The ethics behind breeding and buying “teacup” dogs

A look into the problematic trend of breeding and buying abnormally small dogs.

by Good Dog

The trend of “teacup dogs” has been on the rise for nearly a decade and has grown in popularity largely due to social media and celebrities. Many people are entranced by the idea of having a pocket-sized version of their favorite breed. Unfortunately, miniaturizing dogs is unnatural and often comes at the expense of the dog’s health — there’s no breed that is inherently “teacup sized.” For this reason, irresponsible breeders frequently resort to unethical practices to make their dogs as small as possible.

A common approach used by unethical breeders is to take the runt of the litter or a dog that is abnormally small due to a medical issue or defect and breed them. This leads to a slew of health risks for these extremely small dogs.

These irresponsible breeders are willing to compromise the health of their dogs due to the significant price tag that comes along with a “teacup sized” dog. Breeding for size instead of health often results in many potential dangers and is problematic for both the breeding dogs and the puppies. The Yorkshire Club of America states that teacup dogs are prone to “hereditary and non-hereditary health problems, including birth defects that may go undetected for a long time.” Each time these small and unhealthy dogs are bred, those health issues are passed down to their puppies.

Common issues that arise in these small dogs include lifelong health problems like heart defects, respiratory issues, organ malfunctions, seizures, digestive problems, blindness, liver shunts, and dental and gum issues.

It can’t be overstated how fragile these dogs are due to their size. Missing a meal could result in seizures or death due to low blood sugar. Their bones are so small and fragile that a short fall or an accident could lead to a serious injury or even death. Even slipping off of furniture or playing a little too rough with a larger dog can be detrimental for a dog of such small stature.

In an emergency, operating on and treating such a small dog can be incredibly difficult for vets. With their blood sugar issues and trouble keeping their body temperature warm, anesthesia can be risky for such tiny dogs.

It’s crucial to note the difference between toy and teacup dogs. Toy breeds are officially recognized by the AKC and their main purpose traditionally was to act as companion animals for their humans. Separately, “teacup” breeds do not exist, and are commonly the direct result of irresponsible breeding methods.

Relatedly, many irresponsible breeders will claim their dogs are “teacup sized” so they’re able to attach a higher price tag to their puppies. For example, the standard size for a Maltese is 4 to 7 pounds and most of the breeders recognized on Good Dog will have Maltese around that size. With any litter, there will be variation in sizes and you can definitely talk with your breeder about finding a puppy on the smaller side.

The term teacup is unfortunately used primarily by puppy mills and pet shops. They will advertise dogs that are typically smaller than are considered healthy or standard size but will charge more by advertising them as “teacup”. These kinds of operations can be difficult to identify — especially if you’re looking for a dog online. This is why it’s essential to know that almost every breeder or pet store claiming to have “teacup sized” dogs is most likely an unethical breeder or attempting to scam customers into thinking a standard size dog is in fact a "teacup."

Breeding for size or look instead of choosing the healthiest dogs is problematic and will consistently result in a myriad of health problems for the puppies. Although it might seem desirable to have such a tiny dog, seeking out teacup puppies from an irresponsible source supports unethical breeding practices and sustains the hereditary and non-hereditary health issues many of these dogs will face for their lifetimes.

Choosing a reputable program that breeds their dogs based on health and temperament will save heartache for both you and your dog down the line. You’ll also be supporting a breeder that prioritizes the well-being of their animals above all else — bringing us a step closer to building a better and healthier world for our dogs.