Cleft Palate in Tollers
Nili Karmi (DVM/PhD student), Dr. Danika Bannasch

Cleft palate, CP, is a congenital split in the roof of the mouth (hard palate).  It has been observed in several breeds, including Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers (Tollers).  Affected puppies require surgery or are euthanized.  Without intervention, they can die from complications due to inhalation of milk and pneumonia. Puppies that survive may require hand feeding with a gastric tube until they are able to digest solid food or undergo surgery. This problem presents a significant personal and economic loss to breeders.

CP has been observed in multiple litters from the same sire though different dams.  This observation, coupled with the presence of coancestry in the affected litters, suggests an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance.  The 2002 Toller Health Coalition Report indicates a frequency of CP at 7.21 per 100 breeding females and 9.86 per 100 breeding males.  Pedigree analysis will be required to confirm the mode of inheritance.

In order to study this condition, our laboratory is currently collecting DNA samples from affected and unaffected Tollers.  DNA samples can be sent to us in the form of tissues, blood or swabs. For more information, sample collection and shipping instructions please contact Nili Karmi at


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