According to Carlson and Giffin, DVMs, in the Dog Owners Home
Veterinary Handbook, cleft palate is "a birth defect of the
nasal and oral cavities...caused by a failure of the bones of
the palate to form completely. It results in an opening from the
oral to the nasal cavity, allowing food and liquid to pass between."
The vets note that many puppies with this condition cannot adequately
nurse, and survival becomes dependant upon hand feeding.
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I had raised a cleft palate puppy from birth a few yrs back. Brother
in litter was completely normal. This breeding was out of some
of the top lines in the country. According to our vets, this kind
of birth defect does not always have a genetic predisposition.
Not all CONGENITAL (present at birth) defects are heredity. Something
just goes awry while the fetus is forming. It was the opinion
of several vets involved in Phoebe's raising, that the anomoly
may have occurred from medications given the mother early in the
pregnancy for a bladder infection. She was not diagnosed until
about her 3rd day when she was not gaining as the brother was.
A more thourough check up revealed her soft palate had not closed
and was split. You could see the midline defect all the way along
the roof of her mouth. I decided to try and raise the puppy after
getting several medical opinions about her chances of survival
and the possibility of surgical repair at a later date.
She was tube fed
for 5 1/2 weeks, which at that point she had enough of shoving
that feeding tube down her throat! In the mean time, at about
4 weeks, she, too, had learned to drink water from the rabbit
bottle. With the head up like that, the water would go down her
throat and not out her nose.
After she fought
the feeding tube so badly, we started hand feeding her soft food,
morsel by morsel. If left to her own devices, she would eat it
to fast and it would also go up the opening and come out the nose.
Things went much better when she got teeth. She could crunch up
kibble and did just fine. Her veterinarian had us wait until about
6 months to attempt a repair since she did so well converting
from tube feeding to eating dry. In the mean time, a small opening
had appeared in the hard palate, just behind her teeth.. We were
informed this kind of repair was much more diffcult as it involved
grafting skin over the opening.
Surgery was performed
at 6 months. The soft palate was "roughed" up and sutured
shut. The graft was doneon the hard palate. This involved loosening
skin from either side of the opening and pulling it over the affected
area. The soft palate closed, no problem. The skin graft did not.
The graft died and left her with a bigger opening behind the teeth
She is now 3 1/2
yrs old. You would never know anything was wrong. Her mouth has
to be checked daily for matter that may have gotten into the opening.
We have found bugs, sticks, leaves just to name a few. She lives
with a wonderful family that adores her.
To finalize this
long post, if faced with the decision again, I don't know that
I would do it again. Not if there were hard palate involvement.
If your puppy is
just soft palate, and the vet feels surgery would work, go for
it. I don't think you will be sorry.
Shangri-La M S
N E FLA Schnauzer Rescue