French bulldog with cleft lip helps kids with facial differences

20.09.2013 13:41

With a Facebook page nearing 100,000
followers, Lentil the dog is a popular
pooch. He is a 5-month-old French
bulldog, weighs 10 pounds, and was born
with a cleft palate and cleft lip . Lentil
was one of four puppies in his litter, all
of which were born with facial defects.
Only he survived. However, because of his
birth defects, he was unable to eat or
drink on his own, getting his food through
a tube every few hours, CNN reports .
The French Bull Dog Rescue Network of
Philadelphia stepped in. A team of
volunteers provided care around the clock,
ensuring that he was getting adequate
nutrition. The biggest danger was that
food or liquid could go in through his
deformed palate and end up in his lungs.
Lindsay Condefer was the volunteer that
created the care plan for Lentil. Condefer
eventually started a blog as well, hoping
to create awareness about these
deformities in animals.
As he grew stronger, his blog turned into
a Facebook page that gained immense
popularity. The University of
Pennsylvania Veterinary School was
eventually able to perform surgery. The
Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service
repaired the cleft palate. However,
repairing the cleft lip was only a cosmetic
procedure, so the surgeons opted to only
address the palate.
The veterinary school then saw an
opportunity to help kids suffering from
similar conditions. Pairing kids up with
animals that have the same condition is a
form of pet therapy. Both the human and
the animal are going through the same
condition, including some of the same
medical procedures. With a pet the child
can relate to, it helps the child feel more
normal. With annual estimates of 4,437
babies born with a cleft lip and 2,651 of
them born with a cleft palate, these
animals can help a lot of people.
Using dogs for therapy is not new to
craniofacial abnormalities. An article in
the National Geographic discussed how
dogs provide emotional and psychological
support. After the Newtown tragedy, for
example, “comfort dogs” were brought in
to help. Children that were unable to
speak to an adult often opened up to a
dog, sharing what they went through and
how they felt. Learning to train and work
with a dog has also been shown to have
therapeutic benefit for special-needs
individuals. Finally, a reading
development program provides dogs to
listen to children reading aloud . This is
a low-pressure way for children to get in
much needed practice without feeling like
their audience is going to judge them.