Hydrocephalus in Horses

Definition of Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus is a medical health condition which involves an excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain, often incurring a disruption in brain function and neurological symptoms. In Horses, it can be a congenital defect or caused due to any head trauma . To diagnose hydrocephalus, several tests need to be conducted such as a spinal tap, x-ray, ultrasound, and MRI. Treatments for Hydrocephalus in Horses usually include:

  1. Surgical Intervention
  2. Medication
  3. Regular Observation and Monitoring
  4. Specialized Care and Management

Causes of Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus, also known as ‘water on the brain’, is an uncommon disorder in horses but can have serious consequences on the animal’s health. The condition occurs when fluid accumulates in the ventricles of the brain and eventually puts pressure on the brain, leading to a range of neurological issues. The exact cause of hydrocephalus in horses is unclear, but it is thought to be caused by either a congenital birth defect, an injury, or an infection such as equine herpes virus. In some cases, the accumulation of fluid can be caused by a tumor or cyst. In addition, certain horse breeds appear to be predisposed to hydrocephalus. It is important to note that hydrocephalus cannot be cured, but symptoms can be managed through medication and nutritional supplements.

Symptoms of Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus is a serious medical condition that affects horses, and it can have debilitating consequences for the horse’s health and wellbeing. Symptoms of hydrocephalus include such problems as:

  1. Impaired vision
  2. Head tilt
  3. Circling or aimless wandering
  4. Abnormal behavior
  5. Lack of coordination
  6. Weakness in the hind end
  7. Unusual gait or lameness
  8. Frequent falls
  9. Head pressing
  10. Altered mental status

In addition, horses with hydrocephalus may suffer from seizures, poor appetite, and weight loss, and they may develop secondary infections and internal organ damage. Early diagnosis is critical in helping horses survive and live full lives despite the condition.

Treatments for Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus in horses can be treated in the early stages before the symptoms become more severe. The most common treatment involves drain placement and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) management, which may include subcutaneous shunts or surgically removing part of the skull. Depending on the severity and progression of the disease, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or other medications for your horse. Other common treatments for hydrocephalus include routine physical therapy, acupuncture and massage therapy. Through natural and traditional treatments, it is possible to reduce the symptoms of hydrocephalus. With the proper care and attention, hydrocephalus in horses can be managed and treated successfully.


Hydrocephalus in horses is a potentially serious health issue, but fortunately it is also preventable. Regular check-ups with a veterinarian will help ensure that any early signs of this condition are identified and treated as soon as possible. A veterinarian can monitor the horse’s neurological health and suggest preventive measures, such as changes to the horse’s diet, exercise regime, and environment. It is also important to protect a horse from head trauma, infections, or other conditions that can lead to hydrocephalus. Finally, good nutrition, exercise, and general horse care are essential for a healthy and happy horse. By taking preventive measures, the risk of hydrocephalus can be greatly reduced, and horse owners can enjoy their equine companion for many years to come.


Hydrocephalus is a potentially serious condition that can affect horses of all ages. It is characterized by a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid within the skull, which can cause head enlargement, difficulty walking, and seizures. The exact cause of hydrocephalus is unknown; however, there are a few possible causes, such as head trauma, tumors, or infections. Treatment usually involves draining the excess fluid, and in some cases, surgery may be necessary. Horse owners should be aware of the signs and symptoms of hydrocephalus so that they can seek prompt medical care for their animals. With proper diagnosis and treatment, hydrocephalus can be managed and does not have to be a death sentence for a horse.

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