Most causes of pet birth defects are unknown. Trauma or extreme body temperature fluctuations, along with abnormalities to the mother’s metabolism, may be a factor. An inherited component, along with exposure to drugs or chemicals and infections, could also play a role as well. 

While common birth defects that may be obvious at birth or shortly thereafter such as cleft palates, inguinal hernia, umbilical hernia, and limb deformities other abnormalities may not show up for months or even years. 

A veterinarian should examine all newborn pets shortly after birth for a physical exam to evaluate them for birth defects that may not be visible. The veterinarian can also discuss treatment options if there are abnormalities discovered.

Limb deformities may not be obvious at birth and may not be detected until they begin to crawl or walk. Treatment for limb deformities may change as the pet grows depending on which limb is affected. Carts with wheels allow mobility, but other options such as padded braces or splints may give them independence. Sometimes surgery can assist with limb deformities. Measures need to be made to prevent self-trauma as they try to move around and walk.

Puppies and kittens with cleft palates need extra special attention to get nutrients need to grow and thrive. In most cases need to be fed with a bottle that has a long nipple that allows the food to go beyond the cleft into the back of the throat, but in front of the voice box. Severe cleft defects may need a feeding tube inserted into the stomach until surgery can be performed, which is usually around 3-4 months of age. To ensure the pet is getting the proper nutrition and growing, a weight check should be done daily. A pet not getting the proper nutrients may cause mortality.

Most birth defects will require aid from a veterinarian, either medical or surgical or combination of both. Annual checkups with your veterinarian will keep in check those late onset of defects that were not apparent at birth. Proper care including nutrition, vaccinations, heartworm preventives and love will help keep your pet happy and healthy.