Cleft Palate Average Cost

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Average Cost


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What is Cleft Palate?

Kittens with cleft palate will need surgery to have a chance at recovery. Depending on the extent of the condition, prognosis ranges from good to guarded. Treatment requires a significant emotional and financial commitment, and pet owners often choose to have affected kittens humanely euthanized.

Cleft palate is a birth defect that occurs when the roof of the mouth (palate) fails to properly fuse together and leaves a space between the mouth and the nasal-sinus cavity. This defect can affect the hard, bony portion of the palate, the soft flexible area that is used for swallowing, or both. The condition occurs during gestation and is usually fairly obvious at or soon after birth. Left untreated, it is unlikely that an affected kitten will survive.

Symptoms of Cleft Palate in Cats

Kittens with cleft palate will exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Running nose
  • Difficulty nursing 
  • Milky discharge from nose when eating
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Weight Loss
  • Slow Growth
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Aspiration pneumonia

Causes of Cleft Palate in Cats

Cleft palate is usually an inherited congenital disorder. It’s more likely to occur in purebred cats and is commonly found in Siamese, Persian and Savannah breeds. The condition occurs in female cats more often than males.

Exposure of a pregnant cat to certain chemicals, cortisone, medications, or excessive intake of vitamins A and D has also been linked to the development of cleft palate in embryos.

Diagnosis of Cleft Palate in Cats

When kittens are born, the mouth should be checked for normal development as part of an initial examination. If a defect is not noticed at that time, pet owners may soon see that affected kittens have difficulty eating and may blow milk bubbles out of the nose when nursing. This warrants a prompt visit to the veterinarian as pneumonia and death may occur. 

A vet will perform a thorough physical examination to diagnose cleft palate. Deformities of the front palate are easy to see, but if the cleft is further back in the mouth it can be more difficult to diagnose. Anesthesia may be needed to complete this examination. X-rays may also be ordered to check for pneumonia. Kittens will also need to be examined for the presence of other diseases or heart abnormalities.

Treatment of Cleft Palate in Cats

Multiple surgeries are often necessary to repair cleft palate in kittens. It is standard practice to wait until the kitten has reached three to four months of age before surgery is performed. This allows the oral cavity to grow and the size of the cleft to shrink. Advanced knowledge is required to surgically correct cleft palate, and surgery should only be performed by an experienced veterinarian. The complexity of the surgery will depend on the extent of the cleft. Larger clefts may require the use of tissue grafts or dental hardware. It is possible that the cleft may reopen after surgery and the cat may continue to have nasal problems. Because kittens with cleft palate are likely to be underweight and malnourished, there are additional risks associated with the necessary anesthesia.

From birth until the kitten is old enough to undergo surgery, special feeding techniques will be required. It may be possible to feed with a long nipple that bypasses the cleft area. More often, a feeding tube is needed. It is fairly easy for owners to learn how to insert the tube prior to each meal, or the vet may prefer to place a tube in the side of the neck. The kitten will need to be fed every two hours around the clock. Water is usually provided using an overhead dispenser.

It is common for kittens with this disorder to develop pneumonia from inhaling milk while eating. This must be quickly identified and treated as it can be life-threatening. It is also recommended that cats with cleft palate be spayed or neutered to avoid unintentionally passing the condition on to future generations.

Recovery of Cleft Palate in Cats

Following surgery, the kitten will be prescribed pain-management medications and will be given a cone-shaped E-collar to prevent injury or irritation. It is likely that the kitten will need to stay at the veterinary hospital for one or two days to ensure that it is stabilized and does not have respiratory difficulties. Once the kitten comes home, owners will need to make sure that the cone remains in place for one to two weeks. Antibiotics may be prescribed if the kitten has a nasal infection or pneumonia. Cats that are in pain tend to hide, so owners will need to watch them carefully and consult the vet regarding unusual behavior. 

The soft palate may be swollen after surgery, resulting in breathing problems or snoring. This will usually resolve on its own. The cat will need to be fed soft, blended food either by mouth or with a feeding tube for several weeks. Hard food or toys should be avoided for at least a month. Sutures used in surgery will be absorbable so removal will not be necessary, but the veterinarian will want to see the kitten for follow-up appointments to ensure proper healing.

Cleft Palate Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

15 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

No symptom

Hi, I'm adopting a very old (15+) cat with a cleft palate, what do I need to be prepared for? Will she be susceptible to anything in particular or need to be fed a certain way?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1044 Recommendations
Cats with cleft palates are more prone to respiratory infections and aspiration pneumonia, but is seems that Dusty has done quite well up until now with this problem. Since she seems to be tolerating the food that she is eating now, it would be a good idea to find out what her current owners are feeding her and continue with that. If she shows any signs of sneezing, lethargy, or trouble breathing in the future, she would need to be seen right away by a veterinarian. I hope that all goes well for her!

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3 Days
Serious condition
2 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Cleft Palate

Medication Used

Clavamox antibiotic- oral

Hi, my name is Jessica and I have a kitten with a very severe cleft palate (hard palate pretty much non existent and soft palate effected as well) he's otherwise a very healthy kitten. I'm tube feeding him currently, he can swallow fine on his own and he's on clavamox to try to prevent infections. My vet doesn't think he'll make it 2 weeks. I was wondering what you thought about his survival odds with me babying him 24/7. I'm also keeping his nose and mouth clear of excess mucus and saliva.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2466 Recommendations
Each case is different but the prognosis is not favourable and it may be difficult to surgically correct the deformity due to the size of it; by all means offer tube feeding and supportive care where needed but it isn’t going to be easy and may be unrewarding. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Hi Jessica,

I currently care for an 8-month old kitten who has a cleft palate. It sounds like the severity of his is much like Loki's: the entire soft palate and much of his hard palate is cleft.

He has been tube fed since presumably the first day of his life (he came to us at a rescue as a neonate). Once he was old enough, about 4 weeks or so, an esophagostomy tube was placed in him to help with feeding.

He has had two surgeries to repair the palate. Both times he literally blew (presumably while sneezing) the grafts out while recovering. After consultations, his DVM decided it was best to wait until he was larger before he undergoes another surgery. He has had pneumonia and is prone to rhinitis. We are keeping him fed by his e-tube until after his next surgery heals to minimize the risk of any additional infections and complications. There have been a couple times we thought we were going to loose him.

It has been a very long and often frustrating journey with this little man, but, for me it's all been worth it. Good luck with your Loki.

Wes and Alvin

Thank you for your quick response. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to give this baby a chance at life. Is there anything else you could recommend I do to give this little boy a better chance at making it?

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Tabby Cat
1 Year
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Won't eat or drink
Running Nose
Dehydrated and needed hospital stay
A large amount of green discharge
upper repiratory infection
bad breath

Medication Used


My cat is a year and a half. After he got himself into a bad situation that left him with a very, very severe upper respiratory infection, we found out he has a cleft palate. He had to stay at the vet for 3 nights and have very strong antibiotics. I couldn't find any information on what to expect out of an adult cat with a cleft palate. I understand most kittens don't survive and the vet was shocked that my cat has made it this long with no issues. The cleft is toward the back of the roof of his mouth and in the shape of a V. When he sneezes it comes out of his nose and mouth. We are still battling this horrible infection and I'm having issues of getting him to want to eat or drink. Do you have any suggestions? They let me take him home in hopes being home would make him want to eat. At the vet he was just interested in purring and getting petted.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1044 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Typically, animals with cleft palates do better with dry food than soft food, as there is less of a chance of aspirating and causing a pneumonia. If he still isn't eating, he may need to be hospitalized and on IV fluids until he is eating. There are appetite stimulants that may help if he seems otherwise normal but won't eat - you can ask your veterinarian about that, as it might help him. Without seeing him, I can't recommend anything for him, but you can talk with your veterinarian about whether he is stable to be home if he isn't eating, and if appetite stimulants might help him. I hope that he does well.

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