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Bulldog gets new upper lip thanks to Operation Smile surgeon

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Rocky, a 1-year old English bulldog finally has something to “smile” about now that his cleft palate has been repaired thanks to the efforts of veterinarian Dr. Sheila MacGowan, of the Hampton Veterinary Hospital in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada and Operation Smile plastic surgeon Dr. Don Lalonde, who usually travels the world correcting the congenital defect in human children.

Rocky was born with a cleft lip and a cleft in the first inch of his hard palate, which made it appear as though his mouth and nose were joined, which may have been a major cause of his being bounced around from owner to owner four times during his short life.

Correcting the defect was something his new (and hopefully) permanent family wanted to do for him, so they contacted MacGowen, who in turn reached out to her friend Lalonde.

"Both Don and his wife Jan are wonderful animal lovers, and they're wonderful people, and so I sent him an email and I couldn't have gotten a faster response if I said, 'Don would you like a million dollars?'" stated MacGowen, who added that Lalonde agreed to donate his time and surgical skills to “improve Rocky’s overall look.”

What many readers may not realize is that cleft palates are fairly common birth defects in a variety of breeds (both pure and mixed), although they are more common in dogs with large skulls and flat faces such as bulldogs. The cleft occurs while the puppy is developing in the womb when the two halves of the roof of the mouth fail to fuse properly due to several causes which may include basic genetics, as well as poor nutrition, and the mother dog’s possible exposure to certain toxins during pregnancy.

While some cleft palates involve only the upper lip and the front part of the palate; others affect the middle and back parts of the dog’s palate. Puppies born with the defect generally have trouble nursing and breathing.