Professional Breeding: The reward of Breeding Bullmastiffs
The section below aims to give breeders basic guidelines to wean pups. Breeding Bullmastiffs is hard work. If you’re planning to breed, read the following facts first.
There are breeders and … BREEDERS… Has your breeder been breeding for years and breed for other trusted breeders? Many don’t know what it takes and most won’t admit that they want to breed mainly because of foreseen financial benefits.
We always advise those who want to breed for any other reason than pure love of Bullies to rather look at simpler or smaller breeds. Bullies are hard work, tough to train, expensive to maintain when you breed, heavy on the right diet, has a shorter lifespan than many smaller breeds and females only breed a few seasons.
You’ll invest(if you see it that way) a lot of time and money into planning, vets, regular vaccinations, C-sections, KUSA, telephone bills, new owner support, advertising, kennel clubs, plenty of costly high-quality food, chewables and toys (many of those…), hip and elbow tests and always need to know how to avoid typical pitfalls and diseases. You will also need to be open to learn and take critique. Professional Canine Breeding is and should be considered as a science.
You will find with Bullmastiffs that if you cut the “unnecessary heavy expenses and time” it’s still not worth the effort financially because of the economy of scales between preventative care and reactive cost. They are great pets but there are easier breeds for breeding. It is almost imperative that you also get to know the few trusted breeders in South Africa who have the necessary experience. We all work to maintain the standard. Those who get in for a quick buck usually get out as quickly and dilute the breed quality and/or get these lovely dogs mixed up with other breeds
Also refer to Bullmastiff VS Boerboel breed differentiation page
Doing this well remains a joy which is ultimately incredibly rewarding in itself. Also refer to our article detailing the most commonly occurring Bullmastiff whelping issues which may affect your bullmastiff female or affect both the female as well as her puppies.
Special attention must be given to eliminate all forms of dysplasia due to specific genetic predispositioning of large breeds in this regard (click for our overview on Hip and Elbow dysplasia in Bullmastiffs).
- Respiratory rate: 15 – 35 per minute
- Heart rate: At birth – 140/min; up to 2 weeks – 220/min and after 2 weeks: 160 –180/min
- Rectal temperature: Newborn to 1 week: 35 -37,2˚C; 2-3 weeks: 37,2 – 37,8˚C; older than 4 weeks: 37,8 – 39,0˚C
- Temperature control: starts on 4th day, fully effective at 3 weeks of age.
- Shivering reflex: begins at 8 days
- Eyes open at 10 – 12 days of age
- Ears open at 13 – 15 days of age
- Ability to stand at 10 days of age
- Voluntary control of urination & defecation at 16 – 21 days of age
- Muscle contractions (twitching): first 4 weeks.
Regulation of the body temperature of a newborn puppy is poor for the first 8 days of life and does not become fully effective until about 3 weeks of age. The puppy should therefore be protected against draughts and cold. It is preferable that the whole whelping room should be warmed instead of only the whelping box. Recommended ambient temperatures in a puppy room must be above 23˚C as follow:
1st week: 29˚C ± 1˚C
2nd week: 27˚C ± 1˚C
3rd week: 25˚C ± 1˚C
4th week: 23˚C ± 1˚C
It is very important that puppies should drink their first portion of milk, called colostrum, within a few hours after birth as the puppy can only absorb the antibodies in the colostrum for a limited time after birth. The antibodies are essential for the protection of the puppy against viral and bacterial infections during their first few weeks of life.
The following is a general guideline for feeding intervals of puppies up to 3 weeks old, bearing in mind that various factors like the number of puppies in a litter, the size of the puppies and the milk production of the bitch could necessitate adjustment to this intervals:
1st week – every 3 hours
2nd week – every 4 hours
3rd week – every 4 hours.
In the case of a large litter or low milk production of the bitch, a surrogate milk product can be used to supplement the bitch’s milk, but remember that there is no real substitute for mother’s milk and puppies should drink on the bitch for as long as possible. The normal weaning age for Bullmastiff puppies is 6 weeks.
The colour and consistency of a puppy’s stool (faeces) can be very helpful to determine the feeding intervals or the quantity of milk intake. The stool of a normal, healthy puppy is dark brown with a consistency similar to that of toothpaste. When the stool becomes more watery, it is usually a sign that the puppy drinks too much. If this continues for some time, the colour of the stool changes to a more pale and eventually a grayish colour, which indicates that the enzymes of the puppy, which is needed for digestion and absorption of milk, has been depleted. This can be rectified by increasing the feeding periods and/or decreasing the actual feeding time.
The lactating bitch should get a well-balance dog food together with a calcium supplement which should be given strictly according to manufacturer’s instruction, as excessive calcium can cause serious health problems in puppies. Between feedings, the bitch should be taken away from the puppies to avoid injuries to the puppies. Before each feeding, the stomach area and teats of the bitch should be washed with a mild antiseptic (e.g. diluted Miltons) and properly dried before the puppies are allowed to dring. At every feeding session, the puppies should drink from all the teats of the bitch to prevent swelling and infection of the udder.
Vaccination and deworming
Bitches that are adequately vaccinated before breeding can transfer protective antibodies to the fetus during pregnancy and after birth to the puppy through the milk (colostrum). These antibodies will protect the newborn puppy against potential infections for some time after birth. The puppy’s level of antibodies gradually decreases with time until it drops below a minimum protection level and consequently the puppy becomes fully susceptible again to infections. At this stage the puppy’s immune system must be stimulated by vaccination for future protection against infections. The breeder is advised to consult with his/her vet on an effective vaccination programme for a litter. A puppy should ideally only leave the kennel 7 days or later after it has been vaccinated – the minimum time for a puppy to acquire immunity after vaccination.
Puppies should be dewormed with an effective broad-spectrum anti-helmintic from the age of 4 weeks, repeated every month to the age of 4 months, and once every 3 months thereafter. While the puppies are still drinking on the bitch, she must be dewormed simultaneously with the puppies. Rabies vaccination should be given annually while 4-in-1 vaccination (Parvovirus, Coronavirus, Canine Distemper and Parainfluenza) starts at 4 weeks, is repeated every 4 weeks thereafter up to 3 injections to build immunity and must therrafter also be given annually.