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Breeding and Raising Bulldogs

These are my 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 bitch.

THE DON'TS

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, and if you make some 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. My family always said that if you break

even with raising a litter of pups, then you had success. 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

means having someone to care for the pups for 24 hours a day.

BE READY 

All bitches should have their Distemper/Parvo, Lyme and Rabies 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. You want the bitch’s vaccines titers high so her pups

will get excellent passive immunity from her colostrum. I don’t like to immunize pregnant

bitches- potential issues with vaccines during pregnancy. Before she comes into

season, have her checked for intestinal worms and deworm her if necessary. This is for

the bitch's good health, but 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 breeding’s 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. We now have 6 month ProHeart heartworm medication at my practice.

SELECT A STUD  (long before your bitch is in estrus)

Read the Bulldog Standard (www.bca.org). Go to dog shows and compare your bitch 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 Northeast who have proven champion Bulldog studs. See as many

studs as possible and choose the one that fits your breeding purposes.

 

THE MATING 

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. We strongly

recommend using Progesterone tests to determine the correct time to breed. Do not be

concerned if your bitch has a bloody discharge throughout her season. This is not

unusual in bitches. We breed on the first day the progesterone test is above 6-7, 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. I 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 natural breedings. When people talk about "natural breeding" of bulldogs, they are really referring to hand breeding. This involves a “studmaster” strapping the bitch to a breeding board and physically helping the stud dog mount to mate her. We breed only by 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, progesterone tests must be done to determine the correct time to breed. This is more expensive (and accurate) than breeding by vaginal smears but is worth the cost.

Vaginal smears were standard 35-50 years ago but are now not considered accurate

enough.

NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS DURING PREGNANCY 

During pregnancy, feed your bitch a good quality food. I recommend Purina Pro-Plan,

Science Diet or Eukanuba/Iams. 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 the time the dam is

nursing pups. Do not feed generic or store brand dog food. Do not give bone meal or

any other calcium supplements. They are not needed and can be harmful. However I

recommend a multi vitamin, Pet Tabs Plus (Zoetis) before estrus and during pregnancy.

IS SHE PREGNANT? 

With a bitch that will relax and cooperate, we might be able to feel the fetuses in her

abdomen at 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 a distended belly. 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 any time after 48 days from breeding to determine pregnancy and a fetal

count. 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. A sonogram/ultrasound done at 28 days is a very accurate way to determine if

she is pregnant, but not necessarily the number of fetuses. We can schedule 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 than 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 may 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? 

A Cesarean Section is scheduled about 60 days after the last breeding. Hunterdon Hills

will make an appointment for the surgery with Dr. Westfield. Take up the entire bitch’s

food by 8PM the night before the Cesarean appointment. 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 directly. We will do the Cesarean. If your bitch starts labor during the night, weekend or holiday when our office is closed, you will need to call Dr. Westfield directly for and emergency Cesarean

surgery. Cesarean requires a full staff of personnel and Dr. Westfield has nurses on call

just in case. Labor is not nesting or passing a mucus plug. Labor is seeing her abdomen

contract and seeing her push. If you see her pass some fluid or see part of a puppy,

then this is labor and she needs an immediate Cesarean.

CESAREAN SECTIONS 

We recommend all bull bitches be delivered by Cesarean section. Bull bitches 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 bull bitch 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 (and less

expensive) than at 2 AM. 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 at

least 2-3 days 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. Call our practice and

arrange to 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. 

PUPPY CARE 

Many bull bitches are terrible mothers. It is not unusual for bull bitches to lie on pups (by

mistake) and smother them. Some bull bitches will accidentally step on a pup and kill it

or badly injury it. A few bitches 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 takes a lot of time and is labor intensive. But

bulldoggers have found that this is the best way to raise as many pups as possible. We

use a wooden whelping box. If you anticipate raising only one litter, a cardboard box will

do. Dimensions for a good whelping box can vary from 32”-48” long by 16”-30” wide and

10”-12” deep. My family had one that was square and equipped with “pig rales” on the

inside perimeter so pups could get away from the bitch and to not get squished.

Because newborn pups have undeveloped temperature regulation, they are essentially

“cold blooded” for the first few weeks of life and will take on the temperature of their

environment/room. The whelping box temperature/room temperature will need to be

about 78-80 degrees the first week, 75 degrees the second week and 72 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.

NURSING 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 mother'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 latched on to a nipple. 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/warm hand towel dipped in warm water to stimulate

elimination. Rub the pup's sides, genital area and anus with the cotton ball. Pups cannot

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 the bitch, 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 nurse. 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. 

WEANING 

Start bowl feeding the pups at about 2-3 weeks old. Put prepared Esbilac mixed with a

small amount of Gerber’s chicken or beef baby food 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. This is called “creep feeding” because the pups

“creep” up the the dish to eat. Others will take a few days to learn. When all the pups

are creep feeding well, start adding either prepared Gerber’s baby rice cereal or Purina

Puppy Chow or Pro Plan Puppy Formula to the mix. Grind the Puppy Chow in a blender

to a coarse powder. 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. CREEP FEEDING MEALS MUST BE

ALTERNATED WITH NURSING MEALS, AND SLOWLY, GRADUALLY REPLACE

NURSING MEALS WEEK BY WEEK UNTIL 6 WEEKS OF AGE.


PREVENTIVE MEDICAL CARE 

At 4-5 weeks of age, bring in a stool sample from several 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-eight weeks old.

Repeat this combination vaccination every three – four weeks till the pups are sixteen

weeks old. The last two vaccinations should also contain Leptospirosis. Rabies

vaccination can be given any time after sixteen weeks. If you have pups that did not

nurse on the bitch during the first 24 hours of life, speak with me about immunization.


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. 

REGISTRATION 

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 (blanks) for each pup to be registered. Most of this registration

paperwork is now done online with the AKC.

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