Medically reviewed by Dr. Erica Irish, DVM
If you’re waiting to receive your French bulldog puppy from a breeder, you likely don’t need to know how to care for a newborn puppy.
However, if you’re whelping French Bulldog puppies for the first time, the following information is critical.
Normally, the mother is the sole source of warmth and sustenance for the new puppies.
Unfortunately, there are situations where she lacks the maternal instinct, or simply has health issues.
Two examples of health issues that may affect the mother include hypocalcemia and hypoglycemia.
This post is designed to help you understand what to do and how to do it. The first eight to 12 weeks are vital for healthy, happy puppies.
Birthing Risks of a French Bulldog
French bulldogs cannot get pregnant naturally because of the way they are bred.
If you have a pregnant Frenchie, chances are she was artificially inseminated. The French bulldog’s large head and broad chest means the puppies are not going to be born easily via natural birth.
The risk to the whelping mother and her puppies is very high. This is why French bulldog mothers typically require a caesarean section to safely deliver her pups.
For this purpose of this post, we’ll assume the puppies have just been born.
Although the mother naturally knows what to do, there could be times when she needs a little help. This is where you come in.
Preparing for Newborn French Bulldog Puppies
The first weeks of life for a new puppy are critical.
Sadly, difficulty whelping, congenital or genetic defects, environmental factors, and other health problems can lead to death.
This is why responsible breeders usually arrange to have their dogs delivered by C-section.
It’s not impossible for a Frenchie to have her pups naturally, but the majority will need to have a C-section for their own safety and the safety of their pups.
Long before the time comes to schedule a C-section, a responsible breeder will ensure the mom is up-to-date on preventative care before she even becomes pregnant.
Before the French bulldog puppies arrive, it’s a good idea to have some emergency supplies on hand, including:
A standard laundry basket can be used to keep puppies warm. If the mother shows any signs of aggression toward the puppies, they need to be moved away from her. A laundry basket may be a good temporary spot.
The basket should have plenty of blankets or soft fabric. It should be kept in a slightly darker and quiet place, away from heavy foot traffic. It’s also important to to avoid drafty areas.
The mom should be able to get in and out of the basket easily. She should also have enough room to stand up and turn around.
Bottle feeding may be required if a puppy doesn’t seem to be getting enough nourishment or hydration.
Normally, the mom provides plenty of milk for the newborn pups. However, she may reject the puppies or the puppies may not all have a good sucking reflex.
New owners not familiar with newborn puppies should watch for signs that a puppy isn’t eating enough. Reasons for this may include:
- unable to suckle properly
- a large litter of puppies may make it difficult for weaker pups to get to a nipple
- the mom isn’t well and it’s producing enough milk
Read: 5 Exciting Signs Your Dog is About to Give Birth
When You May Need to Step In
If the mom rejects the pups, or they don’t start nursing in that first hour or two, you will need to step in with feeding.
It’s a good idea to keep puppy formula, like KMR, on hand.
Use a bottle or small syringe for feeding. An experienced professional might use a feeding tube, but there’s too much risk of having the tube go too far down the throat.
The puppy might aspirate the formula, leading to death.
Hot Water Bottle
How water bottles are useful in keeping the whelping box warm, especially when the mother is not nurturing her puppies the way she should.
Never use scalding water in a hot water bottle. It’s better to start with warm water. Wrap the hot water bottle in a towel or put it into a pillow case.
When the puppies begin using the bathroom on their own, you can place clean newspapers around the whelping box. Frequently change soiled newspaper for fresh, clean ones.
Blankets are a great way to keep puppies nice and warm and cozy. You may need to frequently change the blankets for clean ones. Have plenty of clean, soft towels or fabric on hand.
Towels are useful for clean-ups and to wrap hot water bottles in.
Normal temperature for a newborn pup is between 94 and 97F. Temperatures considered normal will change in the coming weeks.
For example, during the second and third weeks, the puppies’ body temperature will range from 97 to 100F.
In the fourth week, a puppies’ temperature matches that of his adult counterpart ranging between 99.5 and 102.5 degrees F.
Use a rectal thermometer to get an accurate reading. There are little disposable sleeves for rectal thermometers that can be used as well. These prevent too much feces from getting on the thermometer.
Lubricate the thermometer with petroleum jelly. If your puppy won’t stay still, you may need someone to cup the puppy under the belly.
Left the puppy’s tail and gently insert the thermometer about one inch into the rectum. Clean and disinfect after each use. Toss out the sleeve and replace with a new one before taking another temperature.
Use a good quality scale to get an accurate reading of your puppy’s weight. The one picture below is from Chewy and is made with a nice cradle for a puppy. It has 4 self-leveling feet and adjustable height gauge.
It’s better to have things on hand than not have them when you need them.
If you find yourself in a position where you have to hand-feed your newborn French bulldog puppies, you may need formula. The best kind is Esbilac.
Come people choose to mix there own formula.
Maintain a Clean, Warm Whelping Box
Newborn puppies must be kept clean and warm.
Baby French bulldogs are unable to regulate their own body temperature. Although the mother provides much of the heat they need, there may be times when the new puppies need some help.
The biggest risk for newborn pups is getting chilled. On the others side of the spectrum would be allowing the puppies to overheat.
Medical Reasons Why Mom Isn’t Caring For Her Newborn Pups
Nature has a way of making sure each species on the planet survives.
With dogs, however, there are things that can get in the way of those natural triggers. When French bulldog puppies are born via C-section, natural pheromones may not kick in.
In other words, the Frenchie mom may not develop the all-important maternal instincts.
Oxytocin is produced when a mother gives birth naturally. Without it, the mother may not show any interest in caring for hew newborn puppies.
French bulldog moms need to be given medication to trigger natural hormones.
Newborn Frenchie puppies must be kept warm at all times. Of course, the mother is the sole provider of heat, but there may times (for various reasons) when she isn’t up to the task.
This could occur if the mother develops a post-partum infection. Metritis is an inflammation and infection of the uterine lining. This can occur during the first week after whelping.
There are actually three main problems that can occur during the whelping stage including:
This condition occurs when the mom has trouble supporting the calcium demand of lactation. Smaller dog breeds are more at risk of this. If it’s going to happen, it will be within the first 3 weeks of lactation.
Signs to watch for include:
- unusual nervousness and restlessness
- no interest in the pups
- aggression toward the pups
- muscle spasms
- inability to stand
- tremors and lots of shaking
Mastitis is an inflammation and infection of the mammary glands.
While not a life-threatening condition, it may affect the amount of nutrition the pups get. The mother’s mammary glands may be red, hard, and painful.
It’s not harmful for the puppies to continue nursing through this period. The problem is when the mother discourages her puppies from feedings.
Metritis is an inflammation of the endometrium (lining) of the uterus. It is caused by a bacterial infection about a week after a dog has given birth.
A Note On Feeding Guides
Calories per cup of food (or kcal/cup) will vary across food brands, so that might mean feeding a different amount.
Most momma dogs need to eat as much as 3 to 4 times their normal amount of calories in order to accommodate for the demands of lactation.
Read: 9 Heartwarming Traits of Havanese Puppies
7 Crucial Steps in Caring for Newborn French Bulldog Puppies
If the mother shows no interest in caring for the babies, there are some important things you’re going to have to do to keep those puppies alive and thriving.
#1. Clip the Umbilical Cord
Normally, the new mother will instinctively know that she needs to bite and break off each of the puppies’ umbilical cords. When she does that, the stump will naturally dry up and fall off in a few days.
A puppy’s umbilical cord shouldn’t be cut unless it is absolutely evident that the mother won’t do it.
Please get veterinary advice or assistance in this process. If done incorrectly, it could harm the delicate puppies.
#2. Clear the Amniotic Sac From The Newborn Puppies
As the puppies are born, the mother will normally lick off the amniotic sac. She may swallow the amniotic sac, which is fine.
Cleaning the amniotic sac from the puppies stimulates their breathing and digestive processes. Once the puppies are born, the placenta is passed.
If the mother doesn’t seem to want to engage in this process, you can try to encourage her to do it.
If she won’t you will have to gently remove the sac so that the puppy can breathe.
Make sure your hands and fingers are cleaned thoroughly with disinfectant or anti-bacterial soap before handling the newborn puppies.
Puppies are born with immature immune systems and can easily succumb to sickness.
Clear the Sac
To clean the sac from the puppies, gently use your thoroughly cleansed fingers to tear it away.
Start with the head and face and work your way down.
If the puppy isn’t breathing after the sac is removed, use a respirator bulb to clear the throat and then wrap the pup in a towel and vigorously rub their chest to encourage breathing.
You can use soft, clean towels to gently dry the puppies once the sac has been removed.
Always be prepared to contact an emergency veterinary clinic ASAP.
#3. Keep the Puppies Warm
Little puppies are vulnerable to dehydration, accidental suffocation, and infection. If they get a chill, the cold air compromises the little puppies immune systems. This makes them vulnerable to disease.
Sometimes heating lamps are recommended, but they are very dangerous for little puppies. Instead, use a heating pad or water bottle. If using a heating pad, keep it on a low setting.
Water bottles are the safest choice. Use hot water, but be sure to wrap the water bottle in a towel before setting it near the puppies.
Watch for Signs of Over-Heating
One way to monitor whether the puppies are too hot or not is to watch their behavior.
If the puppies are huddled close to each other it means they’re not warm enough. They huddle together in an attempt to create warmth.
On the other hand, if the puppies are on the other side of the mat away from the heat source, it could be that they’re too warm.
#4. Ensure Puppies Get Mother’s Milk
Ideally, all of the puppies should begin feeding. However, in some cases, the mother may reject them. She may even become aggressive towards them. If that happens, you will need to separate her from her puppies.
If the mother is showing signs of illness, call a veterinarian for assistance.
Tube Feeding Newborn Puppies
If the newborn puppies are not latching on to the mother for whatever reason, you may need to begin tube feeding them. Tube feeding is tricky and really should only be performed by an experienced professional.
Always seek professional/medical instruction for help. Experienced breeders may be able to assist as well.
Inexperienced tube feeding can be risky. There is a chance of place the tube into the trachea rather than into the stomach.
Tube feeding should only be necessary for a few days at most. Exceptions to this are puppies with abnormalities such as cleft palate and macroglossia. Tube feeding can be used to give oral rehydration solutions or milk substitute formula. Milk substitute formula is contraindicated in hypothermic and premature puppies (Williams, 1989; Bloomfield, 2013) as they are unable to digest milk or milk substitute. In these puppies electrolyte solutions are advised which provide hydration, electrolytes and some calories in the form of glucose without requiring digestion.The Veterinary Nurse. How to Hand Feed Newborn Puppies by Samantha Scully.
Bottle Feeding Newborn Puppies
Test the puppy to see if he/she has a suck reflex.
To do this, gently place the tip of your clean finger into the puppy’s mouth. A healthy puppy should latch on and suck the finger. If the puppies are premature, immature, hypothermic, or hypoglycemic they may not have the suck reflex.
Puppies need to be fed every two to three hours in the first week.
If you are bottle feeding, the puppy should be on his/her stomach to avoid choking. Warm the dog safe formula by placing the bottle in a cup of warm water.
Veterinarians recommend using a thermometer to test the temperature of the milk before feeding. Ensure it is somewhere around 95 to 100 degrees F.
Ideally, puppies should be on formula for 6 – 8 weeks with no abrupt weaning. If the puppies do not nurse from their mother at all, they should be vaccinated starting at 6 weeks instead of 8 weeks.
#5. Ensure The Puppies Pee and Poop
Normally, the mother would stimulate this action by licking the puppies. However, if this doesn’t happen, you can use a moistened cotton ball to wipe their genital area. This will encourage them to go on their own.
Potty training won’t start until they are older. Until then, you’ll want them to have access to plenty of pee pads.
Pee pads have special smells to encourage urinating/defecating on them and are a great substitute for newspaper.
#6. Weigh the Puppies
Puppies should be weighed every day for the first two weeks. They should gain 10% of their body weight every day. If you notice unusual weight loss, consult a veterinarian asap.
AT BIRTH, French bulldog puppies should weigh approximately 0.5 to 0.625 pounds
The following graph is an approximation of a small-sized dog breed weight chart.
#7. Keep French Bulldog Puppies Clean
French bulldog puppies are prone to serious illness. Vomiting and diarrhea can quickly lead to death in a newborn puppy. Keep the whelping box clean with fresh blankets and remove soiled items right away.
Check these out!
Why French Bulldogs Shouldn’t Have Puppies Naturally
How to Encourage Your French Bulldog Puppy’s Ears to Stand Up
11 Best French Bulldog Rescues NJ
11 Potentially High Maintenance Needs of the French Bulldog
From 9 Weeks to Walking – A Guide for Your French Bulldog Puppy
When to Feed Solid Food to French Bulldog Puppies
Weaning typically takes place at about week four. This is when their sharp little teeth come in. It’s also a good time to begin toilet training.
Puppies should not be fully weaned before 8 weeks of age.
Buy top quality puppy food for French bulldog puppies.
Final Lessons and Advice
Tube feeding can be a little tricky if you’re not used to it. There are great videos out there, but the best way to get started is through one-on-one instruction with a veterinarian.
French bulldogs are adorable creatures that a little extra love and care.
It can be a lot of work in the first weeks. The good news is that French bulldogs typically have small litters of 3 – 5 puppies. It’s more common for them to have 3 puppies.
As with anything, never depend on these posts for medical advice. Newborn puppies are fragile. If the mother is able to take over the care, let her. Otherwise, you may need to do all of the initial work yourself.