If you like your dogs small and cute, then you probably are interested in learning more about the teacup Chihuahua.
Fans of toy dogs may find the idea of getting a teacup breed appealing, but is a micro dog the right pet for you?
Many veterinarians, animal welfare advocates, and reputable breeders are warning potential owners against getting teacup dogs.
What are the health problems associated with tiny breeds like the teacup Chihuahua?
We’ll take a close look at Chihuahuas, the mini teacup Chihuahua, and the health issues of dogs bred for extremely small size.
Are you prepared to care for a dog that may have lifelong special health needs?
Here’s what you should know before you bring a micro teacup Chihuahua into your home.
The normal sized Chihuahua is known as the smallest of all the toy dog breeds.
According to the American Kennel Club’s breed standard for the Chihuahua, a full grown Chihuahua should weigh no more than 6 pounds.
Many can be as small as 4 pounds.
They stand just 5 to 8 inches tall at the shoulder.
That’s already pretty small, even before breeding down for teacup size!
There are two types of Chihuahua, the smooth coat and the long coat.
The smooth coat Chi has a close but soft coat.
The long-haired version has long fur that can be straight or wavy, with feathering on the ears, ruff, legs, and tail.
Chihuahuas can be any color and have any type of coat pattern or marking.
The Chihuahua’s distinctive personality is as iconic as its unique appearance.
Chihuahuas are known as alert and confident dogs, often described as having terrier-like temperaments.
The ancient Aztecs of Mexico are credited with creating the dog that we recognize as today’s Chihuahua.
Americans began to take an interest in the Chihuahua in the 1800s, and the breed quickly became a popular companion animal.
The term “small dog, big personality” was tailor-made for the lovable and feisty little Chihuahua!
Now that we’ve learned about the standard Chihuahua, let’s look at the tiny teacup Chihuahua.
Teacup Chihuahua information
You may have first seen pictures of the miniature teacup Chihuahua being carried around in the arms (or handbags) of celebrities.
The teacup Chi became popular with the rise of social media, when the public became curious about these pampered little pets.
What is the expected teacup Chihuahua weight? What about teacup Chihuahua size?
A full grown teacup Chihuahua can be as small as 2 to 3 pounds.
At birth, a baby teacup Chihuahua can be as tiny as 2.5 ounces.
Now that’s small!
How do breeders create teacup Chihuahuas?
It should be noted that reputable breeders do not intentionally breed for extremely small size.
Sometimes, an unusually small dog may be born, often called the “runt” of the litter.
Teacup lines can be created when these smallest dogs are mated with one another.
Besides the Chihuahua, a few of the other smaller toy breeds are also bred down to teacup size.
The most popular among these are the Yorkshire Terrier (or Yorkie), and also the Maltese, Pomeranian, and Poodle.
There’s no doubt about it, the teacup Chihuahua and other teacup breeds are adorably cute and appealing.
But are the joys of having a pocket-sized dog worth risking your pup’s health and well-being?
Let’s take a closer look at the health problems associated with the teacup Chihuahua.
Teacup Chihuahua health
The Chihuahua Club of America, which is the official AKC breed club, has issued a position statement about teacup Chihuahuas.
The Chihuahua Club does not endorse the use of terminology such as teacup, pocket, micro, etc.
While they recognize that some Chihuahuas may be smaller than others, and that some people want very small dogs, they warn prospective buyers that extra care is required to ensure an unusually small dog’s health and well-being.
A recent commentary in the scholarly journal Veterinary Record notes that breeding for extremely small size can cause teacup dogs to suffer many “life-limiting health and welfare problems.”
What are the specific health issues potential teacup Chihuahua dog owners should know about?
Here are the most common problems new owners can expect.
Hypoglycemia is the medical term for low blood sugar.
It can be a common health problem in both teacup sized and normal sized toy dog breeds like the teacup Chihuahua.
Why are very small dogs prone to low blood sugar?
Veterinarians say that there are two contributing factors related to their small size.
One factor is that they can have trouble chewing kibble and don’t get enough nutrition.
The other is that their tiny size makes them prone to low body temperature.
Both can lead to low blood sugar, listlessness, poor coordination, and seizures.
What can you do to prevent hypoglycemia in a teacup Chihuahua?
Feed your dog soft food 4 to 6 times a day. This is especially important for puppies.
Make sure that your dog is always warm. Puppies need extra warming (such as a heating pad).
If you think your dog is experiencing hypoglycemia, try to get it to eat, or rub a little corn syrup on the gums and get to the vet as soon as possible.
IV fluids containing dextrose (a type of sugar) may be required.
Hydrocephalus is commonly known as water on the brain.
There can be many causes of this condition, but one type, known as congenital hydrocephalus, is a special problem of toy and teacup breeds like the Chihuahua.
Physical characteristics such as a dome shaped head, fontanelles (incomplete skull formation), and ventrolateral strabismus (eyeballs pointing in different directions), which are common in the teacup Chi, are contributing factors.
Dogs with congenital hydrocephalus may have serious neurological problems, including developmental delay, behavioral abnormalities, and seizures. They can also have vision problems and blindness.
Your vet can perform scans to diagnose hydrocephalus.
Treatment options include medications to reduce inflammation and prevent seizures.
Surgery to implant a tube that drains fluid from the head into the abdomen may be performed in some cases.
Congenital hydrocephalus is a serious condition and dogs born with this defect should not be allowed to reproduce and pass it on to future generations.
Liver shunts are another serious congenital defect of teacup Chihuahuas and other very small toy dogs.
A liver shunt occurs when a vein that normally carries blood to the liver is malformed and the blood bypasses the liver.
Toxins that would normally be filtered out by the liver accumulate in the dog’s body.
This shunting can cause a wide range of problems, including stunted growth, weak muscles, neurological abnormalities (including seizures), and digestive problems.
A special diet and treatment with medications can often help dogs with this chronic condition, and surgery that closes the shunt can be performed as well.
Liver shunts occur in many breeds, but toy breeds, including the Chihuahua and teacup Chihuahua, are especially at risk for this abnormality.
In addition to liver shunts, hydrocephalus, and hypoglycemia, extremely small dogs are also prone to other chronic health issues such as joint, respiratory, and dental problems.
Is a teacup Chihuahua the right dog for me?
The vast majority of veterinary health experts and animal welfare advocates advise potential owners against getting any dog that’s advertised as teacup, micro, mini, pocket, and the like.
While dogs of any breed and size can be diagnosed with a chronic health condition, the risks are especially high for unnaturally small dogs like the teacup Chihuahua.
Additionally, since responsible breeders do not intentionally breed for extremely small size, teacup Chihuahua breeders should be viewed with extreme caution.
Teacup Chihuahua puppies purchased from a retail pet store or from an online advertisement are likely to come from a large-scale, for-profit breeding operation known as a puppy mill.
Most puppy mill operations do not test their breeding stock for genetic health conditions like reputable breeders do. Dogs in puppy mills are also often housed in inhumane conditions.
Trendy dogs like teacup breeds and designer mixed breeds are also often overpriced. This is because of their popularity, and not their overall health and fitness.
How much does a teacup Chihuahua cost?
How much is a teacup Chihuahua? While a standard-sized Chihuahua typically costs $500 or under, the teacup Chihuahua price can be as high as $2,000.
When you combine this high price with potentially expensive veterinary care over the dog’s lifetime, owning a teacup Chihuahua can turn out to be more of a financial responsibility than many people can handle.
The sad truth about teacup dog breeds makes it difficult to recommend them. But there are plenty of great options for people interested in small dogs. Let’s look at some of the adorable choices!
The smallest toy dog breeds
Standard-sized Chihuahuas are a popular choice for tiny dog aficionados. As we’ve mentioned, the breed standard calls for dogs that weigh under 6 pounds, and many non-teacup Chihuahuas are in the 4-pound range.
Because they are so popular, there are many homeless Chihuahuas of all shapes and sizes at animal shelters and rescue groups just waiting to be adopted by their new forever families.
Besides Chihuahuas, other extra small toy dog breeds include the Yorkshire Terrier (under 7 pounds), the Maltese (4-6 pounds), a lesser-known breed called the Russian Toy (under 6.5 pounds), the Papillion (5-10 pounds), and the Pomeranian (3-7 pounds).
With so many toy breeds to choose from, there’s no need to seek out a teacup dog when a standard toy dog can be adorably tiny and lovable, and still fit into the smallest handbag!
Buying a non-teacup toy dog from a reputable breeder is the best way to ensure that your new puppy will be as healthy as possible.
Look for a local, small-scale breeder who is associated with the breed’s official club. Your breeder should welcome potential buyers into their home and provide you with the results of any genetic health testing done on their breeding stock.
Don’t forget to include your local animal shelters and breed specific rescue organizations in your toy dog search as well. Your new baby may already be out there, just waiting for you!
References and further reading
Chihuahua, American Kennel Club.
Teacup Statement: The Chihuahua is a Chihuahua. The Chihuahua Club of America.
Waters, A. Comment: Vets Can’t Do This on Their Own. Veterinary Record, 2017.
Toy Breed Hypoglycemia. Mar Vista Animal Medical Center.
Estey, C.M. Congenital Hydrocephalus. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 2016.
Van den Bossche, L., van Steenbeek, F.G., Favier, R.P., et al. Distribution of Extrahepatic Congenital Portosystemic Shunt Morphology in Predisposed Dog Breeds. BMC Veterinary Research, 2012.