The Real Truth About Teacup Dogs

The Real Truth About Teacup Dogs

The world is obsessed with babies, puppies and other small versions of animals (hello teacup pig!), so it’s no surprise that teacup breeds gained such global popularity. In the early 2000s, socialite Paris Hilton made the world fall in love with her tiny Chihuahua named Tinkerbell on the reality show The Simple Life. In the ensuing years, dog breeders and vets became inundated with requests from people for these teeny tiny pups that can be carried around in their purses. Thus, the teacup dog frenzy was born. But the truth that teacup breeders don’t tell you is that they also come with a whole host of issues.

How do these adorable little pooches come to be? Where would someone even get one, and is it really a good idea to get one? In this article, we explore these questions and more.

What Are Teacup Dogs?

Keep in mind that although the term teacup dog has been widely used throughout this piece, there really is no such thing. The correct terminology is micro-dog or pocket-sized dog.

Teacup dogs are animals that have been bred, and in some cases genetically engineered, to be as small as physically possible. According to Los Angeles-based veterinarian Dr Patrick Mahaney, for a dog to be considered teacup sized, they typically weigh between 500g and 2.5 kg, and measure under roughly 40cm when they are fully grown. That means that teacup puppies have even smaller measurements than the average sized dog of that breed.

Teacup dogs can also be classified as toy dogs, which are dogs that weigh just less than 7kg. Teacups dogs can be bred from any dog breed, but the most popular are the Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, Pomeranian, Poodle and Chihuahua. Breeders have even created mixtures of these popular breeds to create new breeds of incredibly tiny dogs (like the Maltipoo, Morkie etc.).

How Are Teacup Dogs Bred?

There has been loads of controversy surrounding the facts behind the breeding of teacup dogs. In truth, many unethical and inhumane practices are employed to create these tiny beauties.

It is also important to note that “teacup” is not an officially recognised term for these dogs. Instead, the super tiny pups are actually known as micro-dogs or pocket-sized dogs. The term teacup is a rather clever marketing tactic used by many a breeder to drive the price higher. In using the term, you might also be scammed into buying a dog that is labelled as teacup, but it is simply just a small, malnourished dog.

Teacup dogs are created when breeders use the “runts” of a particular litter of puppies with the aim of creating the smallest possible dog. The more unscrupulous (read scumbag) breeders have even gone as far as inbreeding runts, as well as stunting the growth of the puppies by malnourishing them. They would repeat this cycle multiple times until they got dogs that didn’t grow past 5kgs naturally. However, there are several health complications involved, which will be discussed later in this article.

After reading this, you may be wondering if there are even ethical teacup dog breeders out there, and the short answer is yes. However, it is more likely that they have a smaller than average litter of pups available (importance on have). In this case, the breeder has not deliberately made the litter of puppies smaller through extreme measures. Your best bet would be to rescue or adopt from a shelter, rather than buying from any particular breeder. If you are struggling to find ethical breeders, consider instead toy dog breeds – they are still small, but are a much healthier weight and size, and come with less health complications overall.

Perceived Benefits of Teacup Dogs

Who doesn’t enjoy holding a tiny pup? Having a dog that can essentially fit in your pocket has many benefits. You can take them anywhere and everywhere, and they will definitely be loved by all of your friends and family.

They are also super fun to take pictures of. Your impending Instagram fame is almost entirely guaranteed with a teacup dog, as they are just unbelievably cute, and people like seeing positive imagery on the internet.

You will also be saving huge amounts of money on food, as they don’t need that much food or medication because of their diminutive stature. This also means that poo clean-up is less of a headache.

Having a teacup dog is also beneficial to pet owners who may live in areas that have strict pet restrictions and not a lot of space, like flats or townhouse complexes. They are also beneficial if the pet owner can only provide shorter walks.

Health Complications of Teacup Dogs

Many veterinarians will tell you that because of the breeding history of teacup dogs, these canines are more predisposed to certain health issues that will lead to them having very short, painful, and medically expensive lives. Sometimes, the dogs chosen for breeding already come with severe health complications and birth defects, which are then passed down to the next generation of puppies. These dogs are also much harder for veterinarians to treat than any normal sized dog. Imagine trying to place a drip on a dog that weighs 2kg!

As mentioned earlier, some breeders essentially starve the puppies so as to stunt their growth. This can lead to very serious conditions, including failure to thrive. Failure to thrive, or fading puppy syndrome, is usually indicated when a puppy is seemingly happy and vigorous, and then dies suddenly within its first few weeks of life for no apparent reason.

Other health complications that are common amongst teacup dogs include organ failure, dental and gum diseases, hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), heart defects, collapsing trachea, seizures, respiratory problems, digestive problems, brain defects like hydrocephalus and blindness.

Teacup dogs are also more likely to have bone density issues and patella luxation, or sliding kneecap, due to their size, which will affect their ability to walk. These conditions also make teacups more susceptible to juvenile arthritis.

Additionally, owners of teacup dogs have to stay hyper vigilant. Because of their size, teacups are more prone to breaking their bones. A tumble down a couple of stairs for a normal sized, small breed dog may result in a funny viral video, but for teacup breeds that kind of trauma could potentially be fatal. If your teacup dog has a heart condition, they can, and this may sound ridiculous, even potentially have a heart attack if they get frightened hard enough.


Due to the rise in popularity of teacup dogs in the early 2000s, breeders have created a very lucrative business for themselves, with many a breeder even receiving international requests for teacup dogs. It is severely important that you do your research before getting one, especially on the breeder, their history and their practices. In South Africa, many teacup dogs end up in shelters looking for a loving home for various reasons, so opt for the adoption route if you are looking for a teacup or toy dog.

In terms of cost, a quick Google search will yield loads of results of people selling teacup breeds everywhere. The consensus is that teacup dogs are very expensive to buy from breeders. According to PetMD, the average cost of a teacup dog is anywhere between $750 and $3 500 (that’s between R10 000 and R50 000) to buy, and that’s excluding any additional costs you might incur due to medical expenses, permits, import tax etc. In SA, teacup puppies can range from R4 000 minimum.

This biggest takeaway that I hope you get from this is that you do your research. There are many wonderful resources available to us thanks to the internet, so please use them. Be sure to consult a vet before buying or adopting a teacup dog, as this could help you in the long run.

The practice of breeding teacup dogs is one of vile origins that has unfortunately made some very bad people very rich. It is the hope of many animal activist groups to bring the inhumane breeding of micro dogs to an end. Instead, rescue or adopt.


The Truth About “Teacup” Puppies:

What You Need To Know About Teacup Dogs:

The Truth About Teacup Dogs:

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