The French bulldog is descended from English bulldogs but was bred not for working or bullbaiting but to be a companion dog. An affectionate and playful dog, the French bulldog is also high-maintenance; it has more health issues than other breeds, including vertebral malformations, respiratory difficulties and reproductive issues. Difficult to breed naturally, French bulldogs require an immense commitment from a breeder of both time and money to successfully raise puppies.
Should you breed?
The French Bulldog Club of America was established in 1897 to promote the breed and establish standards for the dogs. Today, the Club educates the public about "Frenchies" and offers recommendations for those interested in breeding their dogs. In particular, the Club suggests an owner look at their dog's health, genetics and temperament before making the decision to breed. The Club strongly encourages breeding only for the purpose of advancing the breed, due to the difficulties associated with breeding Frenchies.
A Frenchie bitch is subject to several reproductive issues and should never be bred before her second heat cycle or the age of 2. French bulldogs are susceptible to brucellosis, an infection of the reproductive tract, sometimes contracting the infection during a heat cycle. Therefore, a bitch should be screened both before and during the heat cycle and prior to breeding.
French bulldogs often have difficulty whelping naturally, so it is very important to know the due date for the puppies. The gestation period is 63 days from the date of ovulation in the bitch. Through progesterone screening tests, the exact date of ovulation can be pinpointed. Breeding is often accomplished through artificial insemination with fresh, chilled or frozen semen. For bitches who have difficulty conceiving, a veterinarian may elect for surgical artificial insemination.
A veterinarian can determine if a bitch is pregnant through palpation or ultrasound in 26 to 28 days. A relaxin blood test can be used after 31 days. Food intake of the Frenchie mother should be increased up to twice the normal amount during pregnancy and she should be taken off of any medications. In the final week of pregnancy, an X ray should be taken to count the puppies and determine if their heads are small enough to pass through the birth canal.
The process of birthing the puppies is known as whelping and is rarely done naturally with French bulldogs. The large size of the heads and the small size of the birth canal make natural delivery very risky. A caesarean section is a common elective procedure performed to deliver Frenchies; the surgery is routine but requires several staff members in addition to the surgeon to resuscitate the pups as they are delivered.