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Denise Colgrove
Denise Colgrove, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 7128
Experience:  Internship and residency at UCD. 47 years experience.
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Question About New Born Kitten and Cleft Pallet

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Hello and thank you for taking my question, 

I had a litter of kittens born yesterday. One looks is a little smaller and looks like he is a runt. I noticed a bit of gunk around his mouth today so I took a warm damp cloth to clean it up. As I was doing this I noticed his gums looked a little funny. I opened his mouth, and I'm not sure if what I see is correct, but it looks like his cleft pallet hasn't formed at all. The rough of his mouth is very high compared to the others, and the part the looks like the cleft is where I think his gums are. I could be wrong and was wondering what I should be looking for, and what this could mean for the kitten. Can it start growing together if I'm correct and be fixed with surgery when he's bit bigger? 

Thanks for your help!
Hi there,

This certainly sounds like a severe cleft palate. The dangers are that she can't suck well and of inhalation pneumonia. It is unlikely that it will grow together. Some defects are so large they are not operable. Some can be repaired. You would need to feed her with a stomach tube ...Because this can be a hereditary condition if these are pure bred kittens it might be best to have your vet look at it and tell you if it should stay alive or not.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hi Denise,

Yes, this is a purebred cat. Would he have any chance of making it and living a semi normal life? I usually spay/neuter my kittens before leaving my home so there's no risk of him passing this condition on.

Is it possible that this could have been from the kitten being premature? He looks rather small and scrawny, like he wasn't in the oven long enough.

I'm not sure if you can answer this, but since you brought the hereditary option up, I was wondering if it's possible that this could be caused by my stud being old and not producing good sperm? He's getting close to 10 years and at the beginning of his career he made some wonderful kittens. I noticed in my last few litters with him, however, that there would always be one kitten that was "off" in some way. The queen in this pairing had litters with a different stud, with all kittens were in perfect health.

Thanks again!
I think that it is unlikely he could have a normal life. With Cleft palates when they eat the food goes into the wrong places and causes pneumonia and naal infection. In a small kitten surgery would be extremely difficult and keeping it alive with stomach tubing is possible but would take a bit of effort.

I think it is possible that the stud's sperm is not as good as when he was young when you think that in people that are older men and woman that there is more danger of birth defects such as Down's syndrome. I have nothing to substantiate this surmise with however. Circumstantially what you have observed seems to incriminate him.

The Cleft palate would not be from him being immature and small but there may be other defects as well, like heart. So maybe take him into your vet early in the week and see what your vet says where he can listen to the heart and examine him closely.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hello Denise,

I think one of the words you typed came out wrong or I'm just unfamiliar with it, what's a naal infection?

If he could grow up and have a decent life, then I do not mind going through the effort and expense of his care. If he is likely to suffer and not live long then I would consider euthanasia. I am unfamiliar with this condition however so do not know what to expect. If I can keep him growing, could he have a reasonable life even if there were some risks? Or is he likely not to survive?

I will definitely take him on Monday, but will he be ok for a whole day? I do not have a tube feeding kit available at the moment.

I still have a healthy son from this stud (about 6 months old), would it be risky to try and breed him? If my current stud is going to produce unhealthy kittens, then I will retire him. But, he was from a really nice line which would be disappointing not to continue. My first concern is of course to produce healthy kittens.

Thanks again Denise!

Oh, sorry. I didn't re read what I wrote. I meant nasal infection because the food gets in there. But the worst complication is pneumonia from inhaling his milk. I do not know if he will make it for a day. He has to have nourishment and it is likely to go into his lungs. Have you seen him suckle? Does milk come back out his nose? Try putting your little finger into his mouth does he have a strong suckle reflex?

It would not be wise to breed his son to any relatives. If there is a lethal gene in the line somewhere it is more likely to show up with inbreeding. The "lethal" genes are usually recessive so do not show up until two recesive's join up in an animal and then the defect shows.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I do see him nursing and has has a belly, but I will observe closer next time to see if it's coming back out of his nose or if he's having trouble.

Oh no, I didn't mean to his relatives! I have two unrelated studs and all of my queens are unrelated. I do not do line or inbreeding. I meant if I kept his healthy older son to breed to my unrelated queens, would this be risky? Or might I not know until I had a few litters?
You can only try. in the breedings. We do not know who is to blame here for this cleft palate. Maybe it isn't even that if he is suckling and doing fine.!!
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hi Denise,

I was trying to watch the kitten, but the mom gets too excited when she sees me in the nursery that she stops nursing to get pettings. I think I might have saw a little excess fluid on his nose, might that be milk? He sneezes once in awhile...
Yes, that might be milk. I guess there is nothing you can do tonight short of taking him to ER.
Denise Colgrove and other Cat Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hm... I don't hear anything in his chest yet, which is good. Doesn't seem in immediate distress though this is upsetting :( I am looking clinics open on Sunday since it's almost morning. I will try to bring him in and see what they say.

Thank you!
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hi Denise,

I just wanted to update you. The little guy didn't even make it another hour. I'm not sure what happened, I just went in to get him and he looked almost flattened. Does that mean she sat down and he wasn't strong enough to crawl out from under her? Could I have saved him if I took him right away? I feel terrible :(
This is for the best. Chances of survival were extremely poor. for this little one. I know you feel terrible, but it is not your fault.
Denise Colgrove and other Cat Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you Denise. I just hope I don't have to experience this again.
No, that was tough. and you are very welcome.