English bulldog mothers often have to have caesarean sections, which can cause problems in nursing and caring for newborn puppies. More than other breeds, the bulldog mother may need your help with nursing, feeding and weaning pups.
Bulldog Pregnancy and Birth
A typical bulldog pregnancy lasts around 63 days. The bulldog's physical shape means that many dogs are unable to give birth to their puppies without assistance -- the female bulldog's pelvis is very narrow and each puppy's head is very large. caesarean births are very common with this breed. When puppies are born by caesarean section, the mother dog does not get the full physical and hormonal cues telling her body that the puppies have been born. After a caesarean section, you will need to milk the mother dog's colostrum to feed the newborn pups. This special milk, produced only for a short time after birth, contains antibodies that are important to the health of the newborn pups. If the mother's colostrum is unavailable, you can substitute a commercial colostrum formula. Twenty-four hours after being born, the puppies can drink commercial puppy milk formula if the mother is unable to nurse. Ideally, the puppies will nurse from their mother as soon as possible after being born. Those puppies nursing within the first 12 hours after being born have the best survival chances.
In the first four to five days, newborn bulldog puppies need to nurse every two hours. It may look as though the pups are feeding more often -- or even constantly -- because not all the mother dog's teats will carry milk at the same time. As they get older, they will need to feed less frequently. Make sure that all the puppies get their turn at the teat during feeding time -- sometimes the larger or stronger pups will push aside smaller or weaker puppies.
If you are bottle-feeding the puppies, you'll need to do so every two hours, day and night, until they are 6 days old. After that, the puppies can go to a feeding schedule of six to eight feedings every day until they are 3 weeks old, and four feedings daily beyond that point. At each feeding, a puppy should receive 1cc of prepared formula milk for every ounce of its body weight.
Transition to Food
Around 1 month after birth, puppies typically start eating some soft foods, although they will continue to nurse from the mother until they reach 8 weeks old. As puppies start eating soft foods, you will need to clean out each puppy's facial wrinkles -- the puppies and the mother may be unable to clean their wrinkles completely. If soft food gets stuck in a puppy's wrinkles, it may develop infection or sores. Typically, the mother dog will start to wean the dogs between 5 weeks and 7 weeks after birth. At this point, you can start introducing hard foods such as puppy kibble.
Jae Allen has been a writer since 1999, with articles published in "The Hub," "Innocent Words" and "Rhythm." She has worked as a medical writer, paralegal, veterinary assistant, stage manager, session musician, ghostwriter and university professor. Allen specializes in travel, health/fitness, animals and other topics.