BREEDING BULLDOGS AND RAISING BULLDOG PUPS
(Revised December 2006)
the recommendations of Jim Young, DVM
7508 Marbach Road , San Antonio, Texas 78227
210 673 8020
These are our recommendations for breeding Bulldogs and French Bulldogs and raising bulldog pups. Following these recommendations will help you raise as many healthy pups as possible and make the experience as easy and enjoyable as possible for both your family and your Bullbitch.
Do not try to raise bulldog puppies to make a profit. When you raise a litter, you will feel an enormous sense of having accomplished a difficult task. You will enjoy many pleasurable hours with your pups, if you also make a profit, that is fine. But go into this venture with the realization that you may do everything right and still not raise a single pup. You may be emotionally traumatized by having your favorite pup die in your hands. You may lose every dollar you spend.
Do not breed your bitch unless you are sure that you or a responsible person will be available to care for the bitch when she is ready to whelp and have time to care for the pups for the first few weeks. This may even mean having someone to care for the pups for 24 hours a day.
All bitches should have their Distemper and Parvo Virus vaccinations within the last 12 months. If you anticipate your bitch will be due for her boosters at about the time of her season or during her pregnancy, have her boosters given early before the time you expect her to be in season.
Before she comes into season, have her checked for intestinal worms and deworm her if necessary. This is for the bitch's good. It will not keep the pups from being born with worms. They will still need to be checked and dewormed.
Your bitch should be checked for heartworms within the last 12 months. She should be on heartworm prevention. There is a fairly common misconception that heartworm preventive medicine causes infertility. This is nonsense! Only 70% of all breedings result in conceptions. Some dog fanciers feel compelled to blame the 30% misses on heartworm prevention and other old wives tale explanations. Heartworm infestation and heartworm disease cause infertility. Heartworm prevention is an absolute necessity. We recommend either Heartgard or Interceptor monthly.
SELECT A STUD
Read the Bulldog Standard. Go to dog shows and compare your Bullbitch to the champions and winning dogs. Decide what your bitch's faults are. Long back, small head, narrow jaw and light bone are the most common faults. Now select a stud that does not have any of the same faults your bitch has. It is not wise to breed to a closely related dog (father, brother, uncle) except in very special circumstances. Breeding to a very good quality more distantly related relative (grandfather, granduncle) many times will produce better pups than breeding to an unrelated dog. Breed to a dog that has produced some good quality pups. A champion stud that meets the above criteria will be a better choice for stud than a non-champion.
We can provide you the names of serious breeders in the San Antonio area who have proven champion Bulldog studs. See as many studs as possible and choose the one that fits your breeding purposes
On a normal heat cycle, a bitch is ready to be mated the first time about the eighth to the thirteenth day. There is a lot of variation among bitches. Breeding according to the day of heat alone is not an accurate way of catching her at the right time. Vaginal smears can determine when a bitch is ready to breed. The cells lining the vagina change types when a bitch ovulates and is ready to mate.
Bring your bitch in for us to do a vaginal smear about the fourth day of heat for the first vaginal smear. Then we will tell you when she will need the vaginal smear checked again. Do not be concerned if your bitch has a bloody discharge throughout her season. This is not unusual in bullbitches.
We breed on the first day the vaginal smear indicates ovulation, skip a day and breed again. If there is any doubt that these were the best days, we will skip a day and breed a third time. Particularly when breeding a bitch that has failed to conceive before, it may be best to breed more than twice.
We use only artificial insemination to breed bulldogs. Artificial insemination is easier on the bitch, the dog and the person doing the breeding. The conception rate is about 70% - the same as all canine breeding. When people talk about "natural breeding" of bulldogs, they are really referring to hand breeding. This involves strapping the bitch to a breeding board and physically helping the stud dog mate her. We breed only by artificial insemination, (Breeding boards are not used in artificial insemination.)
Serious breeders who have experience artificially inseminating with their own stud are usually very capable and can do the AI at their house.
After you take your bitch home after breeding, continue to keep her away from all males for at least a week.
For any bitch that has failed to conceive on a previous breeding, we strongly recommend using Progesterone tests to determine the correct time to breed. This is more expensive than breeding by vaginal smears but is worth the cost.
NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS DURING PREGNANCY
We routinely feed our bitches one ounce of raw liver a day (one-half ounce for Frenchies) starting when they come into season and continuing until they whelp. The liver during their season increases fertility, during pregnancy reduces the chance of pups with cleft palates and makes for healthier pups with bigger livers of their own. This increases their chance of surviving any neonatal problems. Either beef, pork or venison liver is fine. Cut the liver into 1 ounce pieces and freeze them five pieces to a bag. That way you can thaw out a new bag every five days and make a pound of liver last 16 days. Some bitches will not eat liver the first day. Try again tomorrow and she will eat it. Some bitches will get loose stools from liver. Stop the liver and give cottage cheese with her food until the stools firm up and then start the liver again.
During pregnancy, feed your bitch a good quality food. We recommend Purina Pro-Plan. Feed adult dog food for the first four weeks of pregnancy, feed half adult and half puppy food (Purina Pro-Plan Puppy) the fifth week, then puppy food through the rest of pregnancy and throughout all the time the mama is nursing pups. Do not feed generic or store brand dog food. With a good quality dog food, we feed no supplements other than the liver. Do not give bone meal or any other calcium supplements. They are not needed and can be harmful.
IS SHE PREGNANT?
With a bitch that will relax and cooperate, we might be able to feel the fetuses in her abdomen at 3 to 4 weeks. From 4 to 7 weeks, there is a lot of fluid around the fetuses making it difficult to feel them. By 7 weeks, most pregnant bitches will be obviously showing it.
Almost all bitches will have some mammary enlargement 3 to 4 weeks after their season whether they are pregnant or not. If her vulva does not decrease much in size after she is out of season, she is probably pregnant.
We can x-ray the bitch anytime after 45 days after breeding to determine pregnancy. Withhold food by 8 PM the night before the x-ray and be sure she is given a chance to move her bowels before bringing for the x-ray. Let her have all the water she wants.
We can perform a Relaxin blood test for pregnancy anytime after 25 days.
A sonogram done at 28 days is a very accurate way to determine if she is pregnant. We can refer you to a veterinarian who can do a sonogram if you wish.
Even if your bitch does not look pregnant, bring her in one week before her due date for us to examine. A large bitch with only one or two pups can hide them up under her ribs and not appear pregnant. If there is any doubt, have an x-ray taken.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR DURING PREGNANCY
Do not worry about your bitch having a bloody discharge throughout her season or off and on throughout her season. If her season and discharge last longer that 3 weeks, bring her back for a check-up. She might be a bitch that just has a longer than 3 week season. Or the extended discharge might indicate an infection. If any time after her season she has a vaginal discharge again, bring her back for an exam and a white blood cell count. She could be aborting pups. She could have a minor vaginal infection or a serious uterine infection. A uterine infection needs immediate attention.
WHEN IS SHE DUE?
The Cesarean Section is scheduled 60 days after the last breeding. We will make the appointment for 8 AM. Take up all the bitch’s food by 8PM the night before the Cesarean appointment. We will also schedule an appointment for a week before the Cesarean to examine her and answer any questions you have. We can also do the pre-surgery lab work at that time.
While this 60 day schedule works almost every pregnancy, occasionally a bitch will start labor before the Cesarean Section appointment. If your bitch starts labor during our regular office hours, call us to let us know you are coming in and bring her to the hospital. We will do the Cesarean.
If your bitch starts labor during the night, weekend or holiday when our office is closed, call one of the emergency animal hospitals and take her there for the Cesarean. When you call our regular office number, the answering machine will give you the numbers of three emergency hospitals. We do not do emergency Cesarean surgery during non-office hours. A Cesarean requires a full staff of personnel that we cannot provide during non-office hours.
Labor is not nesting or passing a mucus plug. Labor is seeing her abdomen contract and seeing her push. She may pass some fluid or you may see part of a puppy. This is labor and indicates she needs her Cesarean.
We recommend all bullbitches be delivered by Cesarean section. Bullbitches have a difficult time trying to whelp naturally for a number of reasons. The pups have large heads. The bitch has a small pelvis. A bullbitch that has any breathing difficulty can find that labor is too strenuous for her. A bitch with a large number of pups can get too tired and exhausted before she has the last one. When there are only one or two pups, they are usually larger and more difficult to deliver. Many bulldog pups die during attempts at natural whelping. They could have lived if delivered by Cesarean section. A bitch that becomes exhausted trying to whelp naturally is then not a good anesthetic risk for Cesarean section. It is better to plan for a Cesarean ahead of time rather than make it an emergency procedure. It can be scheduled at a more convenient time than 2 AM some morning. Of course, saving only one pup with the Cesarean that might have been lost free whelping pays for the Cesarean.
Most bitches will start nesting a week or so before they are due to whelp. They will gather up towels or scratch in the carpet or dig a hole in the yard to make a nest. This does not mean labor is imminent. While your bitch is pregnant, she has had a mucus plug in her cervix to seal it. She will start passing this clear mucus the last week of her pregnancy. This is normal.
At the appointment for the Cesareans section, bring a box full of towels to take the pups home in and a sheet to lay the bitch on in the car on the way home. The bitch will have a heavy discharge for 3 days - red, black, green, almost any color is normal. After 3 days, the discharge should be no more than a little spotting - several half-dollar size spots a day at the most. A heavy discharge after 3 days or a brownish-red tomato soup discharge with a bad odor anytime is an indication of trouble. Bring your bitch back to the hospital.
If the bitch has any discharge from her surgery incision, wash it with hydrogen peroxide and dry it before nursing. If the incision is dry without a discharge, leave it alone. If the incision should gap open more than a quarter of an inch or if a lump develops under the incision, bring her back to the hospital.
Many bullbitches are terrible mamas. It is not unusual for bullbitches to lie on pups and smother them. Some bullbitches will accidentally step on a pup and kill it or badly injury it. A few bullbitches will intentionally harm pups. For these reasons, we keep our pups in a puppy box and put them with the mama only while nursing. An adult or older child must be there watching all the time the pups are with her to be sure she does not harm the pups. Of course, this is a lot of trouble and takes a lot of time. But bulldoggers have found that this is the best way to raise as many pups as possible.
We use a wooden puppy box. If you anticipate raising only one litter, a cardboard box will do. Our puppy box is 32 inches long by 16 inches wide and 12 inches deep. It has a Plexiglas window in the lid. There are holes in the side that can be opened for ventilation. There is a 60 watt light in one end of the box for heat. The light has a rheostat so that the heat can be controlled and adjusted.
If you use a cardboard box, you can adjust the heat by using different watt light bulbs and by moving the light closer or farther away from the box. The important thing is to have a rectangular box with the light in one end. Adjust the heat by watching where the pups stay in the box. If the pups stay right under the light, adjust the heat higher. If the pups stay in the other end of the box to get away from the heat, adjust it lower. The box temperature will need to be about 95 degrees the first week, 85 degrees the second week and 75 degrees thereafter. However, it is important to adjust the heat according to what the pups do, rather than according to the thermometer.
If pups lie on a hard flat surface all the time, they will become what we call swimmers. Their chests flatten out and their legs spread out sideways. They cannot get their legs under them. When the chests flatten they start having breathing problems. To prevent swimmers, it is important for the bottom of the box to be soft and irregular. We line the bottom of our box with foam rubber egg crate mattress pad material and cover it with towels. Two alternatives to egg crate material are rubber hot water bottles half filled with air and covered with towels or to wad up newspaper into balls to fill the bottom of the box and cover with towels.
The pups are left in the box all the time except when they are nursing. The first few days the pups should nurse every 2 hours. Put an old quilt on the floor for mama to lie on. If there is any discharge from mama's Cesarean incision, wash it off with hydrogen peroxide and dry it before putting the pups down to nurse. The first few times, squeeze the nipple to get a drop of milk to come out on it and put the pup's mouth to it. Watch to be sure all the pups get attached. Be sure the big pups do not push the little pups away.
Allow the bitch to lick the pups to stimulate urination and defecation and to clean them up. If the mother refuses to lick and clean pups, you must use a cotton ball dipped in warm water to stimulate elimination. Rub the pups' sides, genital area and anus with the cotton ball. Pups can not eliminate freely on their own for the first 2 to 3 weeks of their lives. Someone must stay with the bitch all the time the pups are nursing.
After you can see that the pups are gaining weight and are sleeping longer than 2 hours before they awaken and cry, you can start slowly lengthening the time between feedings.
If the pups are not definitely gaining weight nursing on mama, start tube feeding them. If one pup is not growing like the rest, tube feed him. Also if you tube feed, you can go a longer time between feedings than you can nursing. We will be happy to show you how and help you start tube feeding and get you the equipment you need. Tube feed Esbilac Puppy Formula. If necessary, use Similac baby formula until you can get Esbilac.
If for any reason you are tube feeding the pups exclusively, do not neglect stimulating their bowel and urinary functions. Either let mama lick them or use the cotton balls.
Start bowl feeding the pups at about 3 weeks old. Put Esbilac in a shallow bowl or pie pan. Put a pup up to the edge and spoon a little formula up to his mouth. Some of the pups will start eating on their own right away. Others will take a few days to learn. When all the pups are drinking the liquid Esbilac well, start adding Purina Puppy Chow or Pro Plan Puppy Formula. Grind the Puppy Chow in a blender to a fine meal. At first, mix just a little ground puppy chow with the Esbilac to make a thin gruel. When all the pups are eating this, gradually make it thicker.
At six weeks, offer dry Puppy Chow or Pro Plan Puppy free choice, but continue to feed Puppy Chow soaked in water four times a day.
PREVENTIVE MEDICAL CARE
At 3 to 4 weeks, bring in a stool sample from 3 or 4 pups for a worm exam.
To get as close as possible to providing complete protection for your pups from preventable diseases, follow this vaccination schedule until you place the pups in their new homes and recommend that the new owner continue this schedule:
Start vaccinations (canine distemper, hepatitis, coronavirus, Parainfluenza and Parvovirus) at six weeks old.
Repeat this combination vaccination every three weeks till the pups are sixteen weeks old. The last vaccination should also contain Leptospirosis.
Rabies vaccination can be given anytime after twelve weeks.
If you have pups that did not nurse on the bitch during the first 24 hours of life, start their five-in-one combination vaccine at 3 weeks of age.
AGE TO PLACE PUPS IN NEW HOMES
Many pups are eating well and physically ready to go to new homes at 6 weeks of age. However the time from 6 weeks to 12 weeks is a very important age for the behavioral development of the pup. During this time the pup must have both interaction with other dogs (mother and littermates) and interaction with people. Therefore 8 to 10 weeks is the best time for the pups to go to their new homes. Pups that go too early to a new home that does not have another dog in it may later in life have a fear of other dogs or be aggressive to other dogs. Pups that stay with their litter too long before being placed in their new homes may have a hard time adjusting to their new home after 12 weeks of age. If any pups are not going to their new homes by 10 weeks of age, be sure to socialize them to people. Separate them from the litter and give them individual attention for at least 30 minutes every day. All pups should have some contact with children before they are 12 weeks old so they will not be afraid of children later. Of course it is important that they are not hurt by a child early in life.
If I send prospective puppy buyers to you, that means that I have recommended you and your pups to the prospective buyer. It does not mean that I am recommending the prospective buyer to you. It is not my place to screen buyers for you. It is up to you to interview prospective buyers and determine which ones can be entrusted with your precious pups. Ask about other dogs in the household. Do they have a fenced in yard? Do they know bulldogs need to be inside air-conditioned dogs? Will they continue the vaccination series? Do they know bulldogs are generally more expensive to care for than other dogs? Is the prospective buyer buying a pup for himself or is he a broker that is going to resell the pup?
When you know the new owner is not going to breed or show, encourage the new owner to spay or neuter their pets. Spaying females prevents mammary cancer, uterine infection and accidental pregnancies. Neutering males prevents perianal cancer, perineal hernias and prostate problems.
Be sure you are satisfied that your pup is going to a loving home. Tell the new owner that if something happens that causes them to have to give up their bulldog that you will take him back or help them place him in a good home.
Have the owner of the stud fill out the sire part of an American Kennel Club registration form. Fill out the dam's part and send it to the American Kennel Club. They will send you individual forms for each pup to be registered. This takes two to six weeks.