I am a lifelong animal lover and have a bachelor of science degree in biology.
There's No Such Thing as a "Teacup" Puppy
Small dogs are cute, really cute! Maybe not everyone's cup of tea (pardon the pun), but there are lots of reasons why someone might prefer small dogs over larger ones. They don't take up as much space in small houses or apartments. They don't eat as much as large dogs so it's usually cheaper to feed them. They often times have longer life spans than larger dogs, and many toy breed dogs have wonderful personalities. And they are absolutely adorable, did I mention that already?
There's nothing wrong with wanting to own a small dog. But how small is too small? Where do you draw the line between wanting a small dog that is a healthy, happy companion, and wanting a dog that is as small as possible? Does size really matter so much that you would risk your dog's health just so you can have the tiniest dog on the block? This is exactly what some owners are doing, whether knowingly or not.
What Is a Toy Breed?
The smallest breeds of dogs, many of which are generally under 10 lbs, fall into the category of toy breeds. The smallest breed of dog, as many already know, is the Chihuahua. A healthy, breed standard chihuahua generally weighs somewhere in between 2 and 6 lbs. The pug, generally weighing between 14 and 20 lbs, is probably the largest of the toy breeds. Even a 20 lb dog is pretty small. A 2 lb chihuahua is downright minuscule. Some dwarf rabbits grow to be larger than 2 lbs!
So as you can see, there are options out there for people who want tiny dogs. So why then, are some "breeders" out there advertising for what they call "teacup" puppies?
What Is a "Teacup" Breed?
The fact of the matter is that there really is no such thing as a "teacup" puppy. There are no "teacup" breeds, the term "teacup" is not recognized by the AKC or any other form of dog associations. The word "teacup," when used to describe the size of a puppy, usually means that the puppy is smaller than average. That might not seem like such a bad thing, but think of the size of a typical chihuahua puppy—tiny! Now think of how tiny that puppy would be if it were half its normal size.
Risks Involved in Breeding "Teacup" Puppies
Whatever happened to calling the smallest, usually weakest, puppies of the litter runts? By many breeders, teacup puppies are produced by breeding what basically amounts to runt dogs together. Now if all that caused were extra small dogs, that'd be one thing. But there are many risks involved with breeding very small dogs, to both the mother dog and to the puppies. The mother dogs, being very tiny themselves, commonly have difficulties carrying and delivering puppies.
Health Problems in "Teacup" Dogs
Common health issues in so-called teacup puppies include things like liver shunts, hypoglycemia, heart problems, open soft spots on the skull, collapsing trachea, seizures, respiratory problems, digestive problems, blindness, and the list goes on. Many of these issues are life-threatening and very expensive to treat.
Teacup puppies, because they are so small and frail, are also prone to breaking bones even while performing normal activities (such as jumping, playing, or running) that would present little to no danger to a normal puppy.
Not all teacup puppies are produced by breeding very small adult dogs. Some puppies sold as "teacup" puppies are merely premature puppies. Unethical breeders will sometimes lie about a puppy's age in order to make it appear that the puppy will be small as an adult.
Always Research Reputable Breeders
If you're thinking about adding a small dog to your family, please do the responsible thing and thoroughly research potential breeders or adopt a dog from a shelter. Do not fall for the teacup scam! The little puppies may be adorable, but they often come with health problems that can cut their lives short and/or cost their owners thousands in vet bills.
There is no such thing as a teacup puppy. The term is most often used by unethical breeds as a marketing ploy to stick a high price tag on what is more often than not a very unhealthy puppy. There are plenty of perfectly healthy small breed dogs that need loving homes and can be obtained without having your hard-earned cash supporting unethical breeders.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
I puddister on November 01, 2016:
Thank you fir you're thoughtful insight on some breeders Makes me sick to my stomach there are still puppy mills out there and worse people are still buying from them
Marci Powell on June 03, 2012:
I bought a mini schnauzer from a breeder who has the whole line 3 generations. She was the smallest of 7. At 14 weeks she is 3.3. No problems that the vet can see. Eats like a hog.She is lengthy, but needs to fill out. I am spayed her for sure. I was so worried about this liver shunt thing I am having her tested at 15 weeks when she gets her next set of shots..never had a dog this tiny before. But we love her!!
Melissa A Smith from New York on March 25, 2012:
True information, voted up.
Dragonrain (author) on March 23, 2012:
Thanks for reading!
My dog is big for his breed too. I got him from a breeder and she was able to tell me from the beginning that he'd be big. We had originally wanted a breed standard size dog, but just fell in love with our guy. I'm used to his larger size now, and couldn't imagine him being teeny tiny.
From the research I've done on teacups, it's probably a good thing that your dog grew bigger. He's probably healthier for it!
jasper420 on March 22, 2012:
Very interesting I bought a tea cup and he dose not fit into a tea cup! In fact he is actully big for his breed but I love him so very much and could not have been more blessed to have him in my life! Great work!