Definition of Cleft Palate
Cleft palates are fairly common birth defects that happen when the two halves of the roof of the mouth, called the palate, don’t fuse completely while a puppy is developing inside the womb. Some cleft palates involve only the upper lip and the front part of the palate; others affect the middle and back parts of the dog’s palate. These defects are caused by something that disrupts normal development of the fetal face and jaw, probably influenced by genetics. Poor nutrition, infection, exposure to toxins, administration of steroids, metabolic disorders and trauma during pregnancy may also contribute to cleft palates. Puppies with defective palates have trouble nursing, difficulty breathing and are congested. Milk, mucus and/or pus dribbles out of their noses, and they often cough, gag and sneeze. Affected newborns don’t gain weight like their littermates and are in poor body condition. Breeders should pay close attention to these signs.