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

Like human babies, puppies and kittens can also get congenital clefts in the palate or lips. So here's a question that arises: how can veterinarians alleviate the sufferings of their pet patients? The answer is obvious. Advancement in cleft palate repair surgery plays a crucial role in getting dogs and cats back to normal lives. Do you want to know more about cleft palate surgery? If so, then let's dive deeper into the article! 

Cleft Palate and Lips 

Before further discussion, it would be great to shed light on the major difference between the cleft palate and lips. A Cleft palate is a condition in which puppies or kittens are born with the defected lips, underlying bone, and front area of the roof of the mouth, which is also known as the hard palate. In this case, parts of the lips are missing or mishappens. Moreover, one or both nostrils are connected directly to the mouth. 

On the other hand, a cleft palate is the disconnection of the tissues that collectively form the roof of the mouth. This condition occurs when tissues separating these two cavities don't grow together properly. As a result, a hole also appears in the palate because the tissues are never fully connected. 

Symptoms & Identification

As we have already discussed, a cleft palate looks like what it sounds like: a hole in the roof of the mouth. It's pertinent to mention here that the hole may be larger or smaller, depending on the severity of the condition. Moreover, the location of the holes may vary; for instance, they may appear closer to the front or back of the mouth. 

In the majority of the cases, this defect is readily identifiable at birth. However, according to expert veterinarians, sometimes the presence of the cleft palate couldn't be identified by visual inspection of pups' oral cavities immediately after birth. According to the experts, one of the most common signs of having this disease is: pups or kittens face difficulty suckling and swallowing. The symptoms may include: 

  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • Milk bubbling from pups' noses 
  • Sneezing and snorting
  • Failure of a pup to grow normally
  • Sudden onset of pneumonia
  • Visible abnormal appearance to the lips

Causes and Consequences

Some certain causes and conditions result in cleft effects. One of the major reasons is the inherited congenital disability. In most cases, genes are transferred from the mother or father to the developing fetus. In addition to this, there are the following causes too: 

Trauma during fetal development. 
If the mother consumes too little folic acid or an excessive quantity of vitamin A during pregnancy, it could also result in cleft defects.  
Too much medication to the pregnant cat or dog. 
Steroids,  such as; prednisone, aspirin, anti-seizure drugs, and griseofulvin.
Certain viral infections or illnesses of the pregnant kitten.

After getting detailed insights into the cleft palate's most common causes, the next most important thing to know is the consequences of this disease. Affected puppy or kittens cannot eat properly. If not treated on time, the infant will not get sufficient nourishment, resulting in poor health and ability to grow. 

Affected Breeds

It has been estimated that approximately 30 percent of bulldog breeds are likely to suffer from cleft lips and palates compared to the other breeds. On the other hand, German shepherds and mixed breeds are at the lowest risk. In addition, purebred dogs and cats have a higher incidence of cleft palate. Brachycephalic breeds, dachshunds, Boston terriers, Pekingese, beagles, cocker spaniels, and miniature schnauzers are most commonly affected. 


Unfortunately, many pups and kittens are euthanized immediately after being diagnosed with cleft palates. However, you can give a normal life to your pets with this disease. You need to visit a veterinarian on time and handle your puppy with the utmost care and diligence. Cleft palate surgeries can make a huge difference in your pets' survival. 

It's worth mentioning that the cleft palate treatment is highly dependent on the defect's size, location, and severity. Before diving into further discussion, it is clear that multiple attempts may require properly treating the defects, and it is also a fact that such surgeries are quite costly. The all-inclusive fee is $900.00.

Let's get back to the discussion. Such surgical procedures have historically suffered a low success rate. However, the latest advancements in the surgical fields, and the treatment performed by a certified board of surgeons, veterinary dentists can give your puppies a healthier life. 

The treatment of the cleft palate usually include: 

One can't deny that cleft repair surgeries are not as easy as they may seem. There are several complications involved in this procedure. Therefore, most surgeons recommend waiting until the puppy or kitten gets older and strong enough to bear the anesthesia while performing the surgeries. 

If the surgery is delayed, veterinarians suggest tube feeding to the pups. In this method, a tube is inserted into the back of the mouth, through the nose, or directly to the stomach. Tube feeding is essential to fulfilling the nutrition needs of the affected puppies or kittens. Bottle or tube feeding of milk is recommended after every two hours. On the other hand, older pups may be given solid food as early as four weeks of age. 

To treat some specific conditions, pets may require pre-hospitalization, where the infant gets IV fluids and IV or oral antibiotics.

After the complete oral examination through radiographs or visual inspection, the surgeons decide on the timing of surgery and select the techniques. Let it be clear that all these things mainly depend on the holes' size, location, and severity. 

Pups or kittens are given a required quantity of anesthesia under controlled circumstances, making the affectees immobilize during the surgical procedures. 

It's important to remember that long-term complications are possible even after successful cleft palate repair surgeries. More importantly, dogs are at a higher risk of upper respiratory infections. And some may suffer chronic nasal discharge, which is not treatable. 

Post-Surgery Care 

Pet parents (humans) need to give proper and standard care to their dogs or cats after cleft palate surgeries. You should regularly stay in touch with the veterinary professionals and give your pets the prescribed antibiotics. Moreover, make sure that Elizabethan collars are left on for 1-2 weeks to stop pets from rubbing their faces. Finally, you should give tube feed at least 2-4 weeks after the surgery.