This is written to caution ALL first time breeders of some hazards that my befall newborn puppies.

Several times I have tried to prepare first time breeders about leaving the bitch with her whelps unattended. A Bullmastiff is a very large breed of dog that cannot control its movements when one pound puppies are squirming by them. When left unattended fatalities occur. You will need to put a 48" exercise pen around the whelping box to keep mom out when you are not able to be right with the pups.

The pups cannot regulate their body temperature for the first week, therefore, YOU must control the temperature. Their internal body temperature must remain above 98 degrees. If it drops to 94 degrees or below, hypothermia can set in and they will FREEZE TO DEATH.

You will need to feed them every two hours for the first week. After that, you can go to three hour feedings and extend the feeding times as they grow.

The next hazard to watch for is electrical cords. If you use a heating pad for warmth, wrap the cord in heavy duty electrical tape to insulate the cord. This is not fool-proof, but will add extra protection against puppies chewing on it.

If it is winter time, and you must use a heating lamp, watch for dehydration and burning of the eyes, nose and mouth. These are highly sensitive areas and the burning can happen in just a few moments. This will cause blindness in the pups.

Puppies will tend to suck on one another’s umbilical stumps and genitals. This can cause infections such as staph and strep. It can also cause umbilical hernias or damage to their genitals.

Another hazard is bacteria due to not keeping the whelping box clean. Bacterial infections can cause fatalities in the dam and her whelps.

Due to this, we do not use whelping boxes.  We use individual bins for each whelp.   Each pup is in it's own environment and you can monitor who is going potty and who is not.  You can also monitor the pup to make sure each pup is kept at the right temperature. I use a tube sock filled with rice and heated in the microwave for warmth!   Keep the ambient temperature of the room at about 75 degrees.

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Here is a photo of the Nursery. 

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Each pup has it's own bin and is then covered to prevent any drafts.  There is a towel with the rice sock between the layers and a piece of fleece for the pup to snuggle into.


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Have a microwave nearby for heating the rice socks and a reliable scale.  I do not use a digital scale as the pups move around too much.  Then also have ribbons for each pup for identication and racks for storing the towels on. 

If the dam has a c-section, cleanse the incision before and after each feeding by using an antibacterial cleanser, such as phisoderm. Make sure all nipples are thoroughly cleaned before all feedings whether the puppies were a natural delivery or a c-section.

Keep ALL other dogs away from the whelping area whether the dam is with the whelps or not. Other dogs may want to "play" with the babies, and will crush them in their exuberance. Some will destroy the whelps on purpose.

Anything that can distract the dam, such as strangers, other dogs, and kids may cause undue upset to "mom." This can cause her to destroy her pups, lose her milk supply and snap at the intruder. Keep the maternity ward as quiet as possible. If necessary, place the pups and their heat source in a Vari-Kennel. You can regulate the temperature and the mom cannot do any unintended damage to the pups.

Dams normally do not try to hurt their babies. First-time moms are terrified of these squirming, babies that are trying to nurse on them. You must be understanding and calm during the time it will take for her maternal instincts to take over. This may vary for each bitch and each litter. However, some dams never reach that maternal stage. Therefore, YOU ARE MOM.

Breeding your female is not to be taken lightly. When breeding you must take all precautions and know all the hazards you may experience during that time to assure healthy, happy, well adjusted pups. Even if you do everything right, there is still a chance you may lose the entire litter and the dam.

The puppies have not asked to be born and it is YOUR responsibility to do everything in your power to protect them.

If an EXPERIENCED breeder gives you helpful suggestions, please use those suggestions. They are only trying to help you prevent tragedy.




Tracy Ferrick


I’d like to introduce myself before I tell you about my recent Bullmastiff litter of 19, of which 17 survived.


I’m Pam Henson, Escalade Bullmastiffs.  I started in the world of Purebred dogs in 1980 showing Rottweilers. Then in 1999 I bought my first Bullmastiff.  My first Bullmastiff had horrible health problems and died at 14 months of age of multiple cancers.   I had sworn to never get another Bully and then I met Tracy in 2000 and have been involved with showing Bully ever since!


This story is about my girl Pepper, AM/INTL. CH. Wild West’s Red Hot Chili Pepper, OFA-Good, EL, CA, CROM.

We first bred Pepper in February 2006 and she had a litter of 14 pups.  Five of those pups have finished their AKC Championships and one pup, Dawn, CH. Escalade’s Look But Don’t Touch, is a Group placing bitch and finished from the Bred By Class! Another pup is BISS, CH. Escalade’s All Tricked Out, OFA-Good, EL.  There are still a couple others that will be shown from Pepp’s first litter.  Pepper earned a Top Producing Dam Award for this year and she also has earned her Copper ROM Award!!!

My friend Tracy has written this story for me.  I hope you enjoy it.


Now our Story begins…..


A fellow breeder told me, “The ONLY way you’re going to get your bitch pregnant is to do a surgical implant”… My repro specialist said,  “Why, What’s wrong with your bitch?” I told her “Nothing”


After 25+ years in breeding and showing dogs, I’d never heard this before, so I talked with Pepper’s breeder and she’d never heard this before either… So we opted for 2 regular AI’s using fresh chilled semen. We figured it worked for the first litter so why not do it this way again.


In the old days, natural breedings were hit and miss. Then with technology we learned that by using progesterone levels we could pinpoint the correct time to breed.  This along with the ability to ship semen in for the bitch instead of shipping the bitch to the dog, made the possibility of conception even greater!


After almost 2 years of searching for a second mate for Pepper, we found him 3,000 miles away!!   We signed the contract, paid the deposit and anxiously awaited Pepper’s season.

The day finally came and we made the phone call to the stud owner, Dorothy Martell, who literally, dropped what she was doing and raced home to get her boy “Hemi”, I.B.’ Man O War… We had 2 shipments of fresh chilled semen flown in from Massachusetts!   The sperm quality was GREAT and the 2 AI’s were done during our Bullmastiff Specialty! The same day that the 2nd AI was done, Pepper’s son from her first litter, won BISS at the ABA Far West Specialty!


Never in our wildest dreams could we have expected what followed…..


Four weeks after the breeding we KNEW Pepper was pregnant.  She was already thickening in the belly and her ribs were spreading.  By six weeks, we started a guessing game with other Bully owners on a talk list we belong to.  By eight weeks, we were getting worried as she looked as big as she did with her first litter and she still had the final week to go!!!  Pepper’s breeder came to check on her and guessed 14 pups… I had a dream that she had 18.  I wish I had never had that dream….


At day 57, we took her in for a progesterone test to get an idea if she was getting close.   She was still at 7 ngs, so we knew it would be a day or two.  That was Friday, June 20th.  Grandma Tracy came to see her again and changed her count to 11, as she didn’t think she looked that big…


Pepper had been eating several small meals a day the last few weeks of her pregnancy.  She was moving slower, but that was to be expected.  She also had quite a bit of swelling of her ankles the last week and was having trouble getting up and down.  We were concerned about this, but she seemed fine other than that.

Sunday night, June 22, 2008, all hell broke loose…..

We were spending every minute with Pepper and she seemed agitated with us so we left her in the bedroom for about an hour to give her some “alone” time.  At about 8pm, we went back in to check on her and with NO SIGNS of labor, there was a pup under her back leg.  She had cleaned him, but in her hurry to clean herself up, she crushed the pup


In all my years of dog breeding, I’d never lost a pup.  I was devastated, but I knew we had to spring into action.  I called my vet and he rushed to the office and had the staff waiting for us when we arrived.


On the way there, two more water sacs burst, and no pups were coming out, and I knew we were in trouble.  On arrival, my vet immediately started prepping Pepper for surgery.   As the c-section got under way, the pups started coming at such a fast pace that we had no clue how many there were or what the sexes were. 





There was so much blood on the floor.  We knew Pepper was in trouble.    It was so quiet in the recovery room, no one wanted to say anything. Everyone started praying that she would be ok. The Tech monitoring Pepper had a serious look on her face concentrating very hard. We had no Idea that she was breathing for “Pepper”. Half way through the surgery she had stopped breathing on her own and the tech she was bagging her every breath. My Vet was working very hard and very fast to safe my bitch.


We lost one other male pup during surgery that had gotten turned sideways and was blocking the cervix.  The live pup count was 17 – 10 girls and 7 boys!


Pepper’s breeder and her daughter left as soon as the last pup was dry and ran home to get more bins and towels then took them to my house and started getting everything set up.


Pepper was spayed on the table to try to save her life.  She was horribly weak from the loss of blood and fluids and her gums were white.  She was in shock but responsive.   After a few hours on an IV she was allowed to come home.  It was after 2:00 am when we got home.


When we got home, the pups each got a few turns getting colostrum from mom. I continued to worry about my girl as her color was not improving and within a couple of hours we were rushing her back to ER.  The prognosis was NOT good.  No one expected her to live.  My vet began emergency treatment on Pepper.  By 7:30 am it was decided that if she did not have a transfusion she WOULD die.  Her PCV level was down to a 17. My son rushed to another clinic to pick up some whole blood and get it back to our clinic while Pepper was being prepared for the transfusion.


Back at home, my daughter and I began the arduous task of bottle-feeding the 17 babies.   Two of them were only 10 ounces and the heaviest was 16 ounces.  Pepper’s breeder came back to help us with a few feedings.


On the 2nd day, Pepper started to bloat.  The staff had been giving her little sips of water while she was lying down.  My vet decompressed her and another disaster was diverted.


We kept praying for a miracle…I have never cried so many tears in my life.  I felt this whole nightmare was my fault.  We just wanted to breed Pepper one last time and bring in a new line and it almost killed her. Pepper’s breeder kept telling me it was not my fault and that sometimes Mother Nature just didn’t play fair, but I couldn’t help the way I felt.


By the 3rd day, Pepper was doing better and Because I have worked for my vet he felt that I could take care of her and she was allowed to come home.  She was so emaciated.  Every bone stuck out of her body.  She looked like a skeleton.

She had to be fed cup of ID every couple of hours and was so weak, she couldn’t stand and had to be carried outside to potty. She was on antibiotics, Calcium and so many other medications to try to save her.


My kids and I worked 24/7 keeping the pups going and tending to Pepper.  We took turns sleeping on the floor up against Pepper so we would know if she was in distress and using our body heat to keep her warm.  Every day she grew a little stronger and could eat a little more.


Finally after a week, she was able to stand on her own.  We all clapped and cheered for her and she wagged her tail for the first time in a week!


We bottle fed every 2-3 hours.  It was pure hell – we would just finish feeding, cleaning and pottying the pups and would have to start all over again.  We took shifts, 2 of us would feed and one would sleep.  We felt and looked like Zombies!!!


At 2 weeks of age, Ellie Mae started fading…  I was terrified. She was lethargic and wouldn’t eat.  She just lay there… I was told that was to be expected with such a large litter and I said that wasn’t an option.  I called Tracy and she told me to first take the pups temperature to make sure she wasn’t hypothermic and give her a little Nutri-Cal to bring up her blood sugar, and see if she would eat. then after the 2nd missed feeding I called my vets and they told me to come and get some subcutaneous fluids…We thought she might have aspirated formula and could have pneumonia so we also started her on amoxicillin.

Four hours later she was back to normal and was eating a little bit, so I kept her on the antibiotics for 3 days and she was fine!


One week later, to the day, Knight, started with the same thing, but he had diarrhea so bad I wasn’t sure he’d make it.  I started him on the subcutaneous fluids and changed to clavamox, which made the diarrhea worse so I went back to Amoxicillin.  It took 2 days for him to get back to normal.  He lost quite a bit of weight but was fine.  None of the other pups got sick, YEAH!!!


Word started getting around and we started getting calls congratulating us and asking us how many were still alive!  I flat out told people that ALL of them were alive and that they were ALL going to stay that way!  How insensitive people can be…


When the pups were about 3 weeks old, Pepper wanted to go outside.  When she got out she collapsed and I thought, OH GOD, NO!!!!


My son carried her back in the bedroom and she was breathing heavy.  She calmed down and I realized that she had just exhausted herself after having no exercise for so long. Whew! I was relieved!


By the time the pups were five weeks, it was time to start deciding which ones we wanted to keep.  At that point prospective buyers started backing out.  Some had heard that in a big litter like this the pups never grew to full size.  I spoke with long time breeders and multiple vets, and they all concurred that the pups WOULD be normal size.  The pups were behind for a while due to the sheer number of pups and the fact that they did not get to nurse.  Commercial and homemade formulas keep pups hydrated, but do not promote growth.


At 8 weeks, the pups started to blossom!  Now at 14 weeks, the biggest boy, Pike, is 31.5# and my 2 pups that were only 10 ounces are now 21#’s!  All are healthy and full of energy and if you’ve never heard 17 pups start howling, you DON’T know what you’re missing!


Naming the pups was my daughter’s job.  Here are their names and where they are today!


Ariel (now Angel) is in Northern California.

Barrie (now Mona) is in Colorado.

Candy is in Southern California.

Dottie (now Coco) is in Arizona.

Ellie Mae is in Southern California.

Flower is with us.

Gabby (now Ariel) is in Southern California.

Hallie is staying with us.

Ian (now IceMan) is staying with us!

Jasmine (now Mesa) is in Arizona.

Knight (now  Remington) is in Idaho

Linc (now Mickey) is in Northern California

Macy is staying with us!

Neo is in Southern California.

Odin (now Dutch) is in Southern California.

Pike (new name pending)is in Southern California

Quest (now Vito) is in Colorado.


We have personally met all of our pups new owners, a luxury most breeders never get to experience.  The pups are all doing great in their new homes and I think their owners are wonderful and they’ve already spoiled the pups rotten!  That makes it easier to sleep at night!


Will we breed again? Hmmm, I just don’t know.  I don’t ever want that many pups again. The costs both monetarily and emotionally were astronomical but the rewards were priceless.  Thank GOD Pepper made it. Pepper’s breeder and I knew that she was a tough bitch and that if any dog could make it through this horrible time she would.   I think that her survival instinct was passed on to her pups as well and they have been fighters from the start!


Unless you’ve been through caring for a litter without a momma, you just cannot grasp the weeks of sleep deprivation and worry and the amount of tears that were shed over the condition of my girl.  But there is an upside.  We cannot wait to get our new batch of “Pepper Snush” babies out in the ring!!!


Pepper now sleeps exclusively in my son’s bed!  She comes in to the TV room at night and looks at Justin as if to say, “I’m ready for bed, come on!” and he tells her “Go get your binky” (a crochet blanket my mom made)  She grabs it and flies through the air landing in the middle of the bed and sits there patiently waiting for him to come to bed!  She is REALLY spoiled now!!!  She is back to her full of energy self now!

Oh yeah, one final note to clear the air of whispers…. Pepper was never, at any time, given anything to conceive such large litters (14 and 19).  The fertility was natural.  Pepper’s mother, Destiny (Intl. CH. Wild West’s Manifest Destiny, OFA-Good, Cerf), came from a litter of 11 and her parents Petra (CH. Guardman’s Petra of Lone Pine, PH) and Mac (CH. Keeper’s Midnite Marauder, OFA-Good), came from litters of 10 and 16 respectively!  Add that to the technology of progesterone testing, proper techniques of an AI and the extender used for the fresh chilled semen and you have success, but sometimes it works a little to well.




Spending every waking moment with these babies was the hardest yet the most rewarding experience we’ve ever had.  Keeping them clean and fed was a never-ending feat!


I could never have done this without the help of my son, Justin (25) and my daughter, Jamie (21).  They were the glue that held me together throughout this ordeal.


I cannot thank my two veterinarians, Dr. Marvin Helphrey and Dr. Margaret Lake, enough for saving my Pepper’s life.  I’ve known and worked for them for over 23 years!


Thanks also to Carol Bardwick, Canine Cryobank for the AI’s on both of Pepper’s litters.  She is a true professional!  Hey Carol, next time, I only want 4 PUPS, OK!!!!! Hahahahaha


Thanks to “Hemi’s owner and Breeder Dorothy Martell and Cheryl Pike for your constant e-mails and sincere concerns. You touched my heart.


And lastly, to my friend Tracy Ferrick, who has not seen this paragraph until time of print. Words cannot express the gratitude that I have for you. You have always been there for me.  Not many people will answer a frantic phone call at 1:00 am in the morning. Or drop what they are doing to Rush to help with a C-Section at wee hours in the morning, and stop at an all night market to buy bottles and evaporated milk. To go to my home at 2:00 am to set up for the home coming of the babies. For this I applaud you. I have had many breeder friends and not one has ever offered to help.  I want to say “Thank you” Dear friend.


Pam Henson



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