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Everything you need to know about the teacup dog

By Daniel Mar Journalist

Updated on the

A teacup dog is an animal that was bred to be as small as possible. This type of breeding has many pros and cons to consider. Teacup dogs have experienced an increase in popularity during the past decade.

What is a teacup dog?

The main reason for their existence is that dog breeders tried to create a dog that could fit anywhere. As a consequence, a teacup dog is very small. If you have never seen one, you might actually be surprised at the size of these cute little animals.

“Teacup dogs are animals that have been bred to be as small as humanly—or shall we say caninely—possible. Most dogs considered to be teacups weigh 5 pounds or less”, said Dr Patrick Mahaney.  These dogs are a special type of breed that can measure 17 inches or less at one year of life. These extremely small dogs can fit into a teacup! Among the most popular teacup dog breeds you can find the following:

  1. Yorkshire Terrier
  2. Chihuahua
  3. Maltese
  4. Beagle
  5. Pinscher
  6. Dachshund
  7. Poodle
  8. Pomerian
  9. Pug
  10. Shih Tzu

How can you create a teacup dog?

“To create teacup dogs, breeders pair the so-called “runts” of the litters to make the smallest animal possible”, said Dr Cathy Meeks. In fact, to achieve a teacup dog, breeders try to mate the smallest dogs from a so-called “litter breed” with another small dog. Breeders tried many combinations until they achieved this desired size.

Due to the high cost of this type of breeding, plus the many health risks that it poses to the dogs, many vets don’t consider it an advisable or even ethical way to breed dogs. However, it is up to you to create your own conclusions.

Advantages of owning a teacup dog

Teacup dogs can fit in a pocket. This special trait can lead to many advantages. Firstly, you can take your teacup dog anywhere you go. Secondly, because they are unique and different, they tend to steal everyone’s attention. Thirdly, since they are small, they don’t eat much, which means that you won’t have to spend too much money on food. Fourthly, these dogs are perfect for those persons that have homes with pet size restrictions. Lastly, if you are not an active dog owner, you should know that teacup dogs don’t need much exercise.

The lifespan of teacup dogs

Vets usually confirm that inbreeding can lead to a reduction of a dog’s lifespan. Therefore, in the case of inbred teacup dogs, even though their lifespan could be the same as a normal-sized breed, it is not. The reason is simple: teacup dogs are affected by plenty of health and psychological problems that can severely decrease their lifespan.

Most frequent health issues in teacup dogs

“Health risks for these tiny dogs are significant. This is not a natural breeding situation. It is an unnatural practice by breeders looking for a marketing edge”, says Dr Judy Morgan. Teacups dogs can be prone to lots of diseases. By being small, these dogs have a faster metabolism which often translates in a need to feed frequently (although in small amounts). If you are not careful with their feeding routine, they can easily get sick. Among the most serious health problems that affect teacups dogs you can find:

  1. Hypoglycaemia: caused by a sudden drop in blood sugar levels which leads to lethargy, weakness, and in the worst cases, coma. If a teacup dog doesn’t eat at least every three hours, they can get hypoglycaemia.

  2. Heart defects: these dogs suffer many congenital diseases like pulmonary stenosis. This happens because the breeding technique used forces their organs to adapt to a small size. Studies have shown that at least 40% of teacups suffer chronic vulvar disorders. Other heart diseases are heart murmurs and cardiomyopathy.

  3. Breathing problems: teacup dogs are affected by dyspnoea and tachypnea. The first is a result of an overwork in the respiratory system which causes noisy breathing and other symptoms. The second happens when the dog breathes very fast because he has a shallow breathing.

  4. Liver problems: teacup dogs have congenital liver problems. Most of them cause malnutrition, weakness and underweight. “The breeding practices can also lead to an increased risk for liver shunts. Liver shunts are often congenital birth defects in dogs that affect the liver’s ability to flush out toxins. Treatment for liver shunts can cost up to $6,000, and some types of shunts don’t respond well to therapy regardless of the cost”, says Dr Meeks.

  5. Patella luxation: also known as “sliding kneecap”, it is a luxation of the kneecap bone which can impair the dog’s walking capacity and it can even make it prone to developing arthritis.

Caring for a teacup dog

The most important aspect to prioritize is the meal schedule. “If the dogs miss even one meal, their blood sugar levels could drop dangerously low and cause seizures and even death”, says Dr Meeks. Therefore, your teacup dog needs to eat three to four times a day or every three to four hours. Try to include in the meals some form of syrup to prevent low blood sugars. Create a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.

Also, avoid any stressful situations with your teacup dog. In order to do so, you must create a routine with your pet. Play for short periods of time. Don’t over-exercise him. Usually, teacup dogs need 14 hours of sleep. Don’t take them with you everywhere you go, especially if you live in the city. Teacup dogs don’t like to visit places they have never been to. Teacup dogs can be wonderful pets. However, their health problems cannot be ignored. Take all of this into account before getting a teacup dog.

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