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Why Bulldogs Need C-Sections: the Complete Guide

Why Bulldogs Need C-Sections: the Complete Guide

Whether you are in the market to buy a bulldog as a pet or are wanting to set up a breeding operation, you may be researching the costs associated with Bulldogs.  They are expensive puppies, and during my research, I discovered that the need for C-Sections is one of the culprits.

The question is, why do bulldogs need c-sections?  Bulldogs have very large, and round skulls, but females have very small pelvic bones and birth canals, this causes intervention-free births to become a problem, therefore, requiring a c-section. C-sections are performed by experienced veterinarians and can range in cost depending on who you go to and where you live.

If you have a bulldog that is with puppies, read on to find out everything you’ll need to know about c-sections and bulldogs, including how to keep your dog healthy and comfortable during the process and why it is necessary.

Bulldogs Need C-Sections for Safe Delivery

Natural birth for bulldogs can be very dangerous for both the mother and her babies.  Due to the size of the puppies and the shape of their heads, they cannot, usually, descend properly into the birth canal.  If they do happen to make their way into the canal, they will likely get stuck.  If a licensed, trained veterinarian does not intervene, the female and puppies can die.

Before your dog has puppies, there are a lot of things an English bulldog owner needs to know about their pregnant dog. Check out this guide to taking care of a pregnant bulldog.

If a breed of Bulldog needs a C-section, there is a set of usual suspects that would cause it.  As with anything, there are no absolutes, and while one breed may have all of these issues, another breed may not.

  • Huge Round Head.  This is typically a problem for several members of the bulldog family.  Their large heads are immediately recognizable, and most dog lovers can spot a bulldog because of the round skull.
  • Flat Noses are common with types of bulldogs and can contribute to the need for a c-section due to the stress on the respiratory system.  This type of nose is called brachiocephalic and makes even the most basic exercise difficult.
  • Narrow Hips that are not as wide as the shoulders make whelping difficult for many of these Bulldog breeds simply because the puppies are likely to get stuck.

Preparing Your Bulldog For a C-Section

C-sections are not only expensive, but you need to prepare for what to expect.  Most of the time, it is important to track your female’s pregnancy and pre-schedule the c-section.  It is not wise to allow your female to go into labor naturally because the c-section turns into an emergency, which adds stress and cost to the event.

How Do I Know When The Litter is Due?

There is not much guessing involved in bulldog dues dates if you are an experienced breeder that knows how to track the female cycle.  The gestation period of a bulldog is 63 days, and the c-section window can be anywhere from 60 days to 63 days. 

There is the possibility of early labor, but very often, breeders will have veterinarians do x rays or sonograms to track the puppies and the pregnancy. It is typical that if there is a problem, it will be detected early enough for intervention.

Preparing Home

Bulldogs are not naturally good mothers and will usually require the help of the breeder or caregiver to raise healthy puppies.  So a few things need to happen to prepare a nursery area for your new brood.

  • Make a safe space for the puppies to be when they are not nursing.  This space needs to be away from children, other dogs, and sometimes the mother.
  • Gather the supplies you will need to care for the puppies once they are home.  This can include thermometers, heating pads, blankets, bottles (if the mother has problems feeding them), a notebook or printout for tracking feedings, weights, dewormings, and when they potty.
  • Ask your vet for a comprehensive list of what you may need.  They have a lot of experience and can usually give you some extra tips and tricks.

What To Do Leading Up To the C-Section

There are important things that need to be done the week before the c-section.  These things are for the comfort and protection of the female, as well as the puppies.  Your veterinarian can provide you a specific list of what they recommend. 

If they don’t give you one when you schedule your Bulldog’s c-section, ask for one on your next visit.  Veterinarians usually appreciate breeders that want to be prepared and follow instructions.   Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions and require specific answers.

  • Make sure that you do not apply and topical flea or tick prevention within the week before the c-section.  Puppies can’t have this kind of chemical on or around them before the age of 7-9 weeks of age.  There are some products that don’t recommend use on pregnant dogs at all.  Check with your vet about a product that can work for your Bulldog.
  • It is helpful to bathe your female shortly before the c-section.  Bathing will prepare her to be around the puppies, but also for the invasive surgery.  This can help prevent the spread of germs and infection, as well as save time the day of surgery.

If your Bulldog comes in for surgery covered in mud, dirt, or feces, they will have to bathe her first, which will be an added cost but also may be added stress for your dog.  Doing what you can at home beforehand is advised because dogs are, typically, more comfortable in their home environment.

  • Which brings me to my next point. Shaving the abdomen area after her bath is not necessary but can save time for the veterinarian team the morning of.  If you are comfortable and it won’t stress your female out, then I would say go for it.

 If you think she will stress out, then wait and let the vet do it the morning of.  She will be sedated at that point and won’t know what is happening.

  • Sometimes veterinarians will recommend a product that helps jumpstart the maternal instinct.  Not all providers will recommend this, but if you want it or have questions, ask your veterinarian.  It is a collar that can be purchased at a pet supply retailer.  This is an off label use of the Adaptil Collar, a pheromone releasing collar.  Talk to your veterinarian before use, as it has some side effects.
  • This is major surgery, so you can’t feed your female the morning of the surgery.  The typical time frame is no food or water after midnight.  Make sure you follow the pre-surgical instructions precisely. If you don’t, it could delay surgery or cause complications.  Your Bulldog will be intubated, and if she has anything on her stomach, she may aspirate during the surgery.  This can cause respiratory issues or possibly cause death.

She can, however, have a large meal for dinner and a late-night snack if you are concerned, she will get too hungry, as long as you pull up food and water by midnight. 

  • Prepare a laundry basket full of towels and blankets to take with you to the veterinarian. This will be used to keep the puppies warm and carry them home.  The vet will not provide these items for you, so it is advantageous to be prepared before you go.  You may also want to bring along a heating pad for the puppies, and a tarp for the mother to lay on during the trip home.  She will have discharge that you may not want on your car seats.

After Care for Mom and Puppies

The C-section itself is only the beginning of the care needed for bulldog mothers and puppies.  One of the reasons these puppies are so expensive is the time and attention needed from the breeders to make sure the litter thrives and survives.  After the surgery, there will be about 8 weeks of hands on care and supervision because bulldogs are notoriously bad mothers. 

  • The biggest threat in the early days of bringing the puppies home is the mother lying on her puppies.   She won’t do this because she doesn’t like her puppies, she simply won’t know she is doing it.  Her heavy body prevents her from feeling if she is laying on her tiny offspring.  Most breeders do not leave the mother and puppies alone until they are older, and they feel they can trust the mother.
  • Feeding difficulties are common amongst this breed.  The little flat faces can, sometimes, make nursing hard.  It is recommended that the puppies are weighed regularly.  If they are not gaining weight quickly enough, the breeder should step in and supplement with bottle feedings.
  • Postoperative care for the mother is among the most important post c-section things to keep an eye on.  It is important to make sure she doesn’t develop an infection or chew her sutures out.  What for vaginal discharge that goes longer than 2-4 days after surgery.  If she develops a fever, call your vet immediately.
  • Mammary issues such as mastitis can develop, seemingly, overnight. This is not uncommon because of the feeding issues that puppies can develop.   If they look red or swollen or are hot to the touch, a call to the vet is in order.  This condition is easily and inexpensively treated, so don’t wait if you notice a problem.
  • Sutures can be removed at 14 days post-surgery by your veterinarian. It is not recommended that you do this at home.  This a chance for the vet to make sure she is healing well and catch any problems that may be developing.  This is not an additional cost, as suture removal is usually included in the cost of surgery.
  •  He will want to see the puppies anyway since it will be time for a check up and the first deworming.   Puppies are dewormed at two, four, six, and eight weeks of age.  This prevents them from picking up any parasites from the mother or the ground.  Deworming also helps ensure that you are doing everything possible to provide buyers with healthy puppies. 

How Many C-sections Can a Bulldog Have?

C-sections are very hard on bulldogs, with that being said, it is easier than the dog trying to have a natural birth.  There is, however, a limit to the number of c-sections a bulldog can have in its lifetime.   This a major surgery, and the build of scar tissue can become problematic. 

Bulldogs can have a maximum of three c-sections throughout its life.  This may sound like a low number, but it is not recommended that any dog have more than three litters, whether they are birthed naturally or by c-section.  

Having more than the recommended three c-sections will put the dog in tremendous danger of complications, and possibly cost the life of the female and puppies.   The lifespan of a bulldog is very low as it is.  They only live to be approximately 7 years old, with the breeding age starting at 2 years of age.

With these numbers and the healthy breeding recommendations, a female should have her last litter no later than 6 years of age (if she has a litter at 2 years, 4 years, and 6 years since a year off in between is recommended).  This gives adequate recovery time for the female and will reduce the amount of scar tissue that builds up.

Have Bulldogs Always Needed C-Sections?

With the history of Bulldogs in mind, I went looking to find out if delivering puppies naturally had always been an issue. No, the Bulldogs have not always needed C-Sections.  Before the late 19th century, English bulldogs were a sturdy, fierce breed that held their own in a bullfighting ring.  They were able to have puppies on their own and didn’t go into respiratory distress at the sight of physical exertion.

When bullfighting was banned, English Bulldog enthusiasts started finding ways to breed attractive and docile attributes into these dogs.  They wanted to make them family dogs that were adored.  They succeeded.  So much so, the breed became a type of mascot for England during World War II.  This was the beginning of their health issues.  C-Sections for dogs are not as old as the birthing issues that exist in some breeds of bulldogs. 

Many dogs likely died during whelping before veterinarians started doing c-sections.  Bulldogs needing C-sections in a new problem in the last 80 years or so and developed due to breeding them more for looks than functionality.  

Do All Bulldogs Need C-Sections?

There are actually several different breeds of bulldogs, and not all of them require c-sections to have puppies. English bulldogs are the most recognizable bulldog breed and are what I think of when the word “bulldog” is said. But there are many members of the bulldog family and some that have been developed simply to improve upon the issue of giving birth.

English Bulldogs

This breed of Bulldog has a large round head, short, stocky body, and hips that are significantly more narrow than their shoulders.  All of these attributes contribute to the need for c-sections.  A conservative statistic is that 90% of bulldogs need c-sections.

  • Large Round Heads of the puppies make it very difficult for the mother to deliver them without intervention.
  • Flat Noses of the mothers cause breathing difficulties and make it very easy to stress out during labor.  This breed cannot tolerate exercise or heat either, so breeders typically don’t want to take the chance of the mother dying during labor.
  • Narrow Hips, combined with the aforementioned large heads, are a terrible combination for a natural birth. There is a large chance that the puppies will get stuck if a novice breeder does not plan for a c-section from the beginning.

French Bulldogs

French Bulldogs are a cross between the now extinct, toy bulldog, and various terriers throughout France. They have grown in popularity over the last few decades because of how cute they are.  This has created an influx of people wanting to purchase puppies, thus driving the need for breeders.

French Bulldogs do have a lower percentage of needing intervention while whelping, but not by much. According to the Journal of Small Animal Practice, over 80% of pregnant females need c-sections. The reasons that they need c-sections are similar to the English Bulldog. 

  • Large Skulls contribute to the difficulty puppies have passing through the birth canal.  This is very common in many breeds of bulldogs.
  • Flat Noses make breathing effectively difficult and cause stress to the dog during exercise or when it is very hot.  This makes the physical activity of pushing the babies out during labor, dangerous, if not impossible.
  • Narrow Hips do not allow the larger heads and shoulders of the puppies to descend correctly into the birth canal.  Many times they get stuck if the mother is allowed to go into labor naturally

The Olde English Bulldog

This is a relatively new breed of Bulldog that improves upon the health issues that the English Bulldog has. The breed was developed four decades ago to be a sturdy working dog that had limited health problems.  The frame is bigger and heavier, and they also have a longer nose to allow exercise without breathing issues.

Because of these improvements of the health concerns, these bulldogs do not need intervention during whelping like their cousins, the English Bulldog.   Breeders should expect a natural birth for small litters.  But professional breeders do use the services of a veterinarian to perform c-sections.  The main differences between the English Bulldog and the Olde English Bulldog are:

  • Longer Noses improve the ability to breathe and tolerate heat and exercise.  This feature was one of the main things the creator of this breed wanted to correct.  This takes away the need for a c-section due to respiratory issues.
  • Taller Body allows the breed to be listed as a working dog.  It also gives them the ability to live up to that title.  They like to be active, the opposite of their shorter, flat-faced cousins.
  • Wider Hips are an attribute of this bulldog breed.  Their shoulders and hips are close to the same width.  This helps with safer natural birth, along with the small heads and longer noses.

American Bulldog

The name “bulldog” here may be slightly deceptive.  While the American Bulldog is descended from the English Bulldog, they don’t resemble each other at all.  As a matter of fact, they look more like a Pit Bull Terrier than an English Bulldog.

This is a sturdy working breed that has a very short list of health concerns.  C Sections are not on that list.

  • Small Heads and Long Noses keep this breed from stressing out from exercise and heat.  There is no undue pressure on the respiratory system in any of these conditions.  This allows a female to whelp her puppies without fear of distress.
  • Tall Body is another major difference in this bulldog breed.  Their body is not compact like the English Bulldog allowing for more activity.
  • Wide Hips make it easy for puppies to get into and out of the birth canal.  This decreases the price of the puppies significantly because there are fewer vet bills related to the birth.

Alano Espanol (Spanish Bulldog)

This breed of Bulldog got its English name from its use in the Spanish bullfights.  While it is called a “bulldog,” it is truly more like a mastiff crossed with a pitbull in look and uses.  They are a working dog with a solid build.

Due to the build of this breed, whelping puppies is a safe and relatively easy process.  They are able to give birth without the intervention of a veterinarian, and mostly, without incident.  These dogs were used to help create the modern-day English Bulldog.

Campiero Bulldog

This is a Brazillian bulldog that is used on ranches with the cattle.  You could say they are the Brazillian cattle dog.  This breed is said to have descended from the original English Bulldog.  It could have been introduced during exploration by Europeans.

The look of this Bulldog is a cross between the English Bulldog and an American Bulldog, and it inherited a few of the health issues associated with those breeds, but it did not inherit the English Bulldog’s need of a C-section.

This hardy farm dog is perfectly capable of whelping puppies on her own, without human intervention.  They also tend to be good and attentive mothers.

Continental Bulldog

The Continental Bulldog, or Conti as they call it, is a relatively new breed.  This breed originated in Switzerland and was the project of an English Bulldog breeder.  Imdelda Angehrn was bothered by all of the health problems that the English breed has and wanted to improve upon those conditions.

According to Imelda Angehrn, she wanted a dog that could move freely, breathe without distress, and have puppies without the intervention of an experienced veterinarian.  She set to work and came up with the continental Bulldog.   This breed is very close to the original English Bulldog from pre 17th century.

  • This breed has a longer nose similar to what an Old English Bulldog would have had before breeders started trying to get the flat face we see today.  This allows them to breathe without incident and tolerate heat for longer periods of time.  That being said, they are still an indoor dog and do well with a fairly inactive lifestyle.
  • Their head is not as large and round as the English Bulldog.  They still have a somewhat, characteristic head, but it allows for an easier birth.  This breed was developed to have c-section free whelping.  The creator of this breed still wanted a true bulldog but also wanted safer breeding and whelping.  The Conti fits that description.
  • Taller, longer bodies make mobility much easier for this type of Bulldog. While the bodies aren’t that different from the English Bulldog, they are different enough to make a difference.  The body is more like the body of the original Old English Bulldog that fought in the bull rings. 

Can Bulldogs Get Pregnant Naturally?

Bulldogs can get pregnant on their own, but the way their bodies are shaped prevents natural breeding from being successful many times.  Even if a breeder does not want to use artificial insemination, they have to be very involved in the breeding process. One of the most recognizable characteristics of the Bulldog is their large and heavy shoulders and their small narrow hips.  

Natural breeding is difficult for many of the same reasons they need c-sections to give birth.

  • Large, heavy shoulders keep the male from tying with the female successfully.  Gravity is the enemy in this situation.
  • Narrow hips on the female end cannot stand up to the weight of the male’s shoulders. This requires breeders to be very involved if they want the dogs to breed naturally.
  • Flat faces make breathing hard and can cause respiratory distress during stressful situations or situations that cause exertion. 

This makes natural breeding difficult because the weight of the male’s shoulders tend to be too much for the hips of the female.  A breeder would have to help support the female’s hips to achieve a natural breeding session.  For this reason, along with the low success rate of natural breeding, most breeders choose to use artificial insemination.

Learn More

If you want to learn more about English Bulldogs or other types of Bulldogs, then consider checking out this Bulldog Handbook on Amazon.