Cleft Palate Repair Surgery: Ensure Normal Life For Pets with Palatal Defect

Cleft Palate Repair Surgery

Just like human babies, dogs, puppies, and kittens can also be born with congenital disabilities such as palate or lip clefts. This presents a challenge for veterinarians: how can we alleviate the suffering of these pet patients and ensure they lead everyday life? 

The answer lies in advancements in cleft palate surgery, a crucial intervention that enables our pets to return to their everyday lives. 

Here, we delve deeper into the world of cleft palate repair surgery, its importance, and how it transforms the lives of pets.

Understanding Cleft Palate And Lips

Before we proceed, let's distinguish between cleft palate and cleft lips.

Cleft Lips 

It occurs when puppies or kittens are born with defects in their lips, the underlying bone, and the front area of the roof of their mouths (also known as the hard palate). 

In these cases, parts of the lips are missing or malformed, and one or both nostrils are directly connected to the mouth.

Cleft Palate

On the other hand, the incomplete fusion of tissues collectively forms the roof of the mouth. This results in a hole in the palate, which can vary in size and location.

In most instances, these defects can be identified at birth. However, some may not be visually apparent immediately after birth.  Then they need cleft lip and palate surgery. 

According to experts, signs of this disease include difficulties in 

  • Suckling and swallowing, 
  • Coughing, gagging, 
  • Milk bubbling from the nose, 
  • Sneezing and snorting, 
  • Failure to grow normally, 
  • Sudden onset of pneumonia, 
  • And visible abnormal appearance to the lips.

Causes And Consequences

Certain conditions result in cleft effects:

  • Inherited congenital disability
  • Trauma during fetal development
  • Insufficient folic acid 
  • Excessive vitamin A consumption by the pregnant pet
  • Excessive medication for the pregnant pet (steroids, aspirin, anti-seizure drugs, etc.)
  • Certain viral infections or illnesses of the pregnant pet

If untreated, the inability to eat properly can result in poor health and growth in the affected puppy or kitten.

The Scientific Understanding Of Cleft Palate In Pets

Scientifically speaking, a cleft palate or lip is an oro-facial anomaly typically presented at birth. 

In animals, these malformations occur due to incomplete fusion of the maxillary and medial nasal prominences during the early embryonic period, usually between the 25th and 28th days of gestation.

These clefts can be categorized into two types based on their locations: 

  • Primary cleft palate: involves the lip and alveolar ridge, 
  • Secondary cleft palate: It pertains to the hard and soft palate.

Genetic Factors and Cleft Palate

Regarding causality, the condition has been associated with genetic and environmental factors. 
However, research has not yet conclusively identified specific genes responsible for pet malformations.

Breed Susceptibility

Approximately 30% of bulldog breeds are prone to cleft lips and palates compared to other species. The lowest risk is among German Shepherds and mixed breeds. 

Purebred dogs and cats have a higher incidence, particularly among brachycephalic breeds, dachshunds, Boston terriers, Pekingese, beagles, cocker spaniels, and miniature schnauzers.

The Path To Healing: Cleft Palate Surgery

Timely intervention through cleft palate repair surgery can significantly enhance the survival chances of pets with this condition. However, the treatment depends on the defect's size, location, and severity. It is one of the most impressive oral surgeries.

Cleft palate surgery cost is expensive (approximately $900) and requires multiple attempts.

Although surgical procedures had a low success rate historically, advancements in the field, performed by certified veterinary surgeons and dentists, offer hope for a healthier life for the affected pets.

Advancements In Cleft Palate Repair Surgery

The field of veterinary surgery has been making significant strides, with new techniques improving the success rate of these operations. 
For instance, the advent of microvascular surgery has allowed for more precise manipulation and movement of the tissue during surgery, thereby increasing the chances of successful closure of the cleft.

Furthermore, veterinary dentistry is crucial in managing these conditions, especially in maintaining pets' oral health after oral surgery

The Treatment Procedure:

  • Pre-surgery: Surgeons recommend waiting until the puppy or kitten is strong enough to handle anesthesia. During this period, tube feeding is crucial to meet nutritional needs. Pre-hospitalization may be necessary in some instances involving IV fluids and antibiotics.
  • Surgery: After a thorough oral examination via radiographs or visual inspection, surgeons decide the timing and techniques for surgery. Anesthesia is administered under controlled circumstances for immobilization during the procedure.

Cleft Palate Surgery Recovery 

The pets may need to be kept under observation to monitor for complications. 

Post-operative care includes regular administration of prescribed antibiotics and nutrition via tube feeding for at least 2-4 weeks after the surgery.

Even with successful cleft palate dog surgery, pets may face long-term complications. Dogs, in particular, may be at a higher risk of upper respiratory infections, and some may suffer from chronic nasal discharge, which is often untreatable.

Post-Surgery Care

Ensuring the well-being of your pet after the cleft palate surgery is critical. Here are some recommendations:

  • Regular Vet Check-ups: Stay in touch with your veterinary professionals for regular post-operative assessments.
  • Medication: Administer the prescribed antibiotics on schedule.
  • Protection: Keep Elizabethan collars on for 1-2 weeks to prevent pets from rubbing their faces.
  • Nutrition: Continue tube feeding for at least 2-4 weeks after surgery.

In the grand scheme of things, cleft palate and lips in pets are manageable conditions. With the combined efforts of veterinary professionals and dedicated pet owners, animals with these conditions can lead a life as fulfilling and rewarding as any other pet. 

In Conclusion, 

while cleft palate and lips present a challenge to both pets and their owners, advancements in veterinary medicine, particularly in cleft palate surgery, offer a beacon of hope. Our beloved pets can lead healthy, everyday lives despite their conditions with proper care and treatment.