Health - Cleft Palate

Cleft Palate
The palate (roof of the mouth) is a wall partitioning the nasal and oral cavities. This partition is made up of two parts:

  • The hard palate
  • The soft palate

The hard palate forms the front portion of this partition and is made up of two bony plates (one on each side) that are normally fused together at their midline juncture. This fusion normally takes place during fetal development.


The soft palate forms the rear portion of the palate wall and both palates are covered with a mucous membrane. The most common type of cleft palate results when the two bony palate plates fail to fuse. The lack of bone fusion leaves a hole or slit in the roof of the mouth.


The cleft (hole) drastically impacts:

  • Nursing
  • Suction is affected
  • A portion of the food that the puppy is able to draw is passed into the nasal cavity
  • The nasal cavity is highly prone to infection
  • The puppy will literally wear itself out trying to satisfy its appetite

The cleft is present at birth and can usually be detected by examining the roof of the mouth. Occasionally milk can be observed running from a puppy’s nose while it is nursing.


The only treatment for a cleft palate is to surgically close the opening. In cases of severe clefts, the affected pup is usually euthanized.


Most cleft palates are assumed to be genetic unless other causative factors are found.

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