Dental corner: Correcting a congenital cleft palate in your veterinary practice
This hospital team works together to rid a Rhodesian ridgeback of a congenital cleft palate.
May 01, 2013
Mika, a 6-month-old, female Rhodesian ridgeback, was presented to the Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service at the University of Pennsylvania for evaluation of a cleft palate. Mika's defect was noted at birth. The breeder tube fed the puppy for the first eight weeks, and then Mika was placed in a new home. She suffered from several episodes of aspiration pneumonia, which responded to antibiotics. The results of a preoperative laboratory work-up were normal, and she was deemed a good surgical candidate.
Mika recovered well. At her recheck exam four weeks later, a small area of tissue on the rostral maxilla, just caudal to the incisive papilla, had retracted and opened. The owner was given the option for another surgical procedure to close the small defect. The owner elected to postpone another surgery.
At last report, Mika is a happy, healthy adult, and the small open area on the rostral palate does not seem to be causing any issues at this time.
Surgical intervention is almost always necessary. Most oral surgeons will wait until a patient is 4 to 6 months old, as in this case, to ensure that the palate is growing properly and that the tissue has sufficient strength to withstand the surgical repair.
A dental technician must know the anatomy of the palate, what causes the defects and how they can be repaired. If technicians and doctors aren't aware of surgical options, pets with palatal defects might be euthanized.
Technicians may need to teach clients how to tube feed puppies and kittens until they are able to have surgery.
Dental technicians assist during surgery, handing instruments, retracting tissue and cutting suture. After surgery, they monitor the pet's recovery.
At checkout, a dental technician will discuss possible complications with the owners as well as an appropriate feeding schedule and medication use.
Patricia March, CVT, VTS (Dentistry), is a dental technician at Animal Dental Center in Baltimore, Md., and the past president of the Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians.