Hydrocephalus is a nervous system disorder characterized by increased intracranial pressure and enlargement of the head. Increased intracranial pressure is a direct consequence of fluid accumulation in ventricular system. This condition can affect almost all animal species including domestic animals like cattle, dogs, and cats (Rousseaux & Ribble 31).
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The disorder is mostly diagnosed in young animals. However, animals may develop the disease during adulthood. Two general types of hydrocephalus exist; communicating hydrocephalus and non-communicating hydrocephalus. This paper analyzes causes, signs and symptoms, diagnostic techniques, treatment, and prevention of the condition.
Communicating hydrocephalus is brought about by buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain channels due to either over secretion or faulty absorption. In communicating type the ventricular system and subarachnoid space are connected (McGavin & Zachary 864). It is not clear what causes excessive production or defective absorption but inflammatory processes could be involved.
In some cases cerebrospinal fluid absorption occurs but is insufficient. This type occurs mainly as a congenital disorder. Congenital anomalies arise from exposure to chemicals, drugs and other teratogenic agents during pregnancy. Chromosomal mutations have been noted in animals with hydrocephaly. Genetic alterations are passed from parents to offspring.
Cerebrospinal fluid cannot move from ventricles to subarachnoid space in non-communicating hydrocephalus. Obstruction could either be within the ventricular system or at the foramina connecting ventricles and the subarachnoid space. In this type, cerebrospinal fluid production and absorption are normal. Blockage is caused by a number of factors. They include tumors, injury to the brain, inflammation within the channels, and infections. Viral infections are by far the most common cause of obstruction.
Most signs and symptoms are nonspecific to the condition. The disease is manifest through enlargement of the head. In some animal species, enlarged skull takes a characteristic shape. For example, dogs with the abnormality have dome shaped skull. Other signs and symptoms result from neurological deficits caused by compression. They include seizures, tremors, abnormal gait, feeding difficulties, growth retardation, and malformation of limbs. Animals with the disease are unable to lead a normal life.
Diagnosis of hydrocephalus relies on physical examination by a veterinary doctor who then recommends other tests. Imaging is used to determine the location of the lesion in the brain (Nam 59). Laboratory tests are also done to rule out other causative agents like viruses and bacteria. Samples for laboratory tests include blood, cerebrospinal fluid and biopsies.
Management of the disorder is divided into medical and surgical interventions. Medical treatment is done using steroids and diuretics. Steroids are anti-inflammatory agents while diuretics reduce intracranial pressure by increasing frequency of urination. Surgical management is done by a veterinary surgeon to improve drainage of cerebrospinal fluid. Shunting of fluid is achieved through ventriculoperitoneal shunting and ventriculoartrial shunting (Woo et al 499).
Control and prevention of the disease can be achieved through screening of animals and removal of causative agents. Animals should be screened early in life for genetic abnormalities. Animals with defective genes should not be allowed to reproduce because they can pass problematic genes to their offspring (Hitlock 58). Pregnant animals should not be exposed to teratogenic agents. Animals should be immunized against some causative organisms like viruses.
This paper analyzed causes, signs and symptoms, diagnostic techniques, treatment, and prevention of hydrocephalus. The disorder is caused by excessive production, defective absorption, and obstruction of flow. It can be managed using drugs and surgery.
Hitlock, BK. “Heritable Birth Defects of Cattle.” Applied Reproductive Strategies Conference Proceedings Nashville. (2010): 146-153. Web.
McGavin, MD. & Zachary, JF. Pathologic Basis of Veterinary Disease, St Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier Publishing, 2007: 863-864. Print.
Nam, Jung- Woo. “Evaluation of hydrocephalic ventricular alterations in maltese dogs using low field MRI.” Intern J Appl Res Vet Med. 9. 1. (2011): 58-67. Web.
Rousseaux, CG & Ribble, CS. “Developmental Anomalies in Farm Animals II. Defining Etiology.” Can Vet J .29 (1988): 30-40. Web.
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Woo J. N et al. “Application of ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement through fontanelle in a hydrocephalus dog: a case report.” Veterinarni Medicina. 54.10 (2009): 498– 500. Web.