Cleft palate

From Cow
Cleft palate in a seven-month-old bovine foetus[1]

Cleft palate (palatoschisis) is a congenital disease of cattle worldwide.

In cattle, this disorder is primarily hereditary in origin although nutritional deficiencies, drug or chemical exposure in utero and some viral infections have been attributed as causes.

Cleft palate results due to lack of closure of left and right embryonic premaxilla and maxilla folds. The disorder may involve the soft palate or the hard palate or both. This disease is also associated with dwarfism[2], congenital chondrodystrophy in Australian beef cattle[3] and arthrogryposis multiplex in Charolais cattle[4]. Some calves with cleft palate have other developmental abnormalities such as brachygnathia inferior and mandibular oligodontia[5].

Affected calves usually present with dysphagia (inability to suckle) and regurgitation of milk from the nostrils. Secondary pneumonia is commonly observed in severely affected calves.

Treatment usually involves conservative therapy such as intensive nursing care, broad-spectrum antimicrobial therapy and surgery if the defect is small. Surgical complications are common[6]. Larger defects require synthetic implants to cover the defect


  1. Ireland Agriculture
  2. Swartz HA et al (1982) Chromosome evaluation of Angus calves with unilateral congenital cleft lip and jaw (cheilognathoschisis). Am J Vet Res 43(4):729-731
  3. Harper PA et al (1998) Chondrodysplasia in Australian Dexter cattle. Aust Vet J 76(3):199-202
  4. Russell RG et al (1985) Variability in limb malformations and possible significance in the pathogenesis of an inherited congenital neuromuscular disease of Charolais cattle (syndrome of arthrogryposis and palatoschisis). Vet Pathol 22(1):2-12
  5. Griffith JW et al (1987) Cleft palate, brachygnathia inferior, and mandibular oligodontia in a Holstein calf. J Comp Pathol 97(1):95-99
  6. Bowman KF et al (1982) Complications of cleft palate repair in large animals. J Am Vet Med Assoc 180(6):652-657