Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who
partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
Facts About Teacup Dog Breeds Prospective Buyers Should Know
Jorge Gonzalez, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr
What Are Teacup Dog Breeds?
“Teacup,” as the name implies, is a term meant to depict smaller-than-average
dog breeds. The term is quite flashy and attractive when one reads it
advertised in the Sunday newspaper as pictures of cute, small dog breeds
capable of comfortably fitting into a coffee cup come to mind.
As innocent as the term “teacup puppy” or “teacup dog” may appear, there are a
lot of important facts to become aware of before falling in love with these
dogs and considering paying a premium price for one. Learning more facts about
them can help make the difference between enduring many heartaches and
expenses and enjoying a dog for many years to come.
“Teacup” Is Not an Official Term (This Word May Be a Red Flag)
Teacups are basically very small versions of popular breeds of small dogs.
Also referred to as micro-dogs or pocket-sized dogs, as one may imagine, on
top of being small, these dogs also considerably weigh less than the standard
set forth for that particular breed. For sake of an example, according to
American Kennel Club, the Maltese is expected to weigh under seven pounds,
with a preference for specimens being anywhere in between the four and six-
pound range. A teacup Maltese would instead weigh considerably less than this
standard, making it even much smaller than acceptable.
It’s important for prospective dog owners to realize that the term “teacup” is
not an official term, and that as such, it is not endorsed by any of the main
dog breed registries. They are not a specific breed of dog. The term is mostly
an astutely thought marketing ploy specifically crafted for the purpose of
attracting buyers and persuading them into thinking that teacup puppies are
valuable and worthy of a higher price tag.
When a prospective buyer, therefore, goes to purchase these dogs, they may be
really smaller than the average weight and size for the breed, or they may
actually be normal size or even bigger, but the breeder still markets them as
“teacups” just in hopes of adding a glitzy touch to make up for the higher
price tag. The term is, therefore, a big red flag that should send warning
beeps left and right.
The Yorkshire Terrier Club on America Code of Ethics requires its members to
not adhere to any misleading practices such as the use of terms like “teacup,”
“doll-faced,” or similar terminology.
The terms “imperial” or “tiny teacup” should be regarded as what they really
are…. A MYTH often used by unethical breeders to create a market for dogs
that do not conform to the breed standard.
— American Shih Tzu Club
The Ugly Truth About These Breeds
Having a smaller-than-average dog may be appealing as these dogs can easily
fit into a pink Gucci bag, but the health of such dogs should not be put on
the line just for the purpose of attracting buyers who wish to make a fashion
statement. Before committing to purchasing a smaller version of an already
small breed, it is therefore important to understand how these breeds are
produced and how this can impact their general health.
Behind the creation of these breeds, there is often a breeder who is purposely
raising runts of the litter. Runts of the litter are basically smaller than
average dogs who are weaker and often struggling to survive. While a reputable
breeder who occasionally stumbles on these specimens may sell these runts with
a strict spay and neuter contract so that these specimens are not allowed to
reproduce, an unethical breeder may instead purposely breed their runt with
another runt (often closely related by inbreeding) in hopes of producing whole
litters of smaller than average dogs.
On top of that, there are chances that some unethical breeders may also
purposely stunt the growth of their puppies by not providing them the needed
nourishment these puppies need.
These puppies are therefore called “teacups” and they are often sold for a
hefty price. How much does a teacup puppy cost on average? The price of a
teacup dog breed may easily range anywhere between $750 and $2,000!
What breeds are teacup dogs? There are several dog breeds that are described
as teacups, and it’s concerning that more and more are being added to the
list. Here is a list of teacup dog breeds.
A List of Teacup Breeds
Common breeds that are bred as “teacups” include the following, but several
Scroll to Continue
Read More From Pethelpful
Why Does My Cat Sit on My Stuff?
Tips for Home Care for Your Vomiting Cat When You Cannot Visit the Vet
The Top 10 Fastest Dog Breeds
- The Chihuahua
- The Maltese
- The Pomeranian
- The Poodle
- The Pug
- The Shih Tzu
- The Silky Terrier
- The Yorkshire Terrier
The Problems With Teacup Dog Breeds
On top of engaging in unethical practices and selling teacup puppies for a
premium, breeders of these breeds are also giving away dogs who are likely to
encounter several health ailments along the road. At the veterinary hospital I
used to work for, we had a client who was coming to visit us over and over,
not because she liked us, but because her puppy was often terribly sick. This
puppy has frequent bouts of digestive issues and bouts of hemorrhagic
gastroenteritis that led to costly frequent hospitalizations, which often had
her worried sick. She must have spent thousands of dollars as IV fluids were
pumped into the pup for days and each time her bills were quite hefty!
What health problems are these breeds prone to? Teacup puppies can be prone to
bouts of hypoglycemia, where their levels of blood glucose in their blood
would drop causing weakness, shivering and even seizures in severe cases.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, miniature breeds are predisposed to
hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. Being smaller, also means that these dogs have a
faster metabolism which often translates into a need for more frequent
Other health problems may include increased risks for liver shunts,
hydrocephalus, larger moleras, heart problems, seizures, and teeth problems
(imagine all those teeth crowded in such a small mouth!). On top of that,
these small fragile dogs can be easily sat on or dropped making them
particularly unsuitable for families with small children. These alone are just
some good reasons why teacup dog breeds are far from being everyone’s “cup of
Of course, as with everything dog related, there are always exceptions to the
rule. Several owners of teacup puppies or runts of the litter have stories of
their tiny dogs leading overall healthy and happy lives, but buyers must be
aware of all the extra care these small dogs may need and not always these
health problems may show up right away, but can insidiously raise their ugly
heads only weeks, months, or years later!
Micro dogs weighing three pounds or less at adulthood are more prone to
serious health problems and generally live shorter lives. It’s hard on them,
and it’s hard on their families to lose them at an early age. There are
plenty of small dogs who are healthy; let’s not encourage the breeding of
tiny, unhealthy dogs simply so we can have bragging rights about whose dog
is the smallest.
— Dr. Marty Becker
Regular-sized Yorkies are not only cute but healthier!
What to Consider Before Purchasing a Designer Breed
Let’s face it, the market for selling puppies is sadly like other businesses
around the globe and it tends to be shaped by different trends and fads. Still
as of today, teacup remains a buzzword that is meant to attract buyers in
hopes of having them shell out money without many reserves. While these breeds
are not endorsed by any reputable dog registries, celebrities are often to
blame for the spread of designer dog breeds that are then specially crafted by
unethical breeders for a profit.
Sure, it can be cute and trendy to carry an adorable tiny pooch in a pink
Gucci bag, but dogs are not fashion accessories and don’t deserve to be
treated this way! When dogs are purchased on a whim, just because famous
Hollywood stars have them, people often fall into the trap of not realizing
the amount of work and care small dogs require.
But what if a person really wants a teacup breed, and has the time and will to
care for one, does this mean that the idea should be completely abandoned? Not
necessarily, but it’s a good idea to conduct careful research.
Obviously, the unethical breeders purposely breeding these dogs for a hefty
price tag should be avoided. Pet stores are also a problem considering that
their puppies are for the most part supplied by puppy mills. Perhaps a better
option for those really interested in a teacup is to simply consider
purchasing a toy dog breed, which is the healthier version coming in a
healthier weight range and size for its standard.
Reputable breeders may also occasionally stumble on smaller-than-average
puppies that they are willing to supply along with a health guarantee and a
contract stating that the puppy remains of pet quality and is spayed and
neutered. Not to mention the countless rescues or shelters that have an
abundance of small dogs in desperate need of a caring family and home.
We recognize that many Chihuahua fanciers do want the very small puppy.
While they are adorable and can be perfectly healthy, the buyer should be
cautioned as to the extra care that may be required with regard to their
general health and well-being.
— The Chihuahua Club of America
- Vet Street, 5 Toy Breeds That Worry This Vet the Most
- American Shih Tzu Club, Imperial Shih Tzu
- The Yorkshire Terrier Club of America, Code of Ethics
- Chihuahua Club of America, Teacup Statement
- The Chihuahua Handbook by D. Caroline Coile
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and
is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a
© 2016 Adrienne Farricelli
Libby Ceballos on July 12, 2020:
Looking for a tea cup chihuahua
Nancy Wilson on April 13, 2020:
Many years ago I had a female yorkie 5 lbs that I bred to a smaller 3 lb. male
also owned by the breeder I got her from. She had 4 pups but one was a runt
and it a soft spot on top of its head that didn’t close but got bigger. It had
water on the brain. I had to have him put to sleep when he was only 4 wks.
old. I didn’t want to breed her anymore so I had her spayed. Runts are more
prone to have problems.
john davie on February 07, 2020:
looking for yorkie bigger than tea cup size price and availability please
reply in Canadian funds
Kathryn on January 22, 2020:
I had one for almost 6 yrs then all of sudden she had three seizures nearly
back to back. She then had one shortly after that one she lost control of her
bladder. She passed within the hr without ever regaining consciousness. She
was only 1.2 pounds. So still watch tneir sugqr!!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 30, 2019:
Hi Kemi, I am in the United States so provided the price range in US dollars.
This was back to when the article was written in 2016, prices may have
increased further in the meanwhile. Thanks for sharing the average price for
Canada in Canadian dollars.
Kemi on August 30, 2019:
I’m not sure where you are exactly but the pricing ($750-$2000) is inaccurate
here in Canada for sure. “Teacup” dogs range from $1500-$3500.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 28, 2019:
So sorry Judy you have dealt with so many problems in your 4 and a half pound
Yorkie. You and her were surely strongly bonded. It must have been truly heart
breaking losing her and going through all that.
Judy on July 11, 2019:
I had a 4-1/2 lb yorkie. She had surgery at about 4yrs because she needed a
liver shunt to survive. She was the cutest, sweetest most loyal little pup,
and she had my heart at first sight. She fell asleep in my arms every night.
But as she got older, she just developed more and more health problems. She
only lived to be 8 yrs old, and a piece of my heart died with her. She’s been
gone for 6 yrs now, and I still miss her more than I can say.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 18, 2019:
Teacups are sure hard to resist with their little bodies and cute faces, but
there are important risks to consider.
Aopa on March 22, 2019:
I love tea cup puppies and dogs though I wish it’s not a bid problem if I get
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 13, 2017:
Jessica, as the article concludes did does not apply to all teacups. See
section “Of course, as with everything dog related, there are always
exceptions to the rule. Several owners of teacup puppies or runts of the
litter have stories of their tiny dogs leading over all healthy and happy
Jessica on August 07, 2017:
I have a teacup she is 3 never had a problem