General guidelines for raising puppies




Bulldog litters

The number of puppies in a Bulldog litter can vary from 1 to12, but more often in the region of 4 to7. Smaller litters are usually easier to raise than larger ones and litters with puppies of equal size is preferable to litters where the puppies vary in size. All puppies with visible congenital defects (e.g. cleft palates, walruses) should be euthanazed without exception.


Reviving newborn puppies

Once a puppy has been removed from the mother’s uterus during a caesarian, somebody with the necessary experience should revive it instantly. Firstly the umbilical cord is tied close the puppy's stomach, the excessive part cut off and the stump of the cord disinfected with iodine. The nose and mouth should be cleared of fluid and mucous by cotton swabs. A gentle, controlled, downward swing of the puppy helps to clear fluid from the upper airways by centrifugal force. The puppy is then rubbed vigorously in a towel to remove any wetness and to stimulate breathing. If a puppy does not breath by itself at this stage, a respiratory stimulant (e.g. Dopram) can be administered under the tongue to induce breathing. Proper breathing is one of the most crucial factors in the survival of a Bulldog puppy and should receive great attention. 


Environmental temperature

Regulation of the body temperature of a newborn puppy is poor for the first 8 days of life and does not become fully effective until about 3 weeks of age. The puppy should therefore be protected against draughts and cold. It is preferable that the whole whelping room should be warmed instead of only the whelping box. Recommended ambient temperatures in a puppy room are as follow:

1st week:  29˚C ± 1˚C

2nd week: 27˚C ± 1˚C

3rd week: 25˚C ± 1˚C

4th week: 23˚C ± 1˚C

If the temperature is too high, the puppies will start breathing faster and with open mouths, the skin colour will become more red and they will spread out to try to cool down. If the temperature is too low, they will all bundle together in one corner to find warmth and some may whine continuously. A healthy, happy puppy will spend 90% of its time sleeping and will occasionally twitch an ear or a muscle, which is an indication of normal healthy growth of the muscles and nervous system.


Feeding & nursing

It is very important that puppies should drink their first portion of milk, called colostrum, within a few hours after birth as the puppy can only absorb the antibodies in the colostrum for a limited time after birth. The antibodies are essential for the protection of the puppy against viral and bacterial infections during their first few weeks of life.

The following is a general guideline for feeding intervals of puppies up to 3 weeks old, bearing in mind that various factors like the number of puppies in a litter, the size of the puppies and the milk production of the bitch could necessitate adjustment to this intervals: 

1st week – every 3 hours

2nd week – every 4 hours

3rd week – every 4 hours.

In the case of a large litter or low milk production of the bitch, a surrogate milk product can be used to supplement the bitch’s milk, but remember that there is no real substitute for mother’s milk and puppies should drink on the bitch for as long as possible. The normal weaning age for Bulldog puppies is 6 weeks.

The colour and consistency of a puppy’s stool (faeces) can be very helpful to determine the feeding intervals or the quantity of milk intake.  The stool of a normal, healthy puppy is dark brown with a consistency similar to that of toothpaste. When the stool becomes more watery, it is usually a sign that the puppy drinks too much. If this continues for some time, the colour of the stool changes to a more pale and eventually a grayish colour, which indicates that the enzymes of the puppy, which is needed for digestion and absorption of milk, has been depleted. This can be rectified by increasing the feeding periods and/or decreasing the actual feeding time.


Cleaning of puppies

After each feeding, the bitch has to lick each puppy’s perineal region in order to stimulate urination and defecation. A little bit of margarine on this area will encourage a young bitch to lick the puppy and in doing so, to learn this duty. If for some reason the bitch cannot or will not lick the puppy, a wettened piece of cotton can be used to simulate the licking of the bitch. If this activity is not done regularly with each feeding, a puppy may become constipated, show colic symptoms and eventually die if not treated in time. Suspected constipation can be treated by gently squirting 3-5 ml of lukewarm water or liquid paraffin with a syringe into the anus of the puppy.


Weight of puppies

The weight of a puppy can be used to monitor the normal growth and health of the puppy. Birth weight should be doubled within 10 to 12 days and puppies showing no weight gain or a loss of weight, indicates a problem. The following table is only a rough guide for the average weight of normal, healthy Bulldog puppies:  


± 450 gr

1 week old

 ± 650 gr

2 weeks old -

± 1,0 kg

3 weeks old -

± 1,2 kg

4 weeks old -

± 1,7 kg

5 weeks old -

± 2,3 kg

6 weeks old -

± 3,2 kg

7 weeks old -

± 3,6 kg

8 weeks old -

± 4,0 kg







Vital statistics of healthy, growing Bulldog puppies

  • Respiratory rate: 15 – 35 per minute
  • Heart rate: At birth – 140/min; up to 2 weeks – 220/min and after 2 weeks: 160 –180/min
  • Rectal temperature: Newborn to 1 week: 35 -37,2˚C; 2-3 weeks: 37,2 – 37,8˚C; older than 4 weeks: 37,8 – 39,0˚C
  • Temperature control: starts on 4th day, fully effective at 3 weeks of age.
  • Shivering reflex: begins at 8 days
  • Eyes open at 10 – 12 days of age
  • Ears open at 13 – 15 days of age
  • Ability to stand at 10 days of age
  • Voluntary control of urination & defecation at 16 – 21 days of age
  • Muscle contractions (twitching): first 4 weeks.


The lactating bitch

The lactating bitch should get a well-balance dog food together with a calcium supplement which should be given strictly according to manufacturer’s instruction, as excessive calcium can cause serious health problems in puppies. Between feedings, the bitch should be taken away from the puppies to avoid injuries to the puppies. Before each feeding, the stomach area and teats of the bitch should be washed with a mild antiseptic (e.g. diluted Miltons) and properly dried before the puppies are allowed to dring. At every feeding session, the puppies should drink from all the teats of the bitch to prevent swelling and infection of the udder.


Vaccination and deworming

Bitches that are adequately vaccinated before breeding can transfer protective antibodies to the fetus during pregnancy and after birth to the puppy through the milk (colostrum). These antibodies will protect the newborn puppy against potential infections for some time after birth. The puppy’s level of antibodies gradually decreases with time until it drops below a minimum protection level and consequently the puppy becomes fully susceptible again to infections. At this stage the puppy’s immune system must be stimulated by vaccination for future protection against infections. The breeder is advised to consult with his/her vet on an effective vaccination programme for a litter. A puppy must never be allowed to leave a kennel for at least 10 days after it has been vaccinated, which is the minimum time for a puppy to acquire immunity after vaccination.

Puppies should be dewormed with an effective broad-spectrum anti-helmintic from the age of 4 weeks, repeated every month to the age of 4 months, and once every 3 months thereafter. While the puppies are still drinking on the bitch, she must be dewormed simultaneously with the puppies.


Fading puppies

The syndrome whereby puppies, apparently normal and healthy at birth, fail to thrive and eventually die, is commonly called the fading puppy syndrome. Puppies are very vulnerable to any form of stress because of their immature immune, cardiovascular (heart) and respiratory (lungs) systems at birth. Factors such as chilling, malnutrition, congenital abnormalities, trauma and infection have consistently proven to be fatal to puppies, especially in the first 2 weeks of life when nearly 80% of puppy mortalities occur.

 Enteritis and pneumonia is the two most common diseases in puppies and also responsible for most mortalities. Enteritis (infection of the intestines) is caused by various viruses and bacteria and is precipitated by poor hygiene, lack of sufficient immune protection, ingestion of too much milk, change in diet or other stress factors. The main symptom is diarrhoea, which can vary from watery to mucoid to haemorrhagic, followed by dehydration, emaciation, weakness and death. Low ambient temperature, a draught or a common cold (viral infection) can cause infection of the upper respiratory system. If it is allowed to progress, it can develop into a bacterial infection of the lungs (pneumonia).  Symptoms include nasal discharge, rapid and difficult breathing and a moist cough. Inhalation of milk by Bulldog puppies is quite common and can rapidly develop into a fatal pneumonia. Novice breeders are advised to make us of a vet with sufficient experience in the treatment of puppies and to always react swiftly to any signs of disease.

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