Hydrocephalus – ever a good prognosis?

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This topic contains 21 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  Chris Drake 1 year, 6 months ago.

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  • #52641

    loafcat
    Participant

    Hi there! Long-time lurker but never posted before. You guys are awesome and so knowledgable, maybe you can help me out.

    I’ve had cats all my life, but this summer I got my introduction to hand-raising abandoned kittens with a single orphan. He was just over a week old when he was found chilled, dehydrated, amd covered in wounds with his less fortunate littermates. Immediately he got subcutaneous fluids from the vet, then KMR and cuddles round the clock from me. Two (probably bite) wounds abscessed and had to be drained, and he was put on antibiotics that wreaked havoc with his tiny stomach. My veterinarian diagnosed him with hydrocephalus, and it seemed obvious–at two weeks he couldn’t hold his head up, he could barely crawl without falling over and struggling like a capsized turtle, and his eyes had the telltale ‘setting sun’ look (pupils down and out). I was advised to expect rapid deterioration: seizures, coma, and eventually death. So I resolved to make the end of his tragic little life as happy and safe as possible.

    Except he made it.

    Burrito is almost four months old now. His abscess scars are invisible, his head tilt is barely there any longer. He was weaned at four weeks and litter trained at five, both completely without issue. He runs and jumps and attacks everything in sight just like any kitten his age, and shows no signs of mental problems (if anything, he’s a sharp little cookie!). The open fontenelles in his skull are almost completely closed, and his pupils focus straight ahead. The only indication that anything was ever wrong is a slightly dome-shaped head, and perhaps a little extra derpiness.

    Everything I have read says hydrocephalus is progressive, and my vet predicted mental and physical disabilities on the off chance Burrito lived to be even a month old. But Burrito has improved so drastically that I don’t know what to think. The vet hasn’t seen him in a couple of months, but we’re having him neutered soon, so he’ll be going in for an exam first.

    Has anyone here known of cats who lived fairly normal lives with hydrocephalus, or of cases where a cat has shown improvement? I’m looking for anything I can find before the official veterinary opinion, which I don’t expect to be optimistic.

    #745998

    Buttons
    Moderator

    Just wondering if your vet did scans to determin if it was a case of genetic hydrocephalus or simply pressure on the brain from bleeding caused from his attack? I only ask as my Buttons was attacked at 8weeks old by a feral tom cat and he suffered nerve damage it took at least a month of constant attention, physo, and massages to stimulate is nerves again as his radial nerve was severed. He also had a puncture wound on his head and my vet warned to keep an eye out for any seizures because he more than likely had bleeding on his brain.

    Maybe that’s all that was wrong with your fella ? When you think about it whether its a build up of spinal fluid or blood it would have similar neurological symptoms only if it was bleeding on the brain the symptoms would improve over time maybe only leaving your cat with mild brain damage but still able to function pretty close to normal. Ask your vet about giving him B12 supplements as its great stuff for regenerating damaged nerves.

    #745999

    jcat
    Participant

    The Messybeast website is our bible for raising kittens with special problems: http://www.messybeast.com/handrear.htm#hydrocephalus

    and yes, the wonderful Sarah Hartwell who put it together has some information on mild hydrocephalus: she says:

    ‘In mild cases where there are minimal or no neurological symptoms, the condition may resolve itself during the first few weeks after birth. The closure of the fontanelle has simply been delayed a little. Kittens with medium brain damage should be assessed for quality of life and likelihood of finding homes. Severely affected kittens must be euthanized.’

    It seems that Burrito is one of the lucky ones and I hope this gives you some comfort. Sounds like he is well on the way to catching up on his development.

    #746000

    Anonymous

    You show ’em, Burrito! πŸ™‚ (says a hoomin with hydro). I agree with Jcat, it sounds like he’s doing really well. All you can really do is judge by his quality of life, if it’s good then enjoy him for as long as it lasts.

    #746001

    loafcat
    Participant

    Thank you all for the replies!

    Buttons, no scans or other diagnostics have been done, mostly because the cost is prohibitive (and I didn’t want to spend $500 just for tests on a kitten that might not live). Now that Burrito is older and doing well, it might be worth it to find out for sure. One of the abscesses was on the back of his head; I hadn’t thought much about the connection. His skull still has the dome shape, though.

    Jcat, that’s very encouraging to read! I’m amazed because he DID have neurological symptoms, and pretty bad ones at that. They’re just gone now.

    Kilroy–how is YOUR quality of life? πŸ™‚ How does treatment differ between cats and people?

    #746002

    Anonymous

    I’m lucky, the shunt that corrects my hydro has kept working for most of my life with almost no problems. I had no idea if shunts could be used in cats, so I Googled it and holy cow, they are! Wow. Can’t imagine how expensive that would be or how successful.

    (((extra hugs for wonder kitty Burrito)))

    #746003

    loafcat
    Participant

    Nifty! The consult with a neurovet plus installation and monitoring would probably be ridiculously expensive. If he needs anything, I’m gonna look into drugs first, since that seems a bit more manageable. We shall see!

    P.S. My avatar is now the namesake photo, in which Burrito is about two weeks old. πŸ˜€

    #746004

    Anonymous

    He is so CYOOT! Have you submitted his photo to be The Daily Kitten?

    #746005

    Buttons
    Moderator

    He really has the markings of a little tiger lets hope he has the heart of a tiger and he keeps getting better!! Don’t forget to ask your vet about vitamin B12 and start him on that as soon as you can if your vet has no problem with him taking it.

    #746006

    Wonderful that he is doing well! He showed ’em! My Ozzy was born with a head defect and his breeder was going to put him down until I took him; he lived to be 12 years old and other than being a little slow he was the light of our lives. What got him in the end was diabetes–he couldn’t tolerate the insulin, they think it might have been because of his defect.

    #746007

    jcat
    Participant

    He’s beautiful! Umm, are you sure he’s a boy? He looks to be a lovely tortie, but I might have got that wrong. I’m with Kilroy, just enjoy him, it sounds like he is determined to have a good life.

    #746008

    loafcat
    Participant

    He is DEFINITELY a boy. He’s an obvious tabby now, but I see the tortie-looking markings in that picture. But the little kitten balls are really the big giveaway. *blush*

    #746009

    jcat
    Participant

    That would do it, lol.

    #746010

    Pumpkins mom
    Participant

    Hi, I have a hydro kitty – he is almost 4 – never had the shunt surgery – he does take a cocktail of medications 3x a day – very happy healthy boy πŸ™‚ Happy to share info if needed – email is thepumpkinfund@gmail.com – not a fund for him – a not-for-profit to help others founded and named in his honor πŸ™‚

    #746011

    ecbrown
    Participant

    That photo is too cute, definite “daily kitten” material. Like J-cat I’m intrigued by his coloring. If he is tri-colored (and it seems he is from the photos) then he is very rare. Only about one in 200 tri-colored cats are male. Good luck with the little guy!

    #746012

    Anonymous

    I would love to get an update on Burrito and see an updated picture – yoo hoo, Loafcat! Where are you?

    #746013

    ecbrown
    Participant

    Just noticed this was 9 months old…lol. Maybe burrito was the daily kitten at some point? Name sounds familiar. An update would be nice.

    #746014

    Anonymous

    I’ll be honest, I’m wondering if the vet was wrong about the diagnosis? If it really was hydro I wouldn’t have expected the dramatic improvement without some sort of surgical intervention.

    #839297

    Anonymous

    I know this is a long time since this post was published but it just came up as I did a search for Hydrocephalus in cats so I thought I would share with you about my cat. Saffy was born with Hydrocephalus and not expected to live. I took her home to live out her short life with us, that was January 2007, she was about 6 months old. She is still going strong without treatment. She had a diagnosis by a brain scan. Her brain was so damaged that a shunt wasn’t possible. I was told that if she had been human she would not have been able to walk, talk or feed herself so damaged is her brain. The consultant wasn’t able to give me any idea of how long she might live for as they had no experience of cats with Hydrocephalus. She is a happy though not too bright, fairly normal tabby cat. She is clean, eats well and loves everybody; especially strangers who she thinks have come to pay her attention and stroke her, preferably all day long!! She is our special needs puss with learning difficulties. She is photophobic, she loves sitting on the patio in the dark. She hates loud noises or even the scrunching up of a plastic bag. She has poor peripheral vision, if a toy goes behind her she hasn’t a clue where it has gone! She has to weigh up distances such as how high the couch is or how far away the floor is once on the couch, although to be fair she has mostly worked it out now so it doesn’t need so much concentration these days. It’s just she has difficulty working out these distances and whether there is enough clear space to jump into. She cannot cope with walking on grass, we think it is the sponginess of the feel which maybe unbalances her. She doesn’t like sitting on cushions or cat beds, presumably for the same reason, wobbly surface to walk on. If you carry her onto the lawn to sit with you she will run home on three legs. She is fond of standing on three legs sometimes and also will hit you with her leg to get your attention, sometimes continuously and irritatingly if you are trying to do something. She had an operation a few years ago to remove her lower eyelashes which were scratching her eyes, this made them wider so she looks permanently surprised! She recently had a dental and apart from a temorary violently shaking head post operation, recovered well. She is quite thin these days and eating too much so is due some further tests; negative for Hyperthyroidism. So having come to us as a terminally ill cat she has so far lived 8 years and is a very happy puss! Everybody who meets Saffy can see there is something not quite right about her, but if they like cats, they love Saffy πŸ™‚

    #843471

    Chris Drake
    Participant

    Hi,

    We have a cat named Gracie who has Hydrocephalus. She was born with it and is blind. She has the symptoms of the larger head, fish eyed, does the circles quite a bit. She is now 7.5 years old. She has seizures and has one about every 3 weeks on average. Sometimes more frequent and sometimes she will go a few months. She takes 4 pills twice a day and one is phenobarbital, one of the others is a new pill her neurologist just put her on and the other two are compound pills made at Roadrunner Pharmacy. The pills do cost about $200 a month but are worth every penny to us. She is not a candidate for the stint from what we were told after her MRI. We do not know how long she will live but she has made it this far. She has also had an operation at 1 year for fluid in her paracardium and a lung that had never inflated. She also had her liver moved as it was in the wrong part of her and they stapled it where is should be. She is a happy girl. She cannot see and we have to be careful with that.

    I have been trying to find out more on how long cats have lived in her position. We don’t know how long she will be with us but she is very loved and we know the shelter would have put her down if they had known how bad she was when we adopted her.

    #843472

    CatWScotia
    Participant

    Every day you share with Gracie is a blessing for all of you. I think I would simply enjoy the time you have for now.

    When her condition does begin to deteriorate you will see signs that she is unhappy, confused. becoming distressed – and you’ll know that her life is drawing closer to an end. Even then she might surprise you by going on longer than expected!

    You are so lucky to have found each other. Best of luck for her health and happiness, and yours.

    #843473

    Chris Drake
    Participant

    Thanks. We just wanted to put our story out and we really wish there was more data as to what to expect. We do enjoy everyday with her. Always looking for insights for new meds or anything we can do to make her better.

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