Until a few months ago I didn’t know anything about Cleft Palate puppies. Or that more often than not, these pups don’t live more than a few days or weeks.
If like me, you’re not familiar with this condition, a cleft palate is an opening between the mouth and the nose that happens when the tissues separating these two cavities don’t grow together properly.
This birth defect can occur in the lip (primary cleft palate, cleft lip, or harelip) or along the roof of the mouth (secondary cleft palate). Within the mouth, the cleft, or opening, can extend along the bony portion (hard palate), the flexible portion used in swallowing (soft palate), or both.
Brachycephalic breeds like French Bulldogs, Pugs and Boston Terriers can have up to a 30% higher risk factor.
These puppies (especially those with a secondary cleft) are unable to create suction (imagine trying to drink through a straw with a big hole in it), so can’t latch on to their mothers.
They are also at risk of developing infection or pneumonia due to food aspiration.
Until recently the common recommendation from vets was mostly to euthanize them as quickly as possible. To let these pups live without the intensive care they need is cruel and results in them slowly starving to death…and often breeders aren’t able or willing to take on the months of 2-3 hourly tube feeding required and potential surgical costs of repairing a cleft palate once the puppy is older.
With these breeds becoming more and more popular, it’s a given that we’ll start to see more of these babies needing help.
The work being done by Safe Haven Animal Rescue (and many others) to give breeders another option, is starting to pay off, with a network of cleft palate puppy rescuers building across the country.
Maverick (Cleft Lip) and Malachi (Cleft Palate) are two of the many puppies that have been saved by the amazing work being done by these teams.
At 3 and 4 months old now, these boys live just like any other puppies.
They playfight with each other, they’re cheeky and funny. Most importantly, they’re absolutely adored by their foster mum and their new forever family who also played a big part in their early care.
Meeting them now, you’d never know that in different circumstances they would have been deemed lost causes and put to sleep as day old babies.
Caring for these pups isn’t cheap. They need around the clock care and are prone to health setbacks in their early weeks, so please consider donating if you see a call out for help from any of the rescue groups you follow.
Safe Haven Animal Rescue is one of Hairypants Photography’s ongoing rescue partners, and will be receiving funds from the proceeds of the Funny Face Dogs book (in which of course both Maverick and Mal will be featuring!).
If you have a Funny Face Dog and would like to support this project you can find out more here.
And finally, if any breeders reading this post need help with care for cleft puppies, please reach out to Safe Haven Animal Rescue.
As they say “it takes a village”… and keeping these puppies alive takes exactly that. Breeders working with rescue groups, being helped by their supporters, to fund and receive the best possible medical care.
And its working. Maverick and Malachi are the most adorable living proof of it!