Cuteness Kills: The Case Against Teacup Dogs

Like it or not, purebred dogs are treated exactly like products. They’re produced – sometimes mass produced – for the sole purpose of being sold. They’re valued based on their looks and performance. They come in different models (breeds) and brands (bloodlines). And, like all products, their market is shaped by current trends and fads.

One of the hottest commodities currently on the market are so-called teacup dogs. These dogs are miniature versions of already-small breeds such as the Beagle, Maltese, Chihuahua, or Yorkie. They’re smaller than any officially recognized dog breed, generally weighing four pounds or less at maturity.

There’s no great mystery why these micro dogs are so popular. After all, people love tiny electronic devices, bite-sized snacks, and other miniaturized goodies. Why not extra-small dogs as well?

Shih Tzu puppy sitting in a tea cup
Bad breeding practices? Not our cup of tea.

Well, maybe because dogs aren’t smart phones. They’re living creatures that aren’t meant to get ever smaller with each generation. While it might sound great to own a dog who never grows beyond puppy size, there are three compelling reasons to ignore the hype and sit this fad out.

1. Teacup dogs are the result of questionable breeding practices

The issues with these dogs begin before they are even born. Teacup dogs can naturally occur as “runts of the litter,” but more often they’re the product of intentionally breeding two undersized dogs. Because the mother dog is so small, she can only whelp a couple of puppies at most and there’s a greatly increased chance of complications.

In other words, breeding teacups is extra risky for both the mother and the puppies.

Popular Teacup Breeds

Teacup Beagle
Teacup Boston Terrier
Teacup Chihuahua
Teacup French Poodle
Teacup Japanese Chin
Teacup Maltese
Teacup Maltipoo
Teacup Pomeranian
Teacup Poodle
Teacup Shitzu
Teacup Yorkie

That’s not the worst of it though. Because the dogs are in high demand and can sell for thousands of dollars, there’s a huge incentive for unethical breeders to produce these dogs any way they can. This could include breeding dogs that are closely related, or even deliberately stunting a puppy’s growth through starvation or other revolting methods.

Fraud is another issue. There is no officially recognized teacup breed, and typically no guarantee that the tiny puppy you get from the breeder won’t grow up to be a standard-sized dog. It’s all too easy for someone to pass a puppy off as a bonafide teacup when it’s really just a few weeks younger than advertised.

Of course, with any dog breed, there are going to be irresponsible breeders. However, because many reputable dog breeders refuse to sell teacups, this market in particular is wide open for sleazebags.

2. Teacup dogs suffer from a litany of health problems

Every breed is prone to certain diseases and disorders, but the list of issues for teacups is long and severe.

In one category, there are health issues directly related to their unnaturally small size. In another, there are problems that come from inbreeding and other sketchy practices of backyard breeders. Thanks to all of these issues, teacups as a group don’t live as long as their normal-sized counterparts.

No article about teacup breeds can fail to mention hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can cause seizures and death if not carefully monitored. Many teacups have to be fed several times a day (or more) precisely for this reason. Even when they don’t suffer from life-threatening conditions like this, they often have digestive troubles that are a chore to manage.

Other common health issues include liver shunts, hydrocephalus (water on the brain), heart problems, and respiratory problems. Anyone considering a teacup should factor in the potential for higher-than-normal vet bills – not to mention all the frustration and heartbreak that comes with owning a chronically ill pet.

3. Teacup dogs are too fragile for this world

If you’ve ever lived with a small dog, you know that they’re often just big enough to get on and off the couch (in fact, older dogs often need help). Now imagine the couch is two or three times its size.

Welcome to the world of the teacup dog.

Micro dogs are easily injured, especially when jumping or dropped from heights. This makes them a singularly horrible choice for families with young children, who will naturally want to carry around the adorable little critter (a tragedy waiting to happen). Other dogs – particularly big dogs – can also inadvertently harm a teacup dog.

Teacup Yorkshire Terrier with bow wrapped around it
Caution: Breakable

Like all small dogs, teacups also have a tendency to get underfoot. The difference is, you’re less likely to see them, and more likely to cause an injury when you kick or step on them.

Weak Tea

If you’re still determined to get a teacup dog, tread very carefully when choosing a breeder.

Don’t do it over the internet (duh). Make sure you visit their place of business and meet the puppy’s parents. Perhaps the best thing you can do is to take the puppy to a vet to get it checked out before finalizing your purchase.

Scratch that. The best thing you can do is reconsider getting that teacup dog at all. Because, like most fads, the teacup craze is pretty ridiculous when you stop and think about it.