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Frequently Asked Questions


You Ask. We Answer.

  • What is a cleft?
    A cleft is an opening or split in the roof of the mouth or lip. A cleft palate is a birth defect that occurs when the tissues of a dog's mouth and / or lip do not grow completely together. Detecting a puppy with a cleft palate can be difficult. Symptoms may include a runny nose, coughing, aspiration pneumonia (milk or food entering and infecting lungs), difficulty suckling (can't create sufficient suction) that results in slow growth and/or weight loss.

  • How do dogs get clefts?
    A cleft palate is a relatively common condition that results from the failure of the roof of the mouth (hard and soft palates) to close during normal embryological development. This leaves a "cleft" in the roof of the mouth. This can result in the puppy's oral cavity communicating with their nasal passages. Purebred dogs have a higher chance of cleft palate, specifically the brachycephalic breeds with their short stubby faces and flat snouts. Cleft palates may occur more commonly in Boston terriers, Pekingese, Bulldogs, Miniature Schnauzers, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, and Dachsunds.

  • Are dogs with clefts difficult to care for?
    Clefts are very common and easy to maintain. Often times clefts can be just a cosmetic / aesthetic issue with a dog, and the dog can live a very normal life. They just look "special" and can eat and drink like a normal dog. While dogs with cleft lips are mostly visual, dogs with cleft palates may need more help adapting. These dogs don't always need surgery, but some may just need time to adapt to eating and drinking differently. Some younger dogs will drink water out of a sipper bottle that attaches to a wall (think of what a hamster would drink out of), or they will adapt to drinking water by picking up the water and tilting their head back to drink. When a cleft is detected as a newborn, however, the puppy should be pulled from it's mother right away to avoid aspiration and / or starvation. These puppies need to be cared for by hand with tube feeding. This is why the work Crystal's Clefts does is so important, because we are hand caring and feeding from birth with most of our cases for weeks. Once they reach a certain stage as a puppy, however, there is no need to bottle / tube feed, and the new owner of one of our cleft dogs can give food and water normally.

  • Do we take dogs with other special needs?
    The rescue's primary focus is on dogs with cleft lips or palates, however, we do come across many rescue cases of other dogs with special needs. For example, we recently adopted out a puppy that didn't have any cleft, but had difficulty walking on his back legs. The breeder initially thought he was paralyzed in his back legs with possible hip dysplasia. Upon initial intake he was not walking at all on his back legs and was mostly scooting around. We gave him standard medical treatment, weeks of physical therapy and water therapy, and placed him in a foster home that dedicated a lot of time at home to strengthening his legs. His first diagnosis led us to believe he would need a wheelchair for the rest of his life. After many weeks and months of care with our rescue, we are proud to say he was able to walk on all four legs when he went to his forever home! For an update on this specific case, see our "Success Stories" page and find "Ernie" - formerly known as Seymour.

  • Why have a rescue focusing on animals with clefts?
    While every animal is worth all the love and attention in the world, puppies with cleft lips and palates at birth are at a very high risk of danger to their health. Many breeders will immediately elect to euthanize these newborns with cleft lips and palates due to them not liking the way the puppy looks and thinking they can't make a profit on them. As our rescue knows, dogs with cleft lips and palates can live a very long and healthy life with very little or even no complications at all from their cleft! It is incredibly hard to detect a puppy with a cleft palate right after birth, and if the puppy is not able to nurse on mom, it can lead to aspiration, starvation, and potentially death if the owner does not know how to appropriately feed the puppy. Our team works incredibly hard to help these puppies survive these early stages so they can live our their best dog lives with their forever homes.


How Can I Volunteer?

Contact us today to find out what we need in terms of donation, transportation, help grooming, or foster! Willing to help us with an upcoming event? Let us know and contact us today! See our "Get Involved" page for more information.

Nail Clip

How Can I Foster or Adopt?

Please fill out our foster application or adoption application to be considered. Every application is carefully reviewed before our team will approve a foster or adoption case. Please note that we also require house checks and prefer the foster and adopter to be near the Northeast Ohio area. See our "Adoptable Dogs" page for an adoption application and / or our "Get Involved" page for our foster application.

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How much of my donation directly supports the cause?

Every bit of your donation supports Crystal's Clefts and will help save each patient that comes through our rescue. Your donation will help go towards medical attention needed for each pet, their food supplies, cleaning supplies, water supplies (certain cleft animals will need to drink out of a different container), and any other miscellaneous supplies. Every little bit helps us say yes to any dogs that need a second chance. So many rescues and shelters are at capacity and unable to take in any more cases. Your donation will help us say 'yes' to saving another life. Please see our "Donate" page to make a monetary donation or find info on donating physical items that the rescue needs.

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