Hydrocephalus can either be congenital in cats or later caused by viral infections, parasites or tumors. Usually the brain is protected by the cerebral fluid called liquor, which lies like a cushion between the brain and the inside of the skull. If the cat suffers from a water head, the fluid builds up and causes damage to the brain.
What is hydrocephalus?
In healthy cats, the CSF flows back through the blood vessels and is continuously reproduced in order to transport messenger substances between the different brain regions. This process is disturbed in the water head. The removal of the brain fluid via the blood vessels does not work properly in affected cats or more fluid is produced than can be removed. The cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the brain and there is a strong pressure under the skull.
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Water head: symptoms in cats
If hydrocephalus is present from birth, the skull is still growing when the cerebral fluid builds up under the top of the skull. This causes the skull to bulge outwards, the eyes to be pushed apart and pressed down, and the forehead to bulge out. Due to the deformation of the eyes, kittens with a water head usually squint. It can even make you blind. In addition, brain matter is broken down, causing neurological movement disorders such as staggering or difficulty in getting up. Sometimes affected animals turn around and hold their heads askew.
If older cats get hydrocephalus as a result of a tumor, infection or parasite, skull growth is already complete. This means that the visual symptoms are not as clear as the bulging forehead and the widely spaced, squinting eyes. However, the brain is pressed against the top of the skull by the increased pressure and neurological disorders such as epilepsy with corresponding seizures occur quite quickly, which can lead to excessive saliva, involuntary droppings and urine to fainting. Then immediate help from the vet is the order of the day!