the attack begins, there is a wide variety of possible symptoms. These can include unusual movements of the head or body, twitching, or uncontrollable shaking. You might also see a stiffening of the neck and uncontrollable chewing, drooling, or barking. Your Pomeranian could experience loss of control of their bladder and bowels. In more severe cases, there may be violent shaking and trembling and loss of consciousness.

Often during a seizure, your Pomeranian may stumble and fall over, and then paddle their feet as if they are treading water. Your Pomeranian may also exhibit inexplicable behavior such as attacking an imaginary object, chasing their tail, running as if being chased, or hiding in the bathroom. Dog seizures usually last about 30-90 seconds, and they will usually be unaware of their surroundings during this period.

There are two types of seizures, focal and general. In focal seizures, only one area of the brain is affected, so you will see unusual movements in only one limb or one side of the body. During a general seizure, your Pomeranian may lose consciousness and convulse with their entire body. These can go on for a few minutes, though sometimes they last only a couple of seconds. A generalized seizure may also start as focal and then move on to affect the whole brain.

After the seizure is over, your Pomeranian may be confused, disoriented, dizzy, sleepy, shaky, or even temporarily blind. They may walk in circles and bump into things or may try to hide. Also, remember to approach your dog carefully after their seizure finishes and stay clear of their teeth, as their disorientation may lead to an unintentional bite.

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How To Care for and Treat Your Pomeranian for Hydrocephalus

If you suspect your Pomeranian may be suffering from hydrocephalus, make an appointment with your vet right away. It is a good idea to bring a list of the symptoms you have observed in your pup. If the vet believes hydrocephalus is to blame, imaging of your dog’s brain will be needed.

This usually takes the form of an ultrasound, CT (computed tomography), or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Sometimes an EEG (electroencephalography), which involves connecting electrical sensors onto the head in multiple locations, may also be used. Your vet will use the results of these scans to look at the size of your Pomeranian’s brain ventricles (open areas in each half of the brain) to see if they are dilated or enlarged. They should also be able to determine the exact source of the fluid build-up. In addition, any tumors or other abnormalities will be seen on the various scans being performed.

Congenital Hydrocephalus

If you’re dealing with congenital hydrocephalus and you’ve managed to catch it in your Pomeranian early, then it can often be treated with preventive medication as prescribed by your vet.

If your vet prescribes a diuretic, keep an eye out for signs of dehydration, including loss of skin elasticity, decreased appetite, reduced energy, and vomiting. Dehydration in dogs can also lead to a loss of electrolytes, such as sodium, chloride, and potassium, which are responsible for muscle and nerve function.

If your Pomeranian‘s hydrocephalus is not responding to medication, or if you simply want a more permanent solution, you might want to consider a shunt. A shunt is a small tube that is surgically implanted in one of the brain’s ventricles. It works by siphoning off the excess fluid and draining it to another area of the dog’s body, such as the abdominal cavity. As your Pomeranian grows, it will be necessary to re-fit the shunt.

This procedure is usually done by veterinary teaching hospitals or veterinary specialist hospitals. Your veterinarian should be able to tell you what’s available in your area. Keep in mind that there are some risks and possible complications with this procedure, so be sure to have a thorough discussion about these issues with your veterinarian.

Acquired Hydrocephalus

Brain Tumors

If it turns out your Pomeranian is suffering from acquired hydrocephalus, your vet will decide on treatment based on the underlying cause. If a brain tumor is involved, there are several options for treatment available. Surgery is often the ideal treatment for dogs with brain tumors. An experienced, board-certified veterinary surgeon generally performs it. However, there are risks, so be sure to discuss these with your veterinarian.

Chemotherapy may also work to help eliminate or slow the growth of the brain tumor. Chemotherapy works by attacking growing cells, either by killing the cells or stopping them from dividing. Some dogs may remain on chemo for the remainder of their lives, and others may receive sporadic treatment or end treatment altogether if their cancer clears up or goes into remission. Common side effects of chemotherapy for dogs include vomiting, dehydration, and diarrhea.

Radiation therapy may also be the best option to deal with your dog’s brain tumor. Radiation therapy uses high doses of radiation to destroy cancer cells. It works by damaging the cells’ DNA to stop the cell from replicating. Radiation therapy can often shrink a tumor or completely destroy it. Usually, your Pomeranian will have to be under a general anesthetic while it is being administered. Fortunately, the delivery of radiation is generally quick, so your pup will only need to spend a brief amount of time anesthetized. While radiation therapy is sometimes used on its own, it is also often used to destroy the cancer cells left behind. Side effects include redness, irritation, and ulceration of the dog’s skin.

Parainfluenza Virus

As we mentioned before, your Pomeranian‘s hydrocephalus may be the result of the parainfluenza virus, more commonly known as kennel cough. This is a highly contagious respiratory disease that causes inflammation in the throat and lungs of dogs. It usually spreads at places where there are a lot of dogs in close proximity to one another, such as race tracks, shelters, and kennels.

The signs for parainfluenza are coughing (this may include blood), low-grade fever, runny nose, low energy, and decreased appetite. If your vet suspects kennel cough, they will give your Pomeranian a physical examination and do blood tests and cultures. Once all of the testing results are received and analyzed, your vet will prescribe an appropriate medication. Generally, kennel cough, like most viruses, run their course in about two weeks. During this time, just keep your pup warm, well-fed, and feeling cherished. Also, keep in mind that there is a kennel-cough vaccine available. So if you plan to board your Pomeranian, or take them for play days at a doggy daycare, be sure to get them the appropriate jabs first!

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Hydrotherapy for Dogs Recovering From Hydrocephalus

Because hydrocephalus impairs a puppy’s physical development, in particular affecting coordination, balance, and proper muscle development, hydrotherapy can be an excellent option for rehabilitation. Hydrotherapy can refer to any therapeutic use of water to aid or improve health. The benefit of exercising your Pomeranian in the water is that water provides buoyancy and resistance while reducing impact and so can help your pup avoid joint problems later in life. This makes it ideal for strengthening and conditioning your pup’s muscles without placing too much stress on its body.

Hydrotherapy for dogs generally involves either swimming or walking in the water. This can be in a pool or a natural body of water such as a lake or ocean. Swimming provides an excellent cardiovascular workout and works all of the core muscles. Another option is an underwater treadmill. The advantage of a treadmill over swimming is that it makes it easier to control the intensity of the workout. You do this by adjusting the depth of the water and the speed of the treadmill.

Hydrotherapy also provides excellent general physical conditioning, so once your pup has made a full physical recovery, you might want to consider continuing it. This will lead to significant improvements in your pup’s stamina and overall endurance, as well as continued strengthening of their muscles. Hydrotherapy can also help prevent muscle strain and injuries. And, as Pomeranians are prone to excessive weight gain and obesity, they really need all the calorie-burning they can get!

Since your Pomeranian is a small breed, a kiddie pool in the backyard could be an excellent way to go. Just remember that your Pomeranian may or may not be a natural swimmer, so be sure to supervise your pup at the beginning closely. If you’re going into deep water, you might want to consider a flotation device, such as a swimming vest. These usually have a handle at the top, so you can easily scoop up your pup at the first sign of trouble! Otherwise, just have fun with it. Swimming with your dog might just become your new favorite activity (after snuggles on the couch, of course).

Science Provides New Hope for Treating Hydrocephalus in Dogs

A recent scientific study in Denmark has provided new hope for an alternative for treating dogs with hydrocephalus. The study found that a single protein in the brain, called choroid plexus, is responsible for at least half of the cerebrospinal fluid production in mice. Scientists are now studying how this protein functions, hoping that this will lead to a solution for regulating the production and accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. If they are successful, this could ultimately lead to new non-surgical treatments for hydrocephalus, which would be a great leap forward for all pets (and humans!) suffering from this disease.

How To Help Your Pomeranian Live a Fulfilling Life With Hydrocephalus

If your Pomeranian has hydrocephalus, the most important thing is to keep up with their vet visits and medications. You might also want to consider good pet health insurance, as dealing with this disease can get expensive. Otherwise, just keep them healthy, give them plenty of exercise, a good diet, and of course, lots of love!

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