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Boston Terriers are one of several breeds that are predisposed to being born with cleft palate and/or cleft lip. The other breeds that are generally affected are Pekingese, Bulldogs, Miniature Schnauzers, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels and Siamese Cats.

As a rule purebred dogs and cats have a higher occurrence of cleft palate and bradycephalic pups such as Boston Terriers with their squished in faces, are at greater risk. Even though genetics is the primary culprit of this defect, nutritional deficiencies, viruses and any poisons that strike the mother during herpregnancy may also play a part.


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What is a Cleft Plate?

Cleft Palate is an opening between the mouth and the nose that occurs when the area separating them does not fuse together correctly.The cleft or opening in the mouth can reach along the hard palate, the soft palate necessary for swallowing, or in both areas. It is very common for the pup to also be born with a cleft lip.
With a primary cleft palate, the signs are usually obvious. The teeth and gums of the upper jaw can be displayed and there can be an abnormally placed nostril. Dogs with a secondary cleft palate present with the following symptoms: Food and saliva entering the nose causing sneezing & snorting. Distorted nose after eating or nursing. May have a persistent drip if the area is infected.  While drinking water the pup may cough and gag. Failure to thrive, if having trouble eating. Or If there is fluid or infection in their noses, Many have problems breathing or exercising.

How is this birth defect diagnosed?

An oral examination is performed to check for this birth defect. The cleft on the hard palate is easy to see but in order to view the soft palate in the back of the mouth, the puppy must be anesthetized.

A chest x-ray is usually taken to rule out pneumonia. Although small primary clefts of the lip and nostril generally do not cause medical problems, most owners choose to have them repaired for cosmetic reasons.

What part does Surgical intervention play?
 Surgery is required for secondary cleft palates to prevent upper and lower respiratory infections and to ensure proper nutrition is met. The cleft on the hard palate can actually become smaller as the puppy matures so surgery is often delayed until the dog is 3-4 months old.
 Anesthetizing a young, underweight puppy with breathing issues for surgery is a risky undertaking so some owners opt for tube feeding. This can be done manually by the owner or the vet can place a temporary feeding tube on the side of the pup’s neck for blendarized food.
 Following the surgical intervention, there can be some swelling of the soft palate that can hamper breathing and cause snoring. This usually resolves itself. As with any surgery, there are restrictions that can include: Antibiotics for infections, wearing a collar to prevent face rubbing, no hard toys and a pureed diet by mouth or tube feeding.
 Any dog born with a cleft palate should not be used in breeding and any parent producing this defect should not be further bred if they are of predisposed breeds.
Depending on the size of the cleft and the skills of the vet, the prognosis can vary. Most vets and breeders believe the puppy should be euthanized and for good reason.

How easy is it to care for a Cleft Plate and keep puppy alive?

 Although well intended, most people don’t realize the amount of time that is parvopup1necessary to nurse a puppy affected with this disorder. Tube or syringe feedings must be administered every two hours around the clock for an extended period of time or the puppy will suffer greatly and die a slow death. For those who do undertake the challenge and are realistic, saving the life of a puppy with a cleft palate is extremely well worth their efforts.

What are the challenges that must be overcome?
  A puppy with a cleft palate can't latch on properly to nurse! It may look like they are nursing but they may not be getting enough to sustain them. They may not be getting anything at all. Think of sucking on a straw with a hole in it. It looks like you are sucking but you are getting little to nothing.
 A puppy born with a cleft palate should be pulled from mom immediately. If the puppy does manage to nurse just a little, they will be exposed to aspiration pneumonia. The safest way to feed a cleft palate baby is to tube-feed them.

  Youtube link : How to feed a Cleft Palate Puppy

What you will need to care for a newborn pup with a cleft palate
A catheter feeding tube. They come in many sizes and can be purchased at your vets office
Syringes A bulb syringe (to suck out babies mouth and nose if they burp up formula)
A heating pad  Hand-warmers for emergency trips to the vets office to keep baby warm
A good scale (monitoring weight is essential!!)
Puppy formula - either purchased at a pet store or homemade (recipes below)
nutri-cal 9315Nutri-cal or Karo syrup
Recipe using goats milk
10 ounces of goats milk  
(I found it in my grocery store in the health food/Organic section)
 1 tbsp. light corn syrup
 1 cup of plain white (whole milk) NOT LOW FAT yogurt
 1 egg yolk
Pour 10 oz. of goat's milk into a bowl and add in 1 tbsp. of corn syrup, 1 cup of plain white yogurt, and one egg yolk. Mix up the ingredients well using a whisk or electric mixer.