Teacup dogs are specifically bred to be pocket-sized. They might be called ‘micro’ or ‘pocket’ but whatever the name the practice is not good for the health of the animal. In fact, warns PetMD, purchasing a ‘teacup’ puppy supports unethical breeding practices and results in super tiny dogs that have some truly intense health issues. “The name ‘teacup’ is a marketing ploy used by disrepute le breeders to fill their own pockets,” suggests EberVet Pet Clinic’s senior veterinarian Dr Esmaré van der Walt.
Teacup dogs are significantly smaller that what is typical for their breed. The breeds used to ‘make’ these tiny animals are already small dogs. They include:
- Yorkshire terriers – ideal weight = 1.8kg – 3.1kg
- Toy Poodle – ideal weight = 1.8kg – 2.9kg
- Shih Tzu – ideal weight = 4kg – 7.21kg
- Maltese – ideal weight = 1.8kg – 2.9kg
- Pomeranian – ideal weight = 1.32kg – 3.1kg
- Chihuahua – ideal weight = 1,36kg – 2.7kg
- Miniature Dachshund – ideal weight 4.5kg – 5kg
- Pug – ideal weight 6.3kg – 8.1kg
It is not uncommon for adult teacup dogs to weight well under 1.8kg and they often come from puppy mills. Some breeders even sell mixed or ‘designer teacup’ breeds like Pomchis (mix of Pom and Chihuahua) or Maltipoos (Maltese-Pom). These dogs cannot be registered with the Kennel Union of South Africa as they are cross-breeds
Teacup health issues
• Hypoglycaemia: dangerously low blood sugar levels which can lead to muscle weakness, seizures and death. To help prevent this, teacup puppy owners may be have to feed their babies every two hours (yes, overnight too) until they are at least a year old.
• Hydrocephalus: water on the brain. That ‘cute’ dome-like head that many teacup dogs have can be related to hydrocephalus. Extra pressure in the skull damages the brain leading to blindness, behavioural changes and other neurological issues. Surgery might be necessary to create a path for fluid to drain away from the brain.
• Liver shunts: are abnormal blood vessels that prevent the blood from entering the liver. diarrhoea, vomiting, fluid in the abdomen and seizures that worsen after eating are some of the symptoms. There is no cure.
• Dental disease: caused by teeth crowded into a tinier than usual mouth. Gingivitis, periodontal disease and other dental issues are the result.
• Heart disease: is common in small dogs but especially so in teacup breeds. Watch out for coughing, breathing difficulties, weakness and congestive heart failure. Symptoms can be managed but there is no cure.
• Collapsing trachea: is when the muscular portion of the windpipe weakens over time and sags, narrowing the passageway and resulting in a honking cough. Teacup dogs are at a higher-than-average risk of developing this condition.
• Orthopaedic diseases: or bone ailments are common and surgery is probable to keep dogs comfortable.
The smaller the dog the more difficult it is for them to stay warm and if teacup dogs aren’t protected from the weather they can develop hypothermia and frostbite. Tick and flea preventives are usually formulated for use in dogs that weigh 2.6kg or more. If smaller, teacup dogs will need to take more expensive compound medications. Anaesthesia, bone facility and stress are all additional concerns.
Before you rush out to adopt a ‘teacup’ for its cuteness, consider the above and ask yourself whether you can live with a pet knowing the health risks it faces, and how it may suffer as a result.