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Sometimes puppies are born that can't suckle properly, and it's almost alway's because they have a cleft palate. A cleft palate can be a complete division up the middle of the palate, or roof of the mouth, or it can just be a small hole in the palate.
Canine cleft palate is a failure of the two sides of the palate to fuse correctly during the embryonic stage of developement. It can just be the soft tissue, in which case it only presents as a cosmetic malformation, but if the hard palate is affected, it inevitably spells doom for the new born pup. A cleft pale in dogs can be either a genetic defect, or due to something occurring during the developement of the embryo. Surgical correction of cleft palate
All puppies should be examined for a cleft palate as early as possible, by opening the jaws and looking at the roof of the mouth. If the breed is very small, it may be necessary to get your Vet to check for you.
It is possible to correct a cleft palate surgically, however the pup must be old enough to undergo an anaesthetic, so in the early stages of it's life the puppy will need hand feeding with a stomach tube.
Cleft palate of the outer soft tissue, sometimes called canine hare lip, can repaired surgically at about six months of age. Small holes in the roof of the mouth can self correct as the pup grows older, but may also be corrected surgically if so desired.
Russell Savige has been a professional dog breeder for 18 years. He is the owner of Training Dog Breeds, a high content website of dog related pet articles from the pet information channel:, and also the home of a Directory of over 16,750 dog related websites of breeders, clubs, trainers, vendors, shelters and rescues.