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French Bulldog C Section: Why Frenchies Can't Whelp Naturally

French Bulldog C Section: Why Frenchies Can't Whelp Naturally

There is nothing quite like the sight of a French Bulldog, with their big round eyes and cute snub noses and precious wide grins.

But French Bulldogs are surprisingly difficult to breed. In fact, nothing about the process of bringing a new litter of Frenchie puppies into this world is easy.

Most French Bulldog owners do not know this until they start researching buying their first French Bulldog puppy and discover these dogs come with a hefty price tag!

The high price of a French Bulldog puppy is much easier to understand when you learn what has to happen to provide you with the puppy in the first place. If you want to learn more about French Bulldog breeding, this is definitely the article for you.

French Bulldog C Section

French Bulldogs are incredibly popular dogs as you likely already know. They are adorably cute, full of personality, smart, and totally devoted to their people.

But breeding French Bulldogs is not easy. In most cases, French Bulldog puppies have to be delivered (whelped) by cesarean section (C-section). This is because of the unique French Bulldog anatomy. With their big heads and broad chests, the puppies often will not naturally fit into the birth canal.

Watch a French Bulldog C Section Procedure

It may surprise you to learn there is no shortage of videos on YouTube showing the actual C-section procedure that is required to deliver French Bulldog puppies.

This particular video starts with footage of the adorable French Bulldog puppies and then walks you through how the veterinarian delivered them during the C-section.

Why Can't French Bulldogs Give Birth Naturally?

As we briefly mentioned here earlier, French Bulldogs are one of the dog breeds that typically cannot have a natural birth.

In fact, as Breeding Business explains, as far as purebred dog breeds go, the French Bulldog is the third most likely to need an assisted delivery.

This has to do with their conformation and anatomy.

French Bulldogs were initially bred down from English Bulldogs, with their enormous heads, wide jaws, stocky builds, and broad shoulders with deep chests.

The narrowest part of these dogs is in their hindquarters, which is not the part of the puppy that generally enters the birth canal first.

So when a French Bulldog mother goes into labor, there is a real danger that the puppies could get stuck. This not only endangers the life of the puppies but is a very real danger to the life of the mother dog as well.

Two Life-Threatening Complications of Pregnancy in French Bulldogs

There are two particular complications that pregnant French Bulldogs face more often than most other dog breeds: anasarca and dystocia.


Anasarca is the medical term used to describe severe swelling (edema) that can happen right before a French Bulldog mother gives birth. It always endangers the life of both the mother dog and the puppies and requires an emergency C-section.


Dystocia is the medical term that describes a difficult delivery due to the physical impossibility of passing the puppies through the birth canal naturally.

The Kennel Club (UK) states that dystocia is a condition that more commonly affects French Bulldog puppies than most other dog breeds.

Is It Ever Possible for a French Bulldog to Have a Natural Birth?

You won't have to look very long online before you will find some accounts of French Bulldogs giving birth naturally.

This is typically called "free whelping" and refers to delivery without human assistance or surgical intervention.

It is important to know that this is very, very rare for French Bulldogs! It is incredibly dangerous to assume that a Frenchie can whelp naturally – failure to prepare for all possibilities may mean an emergency C-section at best.

As Rock Solid Bulldogs breeder explains, the reason some French Bulldogs do deliver naturally usually has to do with their breed lines.

Each country maintains its own breed clubs and its own breed standards. A breed standard is a club-generated document that outlines the "ideal" conformation, or appearance, of a dog breed.

Some countries favor a conformation in French Bulldogs that allows for longer legs and slimmer bodies and heads than what most American Frenchie fans are used to seeing.

So if you read an account online of a French Bulldog "free whelping," it is quite possible that the dog comes from European bloodlines and has a different body structure that makes natural whelping easier and safer for her and her puppies.

Of course, even among American bloodlines of French Bulldogs, there may be the occasional exception where a pregnant female will deliver naturally.

But here again, it is vital to prepare for a veterinarian-assisted whelping for the safety of your dog and her puppies.

Three Main Reasons a C-Section Whelping Can Be Safer for French Bulldogs

While cesarean section deliveries will never be considered "safe" as far as canine surgical procedures go, they are generally regarded as safer than allowing a pregnant Frenchie to try to deliver naturally.

As Rock Solid Bulldogs breeder explains, there are three main reasons why opting for a C-section delivery may actually be the safest choice for your dog.

1. You can confirm all puppies have been delivered

Any experienced dog breeder – of any dog breed – will likely have a harrowing story to tell of that time when they thought their dog had delivered all of her puppies only to discover the hard way that one didn't get pushed out.

The hard way sometimes involves a life-threatening infection and sometimes involves the female having to later pass a dead puppy. Either way, sometimes it is just better to know all the puppies are safely out of the mother dog.

2. If there are more than two puppies, you risk whelping fatigue

It takes a tremendous amount of energy for a French Bulldog to push out each puppy.

Because Frenchie puppies are harder to whelp naturally anyway, it will take even more energy than is typical for a French Bulldog mother to whelp naturally again and again.

If your dog has to whelp more than one or two puppies, it is highly likely she will tire before all the puppies have been whelped and simply not have the energy to continue.

As DVM360 points out, while sometimes a shot of oxytocin can help, this is nearly always an emergency situation that requires a C-section to finish the whelping.

3. Your dog's uterus remains intact and strong for future pregnancies

Yet another reason why most experienced French Bulldog breeders vastly prefer simply scheduling a planned C section for their pregnant females is because of what natural whelping can do to the canine uterus.

The stress and exertion of having to push the puppies out in a natural whelping can cause the uterus to stretch. The muscular lining can be weakened and may develop lesions or even tear.

While a weaker uterus is dangerous, a torn uterus can quickly become fatal. The only sure way to reduce the risk of losing the mother dog mid-whelp is to schedule a planned C section to deliver the puppies.

When Should a C Section for French Bulldogs Be Scheduled?

If you are waiting for your French Bulldog puppy to be born, you are likely feeling keen to have the C section done as soon as possible so you can bring your new puppy home!

But experienced French Bulldog breeders know the importance of progesterone testing on the female as a part of timing the C section date.

Progesterone is one of the two key hormones in a female dog (the other being estrogen). Progesterone helps to regulate a female's heat cycles and can also help the breeder predict with a very high degree of accuracy when the puppies will be ready to whelp.

As the American Kennel Club (AKC) explains, learning how to read progesterone tests can help you avoid ending up with your dog at your veterinary clinic in the middle of the night in "emergency C section mode."

In most cases, a French Bulldog will be ready to deliver her puppies 63 days after she first ovulated (produced eggs and became pregnant).

This can be off by about 24 hours before or after the ovulation date. It usually also means you need to start watching the dog closely up to 48 hours prior to the earliest time when you expect her to become ready to deliver the first puppy.

Special Preparations for a French Bulldog C Section

The ideal scenario is always to allow a dog to deliver her puppies naturally.

In this article, you have now learned why this is not the best idea for the French Bulldog breed and why a C section can often be safer than trying for a natural birth.

However, there are some downsides to a C section delivery that is also important to know about whether you plan to breed your own French Bulldog or you are simply waiting for your Frenchie puppy to be born.

No maternal skills

As the AKC points out, whenever a dog has a C-section delivery, there is a risk that the mother dog will not show any interest in her newborn puppies.

This can also mean she will not produce milk or that her milk will dry up quickly.

She may even act aggressively towards her puppies because she was sedated for the operation and didn't bond with them during the birthing process.

For this reason, veterinarians often recommend that the owner/breeder use a DAP (Adaptil) collar starting a few days prior to the C section date.

This collar is infused with pheromones that may help support the bonding process before delivery. However, the breeder still must be prepared to hand-feed and fully care for the puppies starting the moment they are born – just in case the mother dog does not.

Stop pest control medications and food

It is also important to stop any pest (flea, tick) medications one week prior to the C section date and to stop all food after the meal the evening prior to the procedure.

Prepare the at-home whelping area in advance

For first-time pregnant female dogs, in particular, it can be hard to fully predict when they will go into labor.

This is why it is so vital to prepare the at-home whelping area in full and in advance. The breeder should have all of the necessary required and optional supplies, from puppy pads and extra bedding to puppy formula and thermometers and everything else needed.

This way, if the puppies arrive ahead of schedule, there won't be a scramble to make sure they are well and safely cared for once you arrive back home.

What It Is Like to Care For a French Bulldog After C Section

As VCA Animal Hospitals points out, a C section is always going to be a major surgical procedure.

Just because a C section is overall a safer way to deliver French Bulldog puppies than trying to let your dog deliver them the old-fashioned way doesn't mean there aren't tremendous risks involved for your dog, her puppies, and you.

There is also a lot of aftercare required on your part after your dog wakes up from the C section and is released to come home.

You will suddenly have a post-operated adult French Bulldog to care for. And you will have puppies to care for.

It is always a great idea to ask family or friends to be available to help you during this time, especially if this is your first time breeding your French Bulldog.

Caring for your French Bulldog mother dog

Your French Bulldog new mother dog will need your help with pain management, disinfecting the wound site, moving about (and protecting the puppies from being crushed), starting to eat and drink again, going out to potty, taking medications, and general recovery.

You will also need to monitor her very carefully for any signs that her recovery is not going as smoothly as it should be.

Discharge at the site of the stitches or from the birth canal area, diarrhea or vomiting, fever, dizziness, chills, and other warning signs should always be followed with a swift call to your dog's veterinarian for guidance.

And you will need to stay with her whenever she is with her puppies – at least until you are absolutely certain her maternal instincts are kicking in and she is taking good care of them the way a mother dog should be doing.

If you see any signs that she is behaving aggressively or ignoring the puppies, or if she isn't interested in nursing them or stimulating them (by licking) to potty, you will need to take over right away.

Caring for your French Bulldog puppies

If you need to step in and care for your new French Bulldog puppies, this means you will essentially be the mother dog to the puppies for the next several weeks.

You will need to hand-feed each puppy an appropriate puppy formula that your veterinarian recommends and stimulate them to potty after they eat.

You will need to keep them clean and warm and make sure they are safe at all times. In most cases, the puppies will need to be fed until they are ready to begin the weaning process around the age of five weeks.

Why Can't the French Bulldog Get Pregnant and Deliver Like Other Dogs Do – Naturally?

After reading all of this information about the difficulties, risks, and potential complications of breeding French Bulldogs, you may wonder quite legitimately why this whole process is so much more difficult for Frenchies.

Many dog breeds are able to get pregnant, give birth, and tend to their puppies quite readily and without a lot of assistance from veterinarians or people.

Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to the French Bulldog and to most other short-muzzled dog breeds (such as the Pug, the English, and American Bulldog breeds).

These dogs face some unique health and wellness challenges all throughout their lives that other dog breeds do not have to face. This is because their skull is short, flat, and wide, crowding their breathing passages and making them top-heavy.

Since many flat-faced dogs also have shortened legs, this makes natural breeding (mating) more difficult for breeding pairs as well. Male dogs often cannot mount properly and stay in position long enough to get the female dog pregnant successfully.

Nearly all flat-faced (brachycephalic) dog breeds need to have assisted insemination and C section delivery for the health of the mother dogs and their puppies.

This makes breeding French Bulldogs true labor of love for the dog breeders who undertake this difficult, dangerous process to bring more Frenchie puppies into this world.