A cleft palate is a birth deformity in which the palate (the roof of the mouth) fails to fuse along its midline before birth. Often the condition leaves an open space through the roof of the mouth into the breathing passages. Food and other foreign material may pass from the oral cavity into the nasal cavity through this defect, leading to a chronic nasal inflammation and discharge. Excessive nasal secretion may be aspirated into the lungs.
Affected puppies or newborns have difficulty eating and suckling and will not grow as quickly or as large as their littermates. Some pups with cleft palate that attempt to nurse, aspirate and die. It can usually be corrected surgically by a specially trained and skilled veterinarian. The defect is more common in the Cocker Spaniel, Dachshund, German Shepherd Dog, Labrador Retriever, Miniature Schnauzer, Beagle, and Shetland Sheepdog. Brachycephalic breeds such as Pug, Shih Tzu and Boston terrier can have up to a 30 percent increased risk of this disorder. In the Brittany Spaniel breed cleft palate is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait.
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