The Pros and Cons of Teacup Dogs
While teacup dogs are insanely adorable — who doesn't "squee" at the sight of one? — these tiny dogs come with a host of issues that potential owners may not be aware of.
If you're still looking for a tiny tempest in a teacup, though, here's what you need to know about these precious, but sometimes problematic, dogs.
So, What Exactly Is a Teacup Dog?
Teacups aren't just one particular breed. There can be a number of teacup dog breeds, including Chihuahuas, Yorkies, Maltese, pugs, poodles, Pomeranians, silky terriers, Shih Tzus and other small breeds. Sometimes, they're "designer dogs" like Morkies (a mix between a teacup Maltese and teacup Yorkshire terrier.)
These diminutive canines are called "teacups" because they are theoretically such a small size that they fit in cups. They are typically under 6 pounds and less than 17-inches tall when fully grown. Micro dogs (a type of teacup) weigh just 2 to 3 pounds.
To give you some perspective, the "toy" group, recognized by most major dog clubs around the world, includes dog breeds that generally weigh less than 15 pounds and have a small stature. Unlike toy breeds, teacups are not recognized by dog clubs.
How Teacups Are Bred
The hard truth is that some teacups are the result of inbreeding the smallest dogs (i.e., "runts") in litters. Sometimes, unscrupulous breeders will even stunt the growth of dogs through malnourishment. Both of these things can have detrimental effects on a dog's health later in life.
Breeding already too small dogs can be dangerous for the mother and her puppies. Small mothers often give birth to fewer puppies, and there can be complications during delivery for both.
Some teacups aren't even true teacups — they are often runts when they're puppies but will eventually grow to be normal small dogs.
Why People Love Teacups So Much
In the early 2000s, young celebrities like Paris Hilton began carrying these "pocket dogs" everywhere, and soon, they quickly became a global phenomenon. People wanted dogs they could fit inside a purse and began begging breeders for the dogs, who, in turn, charged outrageous prices.
A teacup is a dog you can take virtually anywhere, and they get plenty of attention from whoever sees them. They don't eat much, they don't make a huge mess and — when they're healthy — they're relatively cheap to own. Their exercise needs are also limited.
Teacups take up no real room, which is great for owners who live in apartments with pet size restrictions.
Health Issues in Teacup Pups
Depending on how they're bred — which is often through unethical means — teacups have a host of health problems. Common issues can include blindness, collapsing trachea, digestive problems, heart defects, hypoglycemia, seizures and respiratory ailments. They may also develop hydrocephalus (water on the brain), which is already an issue in smaller breeds.
Poorly bred teacups can also have liver shunts — congenital birth defects affecting their ability to flush out toxins. Treatment for this ailment can cost thousands of dollars and isn't always successful.
Small dogs (both toy and teacup) are prone to gum disease and tooth problems. Sometimes, their baby teeth don't fall out on their own and have to be pulled.
They may also suffer from patella luxation (i.e., a sliding kneecap). This can affect their ability to walk and makes them more prone to arthritis over time.
Additional Dangers of Owning a Teacup Dog
Tiny pups are fragile — their bones can break easily. Falling from a couch can severely injure them or even cause death. Accidentally stepping on a teacup can also cause serious injury.
Teacups should not miss meals; if they don't eat regularly, their blood sugar levels drop to dangerously low levels. This can cause seizures and even be fatal.
These tiny pups are prone to chills in cold weather, which is why they are often seen in sweaters. This and low blood sugar make it difficult for them to be successfully anesthetized when going under the knife.
Dr. Cathy Meeks of BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa, Florida, states: “[Teacups] are harder to treat. Can you imagine putting an IV in a 3-pound dog?"
The Bottom Line on Teacups
Teacups can cause anywhere from $3,000 to more than $10,000; their price is based on their bloodline, the breeder and their health. If you see any low-priced teacups, chances are more likely that they have health issues.
If you still want a teacup, do your research first (which you should do anyway, regardless of size.) There are ethical, reputable breeders that have smaller dogs or runts — and while they may not be bred expressly as teacups, they may just fit your needs.
Another, more affordable option is finding a small dog through a rescue — there are plenty of breed-specific small dog rescues out there — or from an animal shelter.