Canine Semen Bank
of Columbus

Topics of Interest

Pregnancy: What to expect when your dog's expecting:

The normal length of pregnancy or gestation period for dogs is about 63 days.  Pregnancy can be detected by abdominal palpation at about three to four weeks, although using ultrasound is a more accurate method. Abdominal x-rays can be done at 45-50 days in order to count the exact number of puppies and is not considered to be harmful to the bitch or to her puppies. 

The diet for the pregnant bitch should be a high-quality commercial growth or puppy diet in order to meet her increased demand for energy, protein and minerals. Slowly increase the size of her daily amount fed so that by the last third of her pregnancy she is eating 25% more than she was fed before her pregnancy.  By the last third of the pregnancy the bitch should also be fed smaller meals more frequently (3 to 4 meals) because the enlarged uterus will prevent the stomach from expanding fully to handle larger meals.  Your veterinarian may recommend pre-natal vitamins, however, giving additional calcium during pregnancy may actually predispose the bitch to eclampsia and is not recommended.  Excessive vitamins may also be harmful to the developing puppies. Your veterianarian may recommend calcium supplementation after whelping for dogs with large litters or those who have previously had eclampsia.

During the last week of pregnancy it is recommended to take the dog's rectal temperature twice daily as a temperature drop coincides with the prewhelping drop in progesterone.  The dog's normal rectal temperature is about 100 to 102.5 degrees F,  and the temperature may drop to 98 to 99 degrees prior to whelping.  This drop in temperature is generally followed by labor in 12 to 24 hours. 

Three stages of labor:

Stage 1 - In this stage the uterus begins to contract and cervix starts to dilate.  The bitch may appear to act restless or begin panting, and she will generally stop eating or experience vomiting.  The bitch may also exhibit nesting behavior.  This stage of labor may last from 6 to 24 hours and ends with the cervix fully dilated and ready to allow the first puppy to pass through the birth canal.  

Stages 2 and 3 - Stage 2 ends with the passing of each puppy and stage 3 ends with the passing of the placenta and afterbirth.
Occasionally a bitch may pass 2 puppies followed by two placentas and this not considered a problem.  Stages 2 and 3 will alternate until the bitch is finished passing all of her puppies. 

If a puppy is passed still covered within it's membrane sac this needs to be removed in order to prevent the puppy from suffocating.  The mother may do this herself by chewing or licking the sac.  If she hasn't done this within a few seconds after birth you will need to intervene and do this yourself. Carefully remove the sac with your fingers and then rub the puppy with a clean towel in order to stimulate the puppy to breathe.  If the umbilical cord is still attatched you should tie a piece of clean thread or dental floss across the umbilical cord about an inch from the puppy and then cut the umbilical cord on the opposite site of the knot away from the puppy (see illustration).

Generally puppies tend to be born about 45-60 minutes apart, with 10-30 minutes of hard straining.  Sometimes the bitch may rest between puppies and may not strain at all for up to 4 hours between puppies.  If the bitch strains for more than one hours without resting without producing a puppy or takes a break for more than 4 hours between puppies (when it is known that there are more puppies yet to pass), a veterinarian should be consulted.

It is normal for a bitch to have a ordorless vaginal discharge that may be dark green, red-brown, or somewhat bloody and this may be intermittantly present for up to 6 weeks.  If the bitch has a foul smelling discharge and/or other signs of illness such as a fever or lack of an appetite or lethargy, she should be seen by a veterinarian.   


                        The Puppies are Here!

Newborn puppies need to do two things- eat and sleep.  Many times it seems the more anxious the owners are the more "special" things they try to do to help the pups.  In doing so, they generally cause more stress and harm to the pups.  Many factors can contribute to puppy loss such as genetic problems, environmental problems (too hot, too cold), infection, lack of nutrition, parasitism, etc.  The best anyone can hope to do is control the factors that you can and let mother nature handle the rest.

Helpful Hints

Weigh the puppies when they are born and make sure you have a way to identify each of them.  Daily weight gains of 5 to 10 % of birth weight are expected in puppies.  Usually puppies will have doubled in their first week of life.  Keep a log of each puppies daily weight.  Dividing your litters into nursing groups, placing stronger puppies together and weaker puppies together helps prevent smaller pups from getting pushed aside.  Should you notice a problem with a pup's weight gain, consult your veterinarian to discuss options such as tube feeding.

Check newborn pups to make sure they do not have a cleft palate (split in roof of mouth).  These pups will often have milk bubbling out of their nostrils.  Also, make sure that each pup has a normal and open anus and can pass stool.  Watch for any nasal or ocular discharge, or "puffiness" under the eyelids that could indicate an infection.

Make sure all puppies nurse as soon as possible.  They obtain what is called passive immunity by nursing the first milk called colostrum.  The antibodies are present in the milk and in the highest concentrations for the first 12 hours only.  Should a puppy not get any colostrum your veterinarian can collect serum from adult dogs and inject it subcutaneously to help give the pups immunity to fight infections.

The number one cause of puppy death is chilling.  A cold puppy quickly weakens and loses it's ability to nurse.  Most experts agree that for the first week of life the room temperature should be around 87 to 90 degrees F.  Incubators, heat lamps, and circulating water pads are best.  Heating pads can be used, but should always be set to "low".  Always heat only about half the puppy space so that they can crawl away from the heat if they become too warm.  Normal body temperature for a puppy is 97F (range 95-99) for the first week of life.  The second week of life the body temperature raises to 97-100F.  By the fourth week of life a puppy will be that of a normal adult (100 to 102.5F).  Overheating puppies will result in dehydration and possibly death.  Normal vital signs for a puppy are a heart rate of 200 per minute and a respiratory rate of 15 to 35 breaths per minute.

If a puppy is not nursing it may benefit from tube feeding.  Consult your veterinarian if you have never tube fed to learn proper techniques for administering.  Make sure a puppy is warmed to at least 94F before feeding as a cold pup's bowels are not able to function or absorb the nutrients.  While mother's milk is best, the next best alternatives are commercial milk replacers such as KMR and Esbilac.  Cow's and goat's milk ARE NOT RECOMMENDED because they are much lower in fat and protein and much higher in lactose than a bitch's milk.  For determining volume to tube feed, dose 60ml/lb/day for the first week, 70ml/lb/day the second week, 90ml/lb/day the third week, and 100ml/lb/day 4th week.  This total volume per day should be divided into feedings given every 2 to 3 hours round the clock (divide by 12 or 8 respectively for each feeding).  By the third and fourth week, puppy food can be soaked in milk replacer and turned into a mash.  Allow puppies to suck the mash off your finger then lead them to a small platter containing the mash.

Parasites can still be a problem even if the bitch has been wormed and shows no sign of infection.  Roundworm and hookworm eggs become encysted in the bitch's muscles and become activated during pregnancy and lactation.  Hook worms and round worms will cross the placenta to infect the pups.  Hook worms will also be transmitted via the milk through nursing.  Puppies can be safely wormed with pyrantel pamoate (Strongid) starting at 2 weeks of age and dosing every 2 weeks until weaned.  Always have a fecal sample checked to make sure no other parasites are present such as coccidia or whip worms which require different medications.

While vaccination schedules for adult dogs have been adjusted based on new immunology research, the schedule for puppies is still the same.  In general, start with a booster series at 6 to 8 weeks of age and booster every 3 to 4 weeks until the pups are 16 weeks old.  Consult your veterinarian to determine which "combo-booster" is ideal for your breed and kennel.


                                  English Bulldogs

English Bulldogs belong to a group of dogs know as "brachiocephalic" breeds or "short-nosed" breeds.  Since dogs do not sweat to cool themselves as people do they rely on panting to help expel excess heat.  The short nosed breeds cooling mechanism and air transfer is much less than other breeds making them very prone to over heating, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. 

Temperament can also play a role in over heating.  The very excitable Bulldog, or the under socialized Bulldog that gets nervous or "worked-up" is at a higher risk for breathing problems.  Through excessive panting or barking Bulldogs can actually cause edema (swelling) to their throats and larynx causing severe respiratory distress.  Start early with your puppy to get them used to different types of situations involving crowds, children, multiple dogs, veterinary hospitals, dog shows,  etc. so they accept these as a normal part of  their life.  Many "old time" Bull dog breeders carry  lemon juice to squirt in their dog's mouth to help clear their throats.  Lemon juice is actually considered a mucolytic and is excellent at clearing mucus- so this might be worth a try if your pet has problems.

In certain individual Bulldogs the breathing problems are more pronounced and is known as "Brachiocephalic Syndrome."  The first component of this is pinched nostrils (stenotic nares).   The openings to the nostrils in these dogs can be no more than slits.  Air sounds can frequently be heard with each breath.  If you pinch your own nostrils and try to take a deep breath you will experience a feeling of negative pressure down near your larynx or voice box.  This negative pressure does several things.  It stretches or pulls on the soft palate which is the soft tissue just behind the hard palate (hard roof of the mouth).  This condition is known as an elongated soft palate.  These dogs will make excessive snorting or snoring noises.  Often you can feel strong vibrations when lightly cupping your hand over the underside of their necks.  Sometimes too, they will regularly spit up white frothy foam that becomes trapped in their throats.  Pinched nostrils and elongated soft palates often go together and can only be helped by surgery.  The nostrils can be opened with a "wedge resection" to remove tissue and create a wider opening.  This can be done with very little scarring and the sooner it is performed on puppies the better.  The soft palate is best shortened using a C02 laser.  Lasers cause less swelling, bleeding, and pain allowing the pet to be discharged the same day.  The benefits of these surgeries can be dramatic, and are greater in younger animals as compared to a dog that has been having problems for several years.

Two other components of the syndrome are everted laryngeal saccules and a hypoplastic trachea.  The saccules are located down within the openings of the trachea or windpipe.  The negative pressure formed higher in the airways causes a sac on either side to get sucked out into the airway with every breath.  These appear almost as little balloons and further occlude the airflow.  These dogs are usually the ones that have had ongoing problems left untreated.  They tend to have trouble breathing with the least amount of activity or excitement.  The saccules should be excised (cut out) to correct the condition.  The last feature of the syndrome known as hypoplastic trachea simply means a very small trachea.  Nearly all Bulldogs have a smaller diameter trachea (windpipe) than other dogs.  The hypoplastic trachea is excessively narrowed even to the point of collapsing.  It is often no wider in diameter than a pencil in a full grown dog.  This creates the problem of creating additional negative pressure from the trachea making dogs more prone to aspiration (inhaling food into the lungs).  Aspiration then causes pneumonia which the smaller trachea then makes more difficult to clear.  No specific treatment exists for hypoplastic tracheas.   All of these conditions are complicated by a dog that is too heavy!  DON'T LET YOUR DOG GET TOO HEAVY.

Eye Conditions

Bulldogs are are  prone to several eye conditions.   The most common is known as "cherry eye" or more properly called prolapse of the gland of the nictitans. This appears as a red, swollen mass appearing out of the inside corner of the eye.  The function of this gland is to make tear fluid.  The correct method for repairing this problem is to replace the gland back to its proper position. 

Keratitis Sicca, also known as "dry eye", results from not enough tear fluid production.  A dry eye often becomes infected and develops a black pigment across the cornea and can result in blindness if left untreated.  Cyclosporine drops is the most commonly prescribed treatment.  Opthalmologists believe that an increase in dry eye occurs when cherry eyes are cut out instead of repaired.

Entropion/ Ectropion is the rolling in/ rolling out of the upper and lower eyelids.  This is commonly an inherited problem.  The result is that hairs rub on the eyes and cause irritation resulting in corneal ulcers (scratches).  These are best repaired surgically to correct the respective problem.

Ectopic cilia/Dystichia are hairs that grow out from along the eyelid margins or from within the conjunctiva of the eye.  These can cause irritation and corneal ulcers.  These can be treated either with cryosurgery or laser surgery.  It is not uncommon to need several treatments to resolve the problem.

Joint Conditions

Bulldog's hip xrays will never win any awards for conformation.  What would be considered "awful" hips on almost any other breed will be acceptable on a bulldog.  Occasionally, we do run into a bulldog whose hips are without acetabulums (sockets) and these dogs do show clinical problems.  Luxating patellas (knee caps) are also seen with the breed.  This can be the slipping of the knee cap either to the medial (inside) or lateral (outside) of the normal groove.  Bulldogs can also tear their anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL's).  A full tear will generally require surgery while many Bulldogs with partial tears seem to do well with rest.

Hemivertebrae are much less common and usually found as an incidental finding on xrays.  Hemivertebrae are vertebrae that are shaped more like triangles than blocks.  A more serious problem known as spina bifida involves deformities to the caudal aspect of the spinal column.  The significance of these lesions can be from mild to severe.

Ingrown or corkscrew tails can become a serious problem.  The tail grows backwards and down creating a deep crevice that can become painful and infected.  In severe cases the tails need amputated.  Milder cases require attention to keeping the area clean and dry to maintain the pet's comfort.

Skin Conditions

The most common concern to Bulldog owners is keeping the face wrinkles clean and dry.  Many people have success with baby wipes, corn starch powder, neo-predef powder, or if a yeast infection exists malaseb pledgets.  The staining seen in the white face is many times caused by the iron in the tear fluid.  For adult dogs tetracycline binds up the iron and helps temporarily for severe staining.  This is NOT for use in puppies and will damage their teeth.

Another disorder seen in Bulldogs is the loss of hair on each side over the flanks.  While hypothyroid (low thyroid) should be ruled out with a blood test, what we see more commonly is known as seasonal flank alopecia.  This is the loss of hair over the flanks usually associated with winter and shorter daylight.  Biopsy can confirm this and the condition is not serious and usually self limiting.  Some have seen results giving 6 mg of melatonin orally each day.

The ears are part of the skin, so make sure to keep them clean and free of yeast.  This is not unique to Bulldogs but is very important to their health.

Heart Defects

Most severe murmurs can be heard at 6 weeks of age.  These can include ventricular septal defects, pulmonic stenosis, aortic stenosis, and valve problems.  Some mild murmurs are "innocent" and go away as the puppy grows.  Any murmur heard can be better diagnosed with a cardiac ultrasound usually performed by a veterinary cardiologist.

Breeding Bulldogs 

So, after you have cleared your Bulldog of every condition mentioned previously  (does this dog exist?!) you can consider breeding them.  Most breeders of Bulldogs use artificial insemination as opposed to natural mating.  This prevents a long "tie" which could result in overheating in one or both of the dogs.  While the bitch is pregnant watch closely for signs of excess water retention.  This can be picked up by ultrasound.  Some breeders also note a shiny purple appearance around the nipples as a warning sign.  Low sodium diets have helped anecdotally from some of our breeders as well as prescribing hydrochlorthiazide as a diuretic (see your vet).  A condition exists called "Anasarca" or Congenital Lethal Edema which results in puppies that are swollen many times normal size and weight (nicknamed walrus puppies).  These puppies are too large to deliver and while born alive, they seldom live more than several hours.  The cause is currently not known.  Because of the increased risks in delivery for Bulldogs, many breeders elect to have cesarean sections.  We have had excellent success using Propofol, Isoflurane, IV fluids (0 .9 saline or 2.5 % dextrose) and glycopyrrolate (does not cross blood brain barrier like atropine).  The most important factor for the puppies is aspirating off excess fluid from the lungs with a bulb syringe.

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