Cleft palate is a skeletal disorder occasionally seen in puppies of all breeds. A cleft palate results when the bones forming the roof of the mouth do not grow normally. This results in an opening in the roof of the mouth that communicates with the nasal cavity. Puppies as young as one day old will often have milk come out their noses as they nurse. They may also inhale milk into their lungs, causing a difficulty in breathing or even pneumonia. When the puppy's mouth is examined, a slit will be seen in the roof of the mouth. The milk tends to enter the nasal passages and lungs. Most puppies will die at an early age from pneumonia and/or malnourishment. Mild openings in the mouth roof can be surgically corrected. More severe instances cannot. Frequently, if the cleft palate cannot be surgically closed, euthanasia is advised.
The terms "water",or "walrus", puppies refers to newborn pups afflicted with oedema varying from mild to severe. These huge, swollen, waterlogged puppies are about twice the size of normal pups, often born alive, but are weak and limp, they are heavy and look as though someone blew them up like a balloon. Bulldogs seem to have a higher than normal incidence of this affliction. Other breeds have also reported having walrus puppies, the Shar Pei, Bullmastiff, Basset, Boston Terrier and Chihuahuas. In the past, the puppies afflicted with this were put down by the vet, or failed to be resuscitated.
It is believed a high salt (bitch) diet may attribute to Walrus puppies, but the actual reason is still unknown.
Cleft lip (hare lip) results from failure of fusion of the two sides of the lip during embryonic development. It is not cosmetically appealing to owners, but does not usually cause a problem. It can be surgically corrected. It is however, usually associated with cleft palate puppies. Puppies suffering from harelip may have to be supplemented as they can't create the same vacuum for suckling the bitch as the other puppies.
A swimmer puppy moves about with both front legs out to the side of the chest, in a paddling motion. They appear to be swimming when they move, hence the name "swimmer puppy". The hind legs trail out behind with little or no movement. The description of the puppy is flat chested, flat abdomen, the front legs become warped, moving outward and upward, the hind legs become splayed. When nursing, the puppy usually arches its back extremely in a backward movement. They do not flex at the neck anymore.
The earliest way of determining if a pup has a problem is to pick up everyone of them so you know what is normal and what is not, after you have identified a couple it will become very simple.
What you will notice about these pups is that they are always lying flat on their belly. If you lay them on their side they will immediately return to lying on their belly. This is what is known as the righting reflex. You can observe this by disturbing a sleeping litter of very young puppies and watching all of them 'right' themselves. They immediately crawl upright to their stomachs and begin to look for a nipple. Many of us have seen this very thing and remarked how cute it was, not understanding what really made them seem to explode into action. The righting reflex is the FIRST RESPONSE TO NURSING AND THE CAUSE OF SWIMMER PUPPIES.
Occasionally one puppy doesn't want to return to a normal relaxed state on its side and insists or remains upright causing the flattening of the chest which, if left undisturbed, leads to swimmer syndrome and probable death.
The cure for this must be taken as soon as possible and is really quite simple. Check all the pups right after birth and every hour or so for the next couple of days. If you notice a pup that is always on its belly or beginning to show signs of a flat chest what you do is lay mom down and put this pup on a good nipple, full of milk, that is next to the floor of the nest box. It probably wont stay on the nipple at first in anything but an upright position. After it's on, hanging on for dear life, take the pup and turn it on its side, holding its entire body and head down. At first is will resist, but be firm. Make it lie on its side until it is full, making sure it stays on its side. If the pup lets loose of the nipple anytime during this process, start over. Do this several times a day until the pup returns to normal and lays on its side, when that happens you have just cured swimmer puppy syndrome. Sometimes this only needs to be done once or twice. But be vigilant until you are sure.
With this course of action you should have 100% success but remember YOU have to be very observant and very consistent.
In dogs, there are hernias involving the muscles that surround the abdomen and they are commonly found at two locations. The first site would be in the groin area on the inner surface of the rear leg - an inguinal hernia. The second site would be the 'belly button' where the umbilical cord had connected the puppy to his mother. A hernia at this location is called an umbilical hernia. In both cases, abdominal organs such as the intestines or fat pass through the opening and lie just beneath the skin.
As a note, umbilical hernias in puppies are a genetic or congenital defect in over 90% of the cases. The disorder is passed from generation to generation just like the color of the coat or the animal’s overall size. Very, very rarely are they caused by trauma or excessive pressures during whelping. Animals that have a hernia or had a surgical repair of a hernia should never be used for breeding. Additionally, those adults that produce puppies with this condition should not be bred again.
Intersusseption is the condition in which the intestine telescopes in on itself. It is a very painful and fatal condition and needs surgery to remove the necrotising intestine.
When the small intestine telescopes into itself, movement of intestinal contents is partially or completely blocked, therefore, the puppy commonly vomits. Once the gastrointestinal tract behind the intussusception empties, the animal fails to defecate. Any faecal material that is passed is jelly-like, may be bloody, and not well formed. The appetite will be greatly decreased. The animal experiences severe abdominal pain, and eventually shock and then death. Intersusseption can be diagnosed by a vet, by palation.