Every once in awhile there is a special rescue kitten that makes all of us realize that every animal needs a chance at living and finding their own home. Back in August, one such kitten was Theodore (from the Bottle Baby “T6” litter). Theodore was part of a litter of 4 bottle baby kittens (Teddy Bear, Truffles & Tracy Turnblad were his siblings), and he very clearly had a medical issue known as Hydrocephalus.
What is Hydrocephalus?
The brain and spinal cord are surrounded in cerebrospinal fluid that circulates and is ultimately reabsorbed. In hydrocephalus, there is too much fluid either because of a drainage problem or an over-production problem. When the problem is congenital (meaning it’s something an animal is born with), the skull is still soft enough to expand somewhat, leading to a dome-shaped head, but it does not take long for the skull bones to harden. Because the skull cannot expand with increased contents, the result is compression of the brain by the extra fluid.
How Did Theodore Get It?
Interestingly enough, most animals with hydrocephalus are puppies and the cause is congenital anomalies – they are born with the anatomical problems prohibit proper draining of the cerebrospinal fluid. For Theodore, the more common causes include maternal exposure to a drug used to treat ringworm, and maternal exposure to the feline distemper virus during pregnancy. Inflammatory conditions in the brain can also cause swelling that narrows the aqueducts.
The skull looks especially round and there is a soft spot on the top of the head. The pet may show what is called the “setting sun” sign, which means the eyes are directed downwards and possibly outwards. The animal may suffer from seizures (that happens in less than 20% of affected animals) and blindness.
How Is it Treated?
Temporary relief of the increased fluid pressure can be achieved with medication. Diuretics can be used to decrease fluid production in the brain but one must be careful about causing him to become dehydrated. Antacids have been shown to decrease cerebrospinal fluid production and were given to Theodore almost immediately after his rescue.
Theodore has grown into a very loving and happy kitten while in foster care. At a recent medical appointment, he made biscuits on anyone who held him, and he purrs quite loudly in appreciation for all the care he’s received. He loves the company of other kittens and cats.
He continues to battle an eye infection related to his condition, but he has maintained his sight. He recently began showing seizure-like behaviors, and Dr. Jefferson removed 15cc of fluids from his head. A shunt is a more permanent option to help keep fluid buildup at a minimum, but there are risks and Theodore is still a small kitten.
What is His Prognosis?