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Hydrocephalus in Chihuahuas

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Chihuahuas as a breed are prone to a very serious disorder called hydrocephalus, which is a buildup of fluid on the brain. It is not a diagnosis you’ll want to receive, but it’s best to recognize the situation as early as possible.

tiny fawn colored puppy with large head that has Hydrocephalus

What is Hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus is a development of cerebrospinal liquid in the head of a dog between the cerebrum and the skull. The liquid does two things; it debilitates the bones of the skull and misshapes them. The weight from this extra liquid pushes on the brain itself, bringing on neurological issues.


Puppies can be born with this condition or it can happen due to a brain tumor or head trauma.


Most cases are diagnosed when a dog is a puppy. The dog will have a large dome-shaped head.

Hydrocephalus will influence a puppy’s capacity to learn at a normal rate and can affect their behavior, such as hyper strolling, hitting their heads against a wall, and seizures.


Treatment relies on the seriousness of the condition and the disease progression. The objective of treatment is to re-setup the balance of production and absorption of the liquid in the cerebrum.

Recently, there has been a medication presented called omeprazole, which has effectively decreased the generation of the spinal liquid in dogs.

Corticosteroids, for example, prednisone or dexamethasone, have additionally been utilized as a pharmaceutical treatment of the puppy. Diuretics may likewise be prescribed to diminish the weight inside the puppy’s skull by advancing the disposal of liquids in the urine.

Veterinarians attempt to utilize surgery if all else fails after no other strategy has hinted at working. The objective of surgery is to shunt the abundance the cerebrospinal liquid from various areas in the body.


Although treatable, dogs with this condition will be mentally slow and cognitively impaired. They will have a shortened life span too. Most do not live past the age of 2.

Watch this video of little Zada if you want to see what a hydrocephalus puppy looks like.

Although a Chihuahua with hydrocephalus will not have a long life, they still can have a good quality of life while they are here and can be sweet loving little dogs.

Click to find about other chihuahua health problems.

Cathy signature Chi

female vet holding fuzzy dog

Dr. Sara Ochoa


This article has been fact-checked and approved by Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM. You can read more about her on our About page.


Sunday 29th of July 2018

I have a 9 month old puppy with hydrocepholus. He was diagnosed at 8 weeks when he went in for his first shots. They vet wanted to put him down right then,but I refused. He has been on omeprezole and gabapentin since 3 months when I found a new vet who would see him. He had a seizure at 5 months. But no more since they increased his gabapentin. He circles but can stop himself when I call him. He is potty trained. His name is Tommy and he's the sweetest little guy.


Tuesday 29th of December 2020

@Lois, how old is he now


Sunday 29th of July 2018

I'm so glad you didn't give up on him Lois! Tommy sounds like a wonderful little puppy.


Saturday 19th of May 2018

I had one as well. Lost him this past Nov due to sezuires that wouldnt stop. He was 2 1/2 pound of pure fury. His name was Nano. He was 10 days from being 4 years old. My best friend. My soul dog. He was never at the doctors till the end. Thats when I found out he had a massive heart murmor as well as water on the brain and an open fontenel....... The vet was good to me he said Nano was otherwise super healthy and was very vocal about what a good job i had done with him. That the dogs with this dont useally live as long. I explained all the things I did for him and he said he was well taken care of and well loved and thats what keeps them going. I am sad for all the lost pups with this but just know God wanted him to stay with me. And he wanted all of you guys to be special pup moms and dads. He will forever be a part of me.


Saturday 19th of May 2018

I'm so sorry you lost your precious Nano Janis but I am glad you had 4 years with him. He sounds like a special little guy.

Billy T

Wednesday 6th of December 2017

Mine lived to almost 4. I knew she was ill the first time I saw her and didnt want to get attatched but the way she lived life so bravely and with such spirit I fell completely in love with her. I got good at caring for her and the last 6 months of her life were great until she fell 6 inches off a fouton bed. She yelled in pain and had seizures all day but seemed OK. She never recovered and died a week later. I think she hit her head which had too little skull bone to shield her brain. Shed still be here if I wasnt careless. Like many say about a hydro dog they had she was the love of my life. I think of her every day. I miss you Baccha, bravest soul I ever met.


Wednesday 6th of December 2017

Aww sorry for your loss. Mine lived 11 yrs. And she was the love of my life. Glad you kept her .


Wednesday 6th of December 2017

What a special little girl Billy. It sounds like you gave her a wonderful life. Don't beat yourself up over the fall. It could happen to anyone and you wouldn't expect 6 inches to cause a problem.


Tuesday 21st of November 2017

Hi, if someone could help me ! my puppy is 11 weeks old and has be diagnosed with Hydrocephalus... i dont know what to do ! :( if i leave him unmeidcated will it get worse, how old will he live for and most importantly is he in any pain ? :(

Kirk Poteet

Saturday 28th of March 2020

Our puppy died yesterday from hydrocephalus he was 4 months old. Had shunt surgery and died day after. If had to do it over wouldn’t done surgery. He really suffered last few weeks and cost us 4,000$. Terrible pain and grieving we are having to deal with


Tuesday 21st of November 2017

Hi Cyan, I'm so sorry for you :( Wish I could give you better news. Yes, if you leave him unmedicated, it will get worse. Either way, he won't live very long. Most puppies live to the age of 2 although there have been a few that lived to 8 or so. Although most are not in pain, if they are left unmedicated too long, the pressure can build up and cause more pain and more brain damage.


Thursday 19th of May 2016

My lil one has it too. He is 10 years old and we spoil him rotten. The disease has affected his eyesight. He has to wear a halo, which works great. It keeps him from hitting his head on walls, doors and objects. We just make sure he is loved and comfortable.


Thursday 19th of May 2016

Wow, he's lived a lot longer than most of them do Marti. You must be doing something right.