We’ve all seen them, those pint-size puppies that fit in the palm of your hand. They’re hard to resist, and many people succumb to their cuteness. But as the demand for teacup puppies continues to rise it’s time to stop and think. Not about how sweet they look but rather about the consequences of our continued desire for small dogs.
The true cost of a teacup
Teacup puppies are miniature versions of dogs that are already small. Popular teacups include;
- Yorkshire Terrier
Dogs are not considered to be ‘teacup’ size unless they weigh under five pounds fully grown; about the same weight as a bag of flour.
So how do small dogs become even smaller? Unfortunately, the only way that dogs become teacup size is through selective breeding.
And this is where the problem lies. Teacup puppies sell for a lot of money. The average cost is around four thousand, so the temptation to breed smaller and smaller dogs is enormous. Health concerns and the practicalities of raising a diminutive dog go out the window when that amount of money is on offer.
For unethical breeders only interested in making a profit, the quickest way to meet the demand for tiny teacups is to breed the smallest dogs of a litter (runts).
While runts can have health issues of their own, the story doesn’t stop there. Unscrupulous money makers don’t care about diversifying the gene pool but are content to interbreed, mothers with sons, sibling to sibling and fathers to daughters. Any inherent health conditions get passed on, and interbreeding creates issues of its own.
What’s more, denying puppies essential nutrition produces smaller dogs, lying about their age and selling them before eight weeks old and breeding the mother at the beginning or end of her heat cycle, so the pups are born prematurely all create smaller dogs.
So, before you splash the cash for a tiny teacup, factor in the regular trips to the vet that you’ll likely need for the lifetime (albeit short) of your dog.
The health of teacup puppies
The unfortunate reality for teacup puppies is that many of them suffer from lifelong health problems. Irrespective of the parent breed, these micro mutts commonly suffer from serious health issues and congenital disabilities that include the following;
- Skulls that are malformed, with a permanent soft-spot
- Brittle bones and reduced bone density making the dog extraordinarily fragile and prone to fractures
- Major organ failure
- Liver Shunts
- Enlarged hearts and heart murmurs
- Respiratory problems including tracheal collapse
- Digestive sensitivities and issues
- Luxating patellar
- Low body temperature
- Dental disease
- Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)
Considering that many breeders of teacup puppies are producing the pups for money, there’s no concern for the health of the parent dogs. In fact, as long as the breeding pair are as small as possible, the welfare of the parents and pups is unlikely to matter much to unscrupulous breeders.
The truth about teacup puppies
The welfare of these tiny dogs is such a concern that the Kennel Club refuses to include any dog classed as ‘teacup’ on their register.
But it’s not just the physical health of these dogs that suffer. Because teacup puppies are so delicate, the reality of raising and caring for these tiny dogs often falls short of what owners want.
With the rising numbers of small dogs surrendered to shelters, it’s vital that you prepare yourself for what’s ahead.
Introducing your puppy to new situations, people and other dogs helps them adjust to the world. The more positive experiences your dog has, the less likely they are to be fearful and the happier they will be.
Now imagine trying to give your one or two-pound puppy the chance to play positively with other puppies. One paw out of place from any other pup and your tiny and fragile dog ends up in the vets with serious injuries.
There’s no doubt that your pup will get a lot of human attention, especially from children. But children can be heavy-handed, and each interaction needs to be positive so that puppy becomes comfortable with being handled.
As part of the crucial socialisation period, it’s vital to get your puppy out and about as much as possible, and this would seem the easy part of having such a small dog.
However, teacup puppies have such small stomachs and often suffer from low blood pressure that they need food much more frequently than their larger counterparts.
So, if you’re planning a day trip, take food and water for your puppy or risk them becoming seriously ill.
If you’re set on getting a teacup puppy, forget leaving them at home for any length of time. Not only do you need to be there to ensure they eat frequent and regular meals but a house that’s easily navigated by a larger dog is full of hazards for a tiny dog.
Running, jumping and even walking around in an uneven yard can damage teacup puppies fragile bones.
While children love tiny puppies, teacup dogs are a terrible choice as a family dog. They are just not robust enough to stand up to the daily hustle and bustle of family life. One step backwards or a slightly heavy-handed play session and it’s yet another trip to the vets.
Expect to spend time at your vets if you opt for a teacup puppy. With known health issues and the additional risk of injury, these tiny dogs are exceptionally vulnerable. Not only that but now imagine you’re a vet trying to treat a dog that’s so small. Recovery from illness and accidents is so much harder to guarantee for these little dogs.
Small but perfectly formed
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a small dog. In fact, small dogs have many advantages over their larger counterparts; They are cheaper to feed, often need less exercise, and indeed take up less space.
What’s more veterinary costs are more manageable, and you’ll get to spend more time with them as their lifespan is longer than that of a bigger dog. Many small dog breeds like the Maltese are robust for their size and with care, make excellent family dogs.
Teacup puppies – tiny trouble
Our appetite for smaller dogs combined with the vast amount of money they sell for is creating a marketplace that ignores the welfare of the dogs involved.
Many breeders sell these dogs via the internet. There’s no way of seeing the mother, the living conditions they are kept in or any guarantee of health. Unfortunately, this means that in purchasing a teacup puppy you could be supporting the misery of a puppy mill existence for these dogs.
If you still want a tiny dog, check your local rescue centres as more and more teacup puppies are surrendered due to the extra care and cost they incur.