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What Are Teacup Dogs? 

Written by Ella White

Updated

chihuahua

Teacup dogs – animals bred to be so small they can fit in a purse, or a teacup – have become a popular and expensive pet in the past few decades. Like lap dogs before them, teacup dogs rose to popularity thanks to celebrities like Paris Hilton, who at the height of her media popularity could often be seen with her tiny chihuahua, Tinkerbell, peeking out the top of a Chanel bag.

But where do teacup dogs come from, what exactly are they, and are they a safe and ethical choice of pet? In this blog, we’ll look at everything you need to know about teacup dogs.

Teacup dogs are usually breeds from the toy dog group which includes pugs, chihuahuas, pomeranians, and Yorkshire terriers. Although some larger breeds, like beagles, have also been bred in miniature. 

By definition, teacup dogs are so small that they usually weigh under 5lbs. They’re bred from the smallest dogs in a litter and can be sold for thousands of dollars. However, since some runts are small due to genetic defects and other medical conditions, and in nature animals breed for strength and health not aesthetic qualities, there is a higher chance of teacup dogs inheriting more from their parents than just their miniature size.

Teacup dogs exist for a number of reasons: some aesthetic, and some practical. On the practical side, there are obvious benefits to having a dog that’s small enough to take almost anywhere with you. They’re easier to care for, eat less food, and need less living space and exercise.

It’s also become a fashionable aesthetic to have a dog small enough to carry in your purse. However, due to the potential health risks that teacup dogs are susceptible to, these benefits could be outweighed by the disadvantages of a tiny, sick pup.

Due to the process of breeding dogs from runts of the litter, teacup dogs are likely to be genetically predisposed to some health issues, including:

  • Heart defects
  • Respiratory issues
  • Digestive problems
  • Seizures
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Blindness
  • Brain issues like hydrocephalus
  • Tooth and gum diseases
  • Collapsed trachea
  • Liver shunts
  • Patella luxations (sliding kneecaps)
  • Arthritis

As well as causing an unhappy life for the animal, who will likely live in sickness and discomfort, some of these conditions can rack up huge vet bills for owners, too. Liver shunts, for example, prevent the liver from flushing out toxins and can cost up to $6,000 for treatments that are not guaranteed to be effective.

Due to their tiny size, teacup dogs can also struggle to regulate their temperature and often need to wear sweaters to keep them warm in winter. It might look cute, but their tiny stature also means their bones are more likely to break, and their blood sugar levels can drop to dangerously low levels from missing just one meal. And when taken to the vets, their miniature size makes them much harder to be operated on or treated medically.

Also, the smaller the dog, the less likely they are to survive or fully recover from accidents like jumping from heights, falling, or being attacked by a larger animal. So overall, the risk of danger and health issues faced by teacup dogs are greater than that of larger breeds – even standard-sized toy dogs. 

Many vets believe that teacup dogs should not be bred as they’re so likely to suffer with their health and cause financial difficulties for owners due to medical costs. Ideally, breeders should not be profiting off unhealthy puppies that are the result of an unhealthy pair of parents. However, it is possible to find breeders that only breed miniature puppies from tiny-yet-healthy miniature dogs. 

To ethically source a teacup dog, owners should be prepared to do a lot of research into different breeders and potentially be prepared to pay a lot of money for a healthy dog of this kind. It’s also vitally important that they are aware of the potential health risks associated with owning a teacup dog, and the symptoms that might indicate there is a problem.