Special challenges in breeding bulldogs

FRESNO, Calif.

In the Central Valley, Victor E. Is a canine celebrity who helps cheer on his team to well, victory! Beneath all the wrinkles is an athletic spirit, both, trademarks of the English Bulldog.

The bulldog has long been associated with Fresno State as seen here in a 1938 Pop Laval photo. But some of the very things that make them so cute also lead to medical issues and challenges.

For example, a smashed in face can lead to respiratory problems, and their stocky build makes mating tricky.

"It is possible naturally, but the way the Bulldog's are built, the chances that the female will be fertilized is very small," said Dr. Nicolaas Reijne, DVM with Cedar Veterinary Hospital.

In order to breed bulldogs, many owners opt for artificial insemination. Here in valley, they turn to Cedar Veterinary Hospital which specializes in reproductive services.

We were there as Remy -- a 2 and a half year old English Bulldog -- got an ultrasound near the end of her first pregnancy.

"She's getting ready to have her puppies any day now. It's either going to be today or tomorrow," said Remy's owner Marie Gutierrez.

"You're pretty anxious?"

"Yeah, I can't wait."

Owner Marie Gutierrez may be anxious, but Remy appears at ease during the exam. She's been here multiple times as Dr. Nicolaas Reijne timed and then performed the artificial insemination. Dr. Reijne says he inherited the specialty from a previous veterinarian who built the hospital's reputation among bulldog breeders and owners.

People from all over Central California bring their bulldogs here, and now, it's estimated the hospital performs 200 c-sections a year -- which are recommended because of the bulldog's anatomy.

"Here is the width of the Pelvis. Now the puppy, the head will be larger. And it's very difficult to get it pushed through the pelvic canal."

The last time we were here, the doctor counted five puppies in Remy's ultrasound. Four days later, he delivered 8, and now they're back for a checkup.

At five weeks old the puppies are adorable, healthy -- and in this case sleepy. So is Marie! She's been providing constant care, watching to make sure Remy doesn't lie on top of the puppies and smother them.

At this point, they have to be fed every four and a half hours. "It's a full time job to take care of them. You can't hold down a full time job plus come home and take care of your puppies."

Because of the extensive medical intervention needed to breed bulldogs, they are expensive. Puppies can go for as much as $2,500.

"In our experience, owners of bulldogs are very dedicated to the breed. They really love their dogs, and for them, it's worth it," said Dr. Reijne.

As for these little guys, they will be ready for their new homes just in time for Christmas.

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