UC Davis oral surgeons repair kitten’s severe cleft palate

dvm360dvm360 May 2023
Volume 54
Issue 5
Pages: 21

Chouchou successfully recovers despite potential risks associated with surgery

Chouchou, a male Persian kitten, was born with a severe cleft palate (unfused mouth roof), so it was known early on it would be challenging for him to survive. Fortunately, a local veterinarian phoned Hannah Shaw, “the Kitten Lady,” founder of the Orphan Kitten Club, who willingly agreed to take in Chouchou with the understanding of the complexities he would face as he reached the time to undergo corrective surgery. Chouchou (pronounced “shoe shoe”) was named after his small size (0.13 pounds), and the fact he was so small that he was brought to Shaw in a shoe box.

Chouchou at home taking in some fresh air from his outdoor catio following his cleft palate surgery at the UC Davis veterinary hospital (Photo courtesy of @kittenxlady Instagram).

Chouchou at home taking in some fresh air from his outdoor catio following his cleft palate surgery at the UC Davis veterinary hospital (Photo courtesy of @kittenxlady Instagram).

“I like taking on cases that are big challenges or are unprecedented,” stated Shaw, in a UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine release.1 “In Chouchou’s scenario, we had a lot of cards stacked against us, but it was a ‘one day at a time’ thing.” For 6 months, Shaw tube fed Chouchou until he was big enough to visit UC Davis for a consultation with the Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service (DOSS).

In cases, such as Chouchou’s, where cleft palates are significantly extensive, they are difficult to repair because of the lack of available tissues to assist the repair and the high risk of failure. Despite the potential risks, the DOSS team consulted with Shaw, and attempted to repair her kitten’s cleft palate. “What I appreciate about UC Davis is its willingness to explore uncharted territory,” added Shaw, in the release. “And doing that with the best information and research possible. That willingness to not just say, ‘We haven’t done this before, so we can’t.’”

According to the release,1 repairing a cleft palate typically is a 2-stage process. The first stage consists of surgical planning and then extraction of several teeth to increase the amount of soft tissue available for repair of the palate. DOSS’ preparations included the use of CT scan for better visualization of the defect and then using that technology’s images to 3D print a model of Chouchou’s skull, mandible, and teeth.

DOSS faculty members Boaz Arzi, DVM, DAVDC, DEVDC, FF-AVDC-OMFS, and Stephanie Goldschmidt, DVM, in addition to resident Elias Wolfs, DMV, successfully completed the first stage on Chouchou without complication, removing 8 teeth. While Chouchou healed from the extractions, the surgeons did a more in-depth study of the CT images and 3D printout and planned the second stage of the process, the corrective surgery.

Three months later, Chouchou returned to the UC Davis veterinary hospital and was prepared for surgery by the Anesthesia Service. The surgery included both hard and soft palate repairs, both of which were successful. Chouchou was hospitalized for 7 nights, including the first night in the Intensive Care Unit, until he got the OK to be discharged.1

At a 1-month recheck, Chouchou’s palate defect was mostly healed. When he was under anesthesia at that time, the hospital’s Access To Care Program neutered, microchipped, and vaccinated him.

Now its 4 months post-surgery, and Shaw said that Chouchou continues to recover well and is eating mainly wet food, along with some initial feedings of kibble. “We had such a great experience working with Drs Arzi, Goldschmidt, and Wolfs and their entire team,” she expressed. “The Orphan Kitten Club is all about finding other innovative minds who have the compassion and propensity to explore these uncharted cases and treatment modalities to see what’s possible.”1

Shaw continues to foster Chouchou as he recovers and faces other health complications.


Oral surgeons correct kitten’s severe left palate. News release. UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. March 26, 2023. Accessed March 30, 2023. https://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/news/oral-surgeons-correct-kittens-severe-cleft-palate

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