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Truth about Teacups

(Image: RSPCA)

Most of you should've heard the term Teacup. Teacup puppies are becoming very popular in the recent years due to media like facebook and instagram, this is becoming concerning as many owners are buying them on impulse without first understanding about their history and background. In this post we are going to share their history, how they are created, care tips and also pros & cons.

Hopefully this article can help clear up all myths and misunderstandings about Teacups as well as bring awareness to owners/potential dog owners.


What is a Teacup
Teacup is a term to label dogs that are smaller than toy breeds. Usually not bigger than the size of your hands when fully grown, Teacups can range from breeds like Pomeranian, Maltese, Yorkie, Poodle to even Chihuahua. The term "Teacup" comes about because these tiny dogs are marketed such that they can literally be placed in a teacup. Yes that is how small they can be! That being said, some Teacups are "accidentally" bred to be slightly bigger in size, unethical businesses noticed this loophole and created another term to hopefully market them better.

How Teacups are created
There are many claims as to how Teacups are created, I have decided to list out the possibilities after talking to to different toy and teacup breeders, to understand how dogs can be bred to such a small size.

Runt of the litter
In animal births where there are multiple births, there would sometimes be one that is smaller and weaker than its siblings. A runt will find it harder to fight for survival - they are usually the last to get milk from the mother due to their size and strength, this would further weaken the pup's growth. Due to natural selection, some mothers may even reject the runt right away, allowing it to die.

That being said, runts are NOT Teacup!

Teacups are created by breeding runts with runts to create even smaller sized dogs. So if someone tells you that Teacups are very healthy and live a long happy life, think again!


Premature
Premature dogs are those that are born before the end of their gestation. This can be in the form of natural premature birth, which some mother dogs may experience without any interference. But unfortunately there is another way created by evil humans, which is by performing c-section before gestation period end. One Taiwan breeder I spoke to had his puppies removed early by c-section, this ensure that these puppies will be very small in size to create the ever popular Teacup. When this happens the mother may not want to feed her puppies, that's even better for the breeders as the puppies can't grow. In Taiwan, small sized dogs are very popular, many Taiwanese themselves like us don't want to understand how the breeding industry work, which result in them supporting the growth of this business unknowingly. I've even heard of a method to induce premature birth, by giving the mother dog mildly poisoned food/liquid, not sure how true this is but they are all unethical anyway.


Malnourishment
Puppies require food that are nutritious, multiple feedings are encouraged to ensure they grow up strong and healthy. Teacups however can be created by removing the nutrients that newborn puppies need. First of all, you need to understand that for the mother to provide adequate amount of milk for her puppies, she also needs to be in healthy condition. Unethical breeders do not care about their dogs and would try to feed them food that are cheap and of low quality, this reduces the amount of milk the mother can produce for her puppies, she also has high chance of developing milk fever. In this case the puppies may not grow to the size they are supposed to be, but this is what teacup breeders want - dogs that are as small as possible.

If these puppies are lucky enough to live, the breeder will try to feed them as little dog food as possible, so that they will retain their small size even further, this successfully create a dog that is smaller than toy breeds, at the expense of being weak and fragile of course. I've boarded hundreds of dogs to this date and there are indeed owners who ask me if it's okay to feed their dogs less, as the breeder say this will help them to retain their small size even if they reach adulthood. These people will just be asking for a long lecture from me, why would you want to stop a dog from growing?! A toy is a toy, a miniature is a miniature, instead of thinking to feed them less you as the owner should provide as much food and nutrients as possible!

Similarly to runts, Teacups can then be created by inbreeding malnourished dogs if they survive.

Pros and Cons
I always decide things based on the pros and cons, no matter how much i have doubts about it. Same for teacups, although i do not encourage people to purchase teacups, there are definitely benefits of owning one. Below will list down my personal view of the pros and cons of owning a teacup dog. The key in my opinion is the ability to balance between pros and cons, then decide if it is worth it.

Pros
The benefits of owning a teacup starts with it's size as the main advantage - Teacups are generally very small physically, which can mean a few things:
- they require less food
- light to carry
- easy to hide in bags/carrier (public transport, cabs, malls etc)
- do not require large space for accommodation
- small features which can be cute to most people
- pee/poo easier to handle
- shorter grooming duration (brushing, bathing, drying etc)
- bark is softer

Cons
As for the disadvantages, the size is also the main issue to consider:
- Weak physical body - bones, joints and the whole body can injure easily
- Organs and body underdeveloped - get sick easily
- Hypoglycemia risk – low blood sugar
- Hydrocephalus – fluid in the brain
- High risk of luxating patella
- Other known illness - collapsing trachea, seizures, respiratory problems, digestive problems, blindness, liver shunt
- A number of them developed brain disabilities due to skull being too small (similarly to spaniels)
- Lethargy, not as active as regular breeds
- Unethical, supports teacup breeding
- Expensive due to low survival rate

Tips for taking care
So unfortunately, you have either fallen into the trap, or still willing to purchase a teacup for your own benefit, here are a few tips to help your teacup live a better life.

Puppy proof
Keep sharp objects out of reach, do not leave objects where the dog can climb up and down, a safe crate whenever no one is monitoring will be the best in my opinion. Don't believe the cruelty bullshit, all dogs can be trained to enjoy staying in their crates, it keeps them safe, comfortable and relaxed.

Less interaction with bigger dogs
Although there are plenty of gentle dogs, many of them often underestimate their strength and may accidentally hurt your weak teacup, either through "gentle" plays or even accidentally stepping onto them. I have seen teacups being rolled over from just a gentle nose nudge, its not a laughable scene, you never know what could happen to your teacup months or years later.

Wear a bell
I recommend small puppies and teacups to wear a bell to be able to identify their location at all times. Humans can be clumsy at times, having a bell on can notify you when they are nearby to prevent being kicked or even stepped onto. The weight of a person can easily crush a teacup's feet so it's better to play safe.

Less jumping
It will be important to train your teacup not to jump, this includes jumping up and down the bed, stairs, or even standing on hind legs when greeting, all unnecessary strains should be prevented. You don't want your teacup to start limping at 2 years old not knowing what happened. Remember that luxating patella is also very common.

Supplements
Although i recommend supplements only for dogs that are sick or old, it will be necessary for teacups no matter the age. They get sick really easily and supplements can help prevent them. Fish oils, probiotics and calcium/joints supplements are a good start. Don't skimp buy getting cheap homeopathy supplements, get good quality supplements that really work.

Quality food
Your teacup is already eating much lesser than most dogs, so there's no reason to skimp on quality food. Quality food can come in kibbles, dehydrated, freeze dried, raw or even home cooked, make sure you understand nutritional values that dogs need before trying home cooked meals yourself.

Regular check ups
Going for regular check ups at your trusted vet is beneficial for teacups. Your vet should be able to do a brief check on the dental condition, joints, eye/nose/ears and alertness. Once a year blood test will be good to understand in detail about your teacup's overall health condition.


F.A.Q
I will be updating this page as more questions and/or assumptions come in.

Does it mean that all teacups will not be able to survive for long?
Nope, in my experience there are teacups that can live to more than 10 years of age, though not many, an estimated 50% of them either do not live past 5 years, or has to be operated more than once to prolong life. My goal is to share about how they are created and the risks one is taking when buying a teacup, and how unethical it is to support them.

My dog is a tiny toy poodle, so its not considered teacup right?
The official sizes of poodles are Toy Poodle, Miniature Poodle, Standard Poodle.
Unethical labeling includes: Teacup, Tiny toy, Small toy, Mini toy, Big teacup, Rare toy etc.

Don't be fooled by these gimmick titles created by unethical businesses.

My breeder said good teacup breeders are different!
In my opinion there are only good breeders and bad breeders, no such thing as good teacup breeder. A good breeder will not incorporate sick/unhealthy bloodline into their system. Even if they do pick the best out of all teacups for breeding, the bloodline and generations before them are already bad enough as it is.

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