Cleft Palate in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

(Photo credit: Marina Herrmann/Getty Images)

Cleft palate in dogs is a medical condition where a opening appears along the dog’s palate, which is the roof of the mouth. This can lead to problems that affect feeding and growth, especially in puppies who must suckle their mother’s milk to avoid becoming malnourished.

In the case of newborn puppies, the condition can prove fatal. In general, purebred and flat-faced (brachycephalic) dog breeds seem to develop this problem more than other dogs.

If you see any signs that your dog has problems or symptoms affecting his mouth, then you should consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and advice. Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms, causes and treatments of cleft palate in dogs.

Symptoms of Cleft Palate in Dogs

Cleft palate in dogs can produce a number of symptoms. Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Breastfeeding problems
  • Lung infections
  • To cough
  • Respiratory problems
  • Not growing properly
  • cleft lip

Causes of Cleft Palate in Dogs

LONDON - JUNE 26: Two two-nosed crossbreed dogs bite each other after being brought to Battersea Dog and Cats Home on June 26, 2006 in London, England.  Experts have been confused by dogs that were both born with an extreme form of cleft palate.

(Photo credit: Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)

The cause of cleft palate in dogs can be either congenital, i.e. present at birth, or acquired.

In congenital cases, the palate is not able to fuse properly. Some of the factors that could cause this include nutritional issues, genetic factors, and viruses.

In acquired cases, causes can include periodontal disease, trauma, and the presence of foreign bodies in the mouth.

In general, purebred dogs and brachycephalic dogs are most at risk of developing this disease. Some of the most common dog breeds that suffer from it include French Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, and Miniature Schnauzers.

Veterinary treatments

If you suspect your dog has developed a cleft palate, your vet will want to physically examine your dog. Most of the time, it is easy to confirm a diagnosis by an oral examination.

Veterinarians may also use X-rays and other imaging methods to check for other related medical conditions.

As for treatment, veterinarians most often recommend surgical correction of the problem. In some cases, other techniques may include the use of bone grafts, stem cells, and plasma injections.

Young puppies diagnosed with the disease often need to be tube fed until they are old enough for surgery. In many cases, veterinarians may suggest a transition period to a soft diet. Your veterinarian can help you formulate a safe and healthy diet for your dog.

Have you ever adopted a dog with a cleft palate? What steps has your vet taken to address the problem? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

Christine E. Phillips