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Are Teacup Dogs Healthy? The Main Health Risks

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Teacup dogs have become popular, but their tiny size can cause health problems and make them more susceptible to accidents and injuries.
  • Health issues associated with Teacup dogs include broken bones, hypoglycemia, digestive problems, hydrocephalus, and respiratory problems.
  • Teacup dogs are fragile and require careful handling, frequent feeding, and a nourishing diet to prevent health issues.
  • Poor breeding practices can lead to a host of health issues for the dog, and it is essential to research reputable breeders to ensure you're getting a healthy puppy.
  • Teacup dogs are high maintenance and not recommended for families with young children, but can be great pets if treated with love and care.
Written by Laura
Laura is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Saturday 28 August 2021
Last updated on
Monday 29 May 2023
teacup dog health
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Teacup dogs may look cute, but their tiny size can lead to major health problems. As these tiny dogs have become more popular in recent years, it’s important for potential owners to be aware of their unique needs compared to other dogs. So, the question remains: are teacup dogs really healthy?

In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about teacup dogs, including how they are bred, the health issues that can arise from their small size, and how to properly care for them.

What are Teacup Dogs

Teacup dogs can live up to 15 years if bred properly and cared for with love, but poorly bred Teacup dogs may have health issues and shorter lifespans. It’s important to note that because of their small size, Teacup dogs are more susceptible to accidents and injuries. As such, it’s essential to be cautious and careful around them.

Size-related issues are the primary health concerns for Teacup dogs, which can include broken bones, hypoglycemia, digestive problems, hydrocephalus, and respiratory problems such as a collapsed trachea. However, a well-bred Teacup dog can live a happy, healthy life with proper care.

Teacup dogs can be costly, with the average price ranging from $750 to $2,000, depending on the breed or crossbreed.

It’s unethical to breed Teacup dogs poorly, and this can lead to a host of health issues for the dog. It’s essential to research reputable breeders to ensure you’re getting a healthy puppy. While Teacup dogs can be high maintenance, they make great companions if treated with love and care.

Teacup dogs aren’t a good match for families with young children, as their small size makes them susceptible to injuries from accidental falls, drops, or bumps. They require frequent feeding to prevent low blood sugar levels and should eat small meals high in fiber, with Karo syrup added.

Teacup dogs need loving, gentle, and devoted families to thrive. They can be great pets if you are willing to take the time and effort to care for them properly.

How are Teacup Dogs Bred

Although small dogs have been bred for thousands of years, the trend of Teacup dogs is relatively new and has gained popularity in the last two decades as they are marketed as “purse dogs.”

Teacup dogs can result from breeding naturally small dogs, but in recent times, some breeders have resorted to breeding runts, inbreeding, or malnourished dogs to make them smaller. Unfortunately, these practices can cause severe health problems for the dogs, reducing their lifespan and happiness.

For this reason, many animal lovers discourage buying Teacup dogs to avoid supporting bad breeding practices. However, suppose you are determined to get a Teacup puppy. In that case, it is essential to research and purchase from reputable and highly rated breeders or consider adopting from a shelter.

calling a dog a teacup
Teacup dogs are famous for their lightweight and puppy-like looks.

Teacup Dog Health Risks

Breeding teacup dogs have a number of health risks. This can be a result of bad breeding as mentioned above, but even those that come from good breeders can have a number of health concerns due to their tiny size.

That said, with good breeding and the right owners – these dogs can live for up to 15 years and live long and happy lives!

Bad Breeding Health Risks

Inbreeding increases the risk of malformations and passing on genetic disorders. Malnourishment stunts skeletal growth and the development of internal organ systems.

Watch for:

  • Abnormal bodily functions or development
  • Lack of energy
  • Mental dullness

Owners unsure of their puppies’ background should attend regular vet checkups to make sure they are developing properly, make sure they receive all of their vaccines, and get them checked for genetic disorders.

Runts of the litter are often used for breeding Teacup dogs because they are smaller than their siblings due to birth defects. Most commonly heart defects and liver shunts. The offspring of two runts are likely to inherit these problems too. 

Heart Defects

The most common congenital heart problem that affects Teacup dogs is chronic degenerative valve disease (CVD). This is a progressive degeneration of the valves in the heart, primarily the mitral valve. It leads to heart failure if left untreated.

Symptoms of chronic valve disease include:

  • Heart murmurs
  • Breathlessness
  • Coughing
  • Fainting
  • Abnormal swelling

While heart disease can’t be reversed, it can be managed and doesn’t have to shorten the affected dog’s life. Vets will diagnose CVD after listening to a dog’s heartbeat for murmurs. They may prescribe medications and lifestyle changes to prevent it from getting worse. With careful monitoring, the prognosis is generally good.

Liver Shunts

A liver shunt is when an abnormal connection forms between a portal vein between the gastrointestinal system, pancreas, and spleen to the liver. Diagnosis requires blood & urine tests but may require further testing.

Symptoms of liver shunts include:

  • Stunted growth
  • Poor muscle development
  • Disorientation, staring into space, circling or head pressing
  • Seizures

Multiple liver shunts require long-term treatment with dietary changes and medications such as antibiotics and the administering of lactulose (sugar), although single shunts can be treated with surgery, and this gives dogs the best chance at recovery.

Most dogs improve almost immediately with treatment, and around a third of dogs will go on to live a long life, especially those that were older at the time of diagnosis. Unfortunately, over half of the dogs that receive treatment still pass away within ten months of diagnosis because of progressive liver or neurological damage.

Broken Bones & Accidents 

Teacup dogs are significantly more likely to break their bones and even die from things like traffic accidents, attacks from other dogs, even things like falling off of furniture can be fatal for these dogs because of their tiny bones.

Tragically, it is also not unheard of for owners of Teacup dogs to accidentally injure and even kill their beloved pets by dropping or stepping on them at home. For this reason, Teacup dogs are not suitable for families with small children. People or families looking to own one of these dogs must Teacup-proof their homes and make them as safe as possible, by making sure yards are fenced off, sharp corners and heavy objects are out of reach, and preferably providing carpeted floors to minimize falls. 

Symptoms of broken bones in dogs include:

  • Difficulty moving
  • Pain, discomfort, and stiffness
  • Crying and excessively licking the affected area
  • Bruising and swelling or out-of-place looking joint

Dogs with broken bones should see an emergency vet as soon as possible for surgical treatment. 


Because of their tiny bodies, Teacup dogs’ blood sugar can drop to become hypoglycemic after missing as little as one meal. This affects a dog’s energy levels and overall mood but can be fatal if left untreated.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • Weakness and tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Impaired vision
  • Muscle tremors
  • Fainting
  • Seizures

Owners should give dogs showing signs of low blood sugar water mixed with sugar to drink. In advanced stages, they should be taken to see a vet for examination & treatment as soon as possible. 

To prevent low blood sugar in Teacup dogs, owners must provide regular small meals every few hours throughout the day, with foods containing Karo syrup to keep their blood sugar levels stable. 

Digestive Problems

Smaller dogs are also prone to digestive issues. To combat this, always feed dogs food that is high-quality, vet-recommended, natural, and high in fiber.

Avoid foods containing grains and artificial or filler ingredients, and add some probiotics to their diet if the dog is particularly affected.

Symptoms of digestive problems may include:

  • Stomach gurgling
  • Showing signs of pain such as sitting hunched over after eating
  • Stomach upsets

If you are feeding your dog well and they are still experiencing problems, contact your vet for advice as they could have an underlying condition or allergy.


Hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain is common in Teacup dogs and is caused by an excessive amount of cerebrospinal fluid leaking into the dog’s skull. This makes the brain swell, causing irreversible brain damage and sometimes death. 

Symptoms of hydrocephalus include:

  • Seizures
  • An enlarged skull
  • Constant bumping into things
  • Weak back legs

If a dog shows any of these signs, they should be taken to a vet immediately. Depending on how severe the case is, it may be treated with medication or surgery.

Respiratory Problems

A common issue for short-snouted dogs in general, respiratory problems can range from Tracheal Collapse to Pneumonia. 

Symptoms of respiratory problems in dogs include: 

  • Labored breathing or shallow panting
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Lethargy
  • Less desire to exercise
  • Fainting
  • Blue gums

Dogs showing these symptoms should see their vet for examination as soon as possible. Vets may perform X-rays and other tests to get to the root of the problem, and the appropriate treatment will be prescribed. 

This could be antibiotics, respiratory therapies, or ventilator treatments. Not all breathing issues can be cured, but they can all be managed. There are vaccines to avoid some respiratory problems that all dogs should receive.

Teacup dogs are fragile breeds – meaning they should be handled with utmost care.

Teacup Dogs’ Health: FAQ

What are Teacup dogs?

Teacup dogs are miniature versions of small dogs, commonly breeds such as Chihuahuas, Pugs, Poodles, and Shih Tzus. Unofficially, they measure no more than 17 inches and weigh no more than 5-6 lbs when fully grown. They are very energetic, playful, and sweet-natured dogs.

How long do Teacup dogs live?

If bred properly and treated with love and care, Teacup dogs can live for up to 15 years! However, unethically bred Teacup dogs may not live for very long as they are more likely to have health problems. It’s also worth noting that tiny dogs are more prone to accidents because of their tiny bones, so if you are looking to own one, be careful!

What health problems do Teacup dogs have?

Badly bred Teacup dogs can suffer birth defects and abnormal development, whilst well-bred Teacup dogs can suffer from size-related issues such as broken bones, hypoglycemia, digestive issues, hydrocephalus, and respiratory issues such as collapsed trachea because of their short snouts.

How much does a Teacup dog cost?

Currently, in the US, the average Teacup puppy/dog sells for between $750 – $2,000, depending on the popularity of the particular breed or crossbreed.

Is it cruel to breed Teacup dogs?

It is cruel to breed any kind of dog unethically, and unfortunately, many Teacup dog breeders are unethical in their breeding tactics. If you want a Teacup dog, research reputable breeders to avoid those that maltreat, inbreed, or breed runts, as this can have horrific consequences on the dog’s overall health and wellbeing. Even if it costs more, it is worth it. 

Do breeders sell fake Teacup puppies?

Some breeders mislead prospective owners and claim their litter to be Teacup puppies when they’re just the puppies of a regular small dog breed, and charge extortionate prices. Because Teacup dogs aren’t an official breed, there’s no way to regulate this – so always buy from trusted breeders!

Do Teacup dogs take a lot of looking after?

Teacup dogs are fairly high maintenance. Not only do they need feeding multiple times a day, but they also require a lot of care and caution because of their fragile bodies. Teacup dogs are significantly more likely to break their bones, even die, from something as little as falling off of a bed.

Are Teacup dogs well-suited to families with children?

Although they sound like a match made in heaven due to their small size and sweet nature, Teacup dogs aren’t well suited to families with young children because of their fragility. If they are accidentally dropped, stepped on, or having something dropped onto them, they run of the risk of serious injury, even death.

What do Teacup dogs eat?

Teacup dogs are prone to digestive issues and low blood sugar because of their tiny bodies. To combat this, look for foods that are high in fiber and contain Karo syrup. They should eat little and often, rather than just breakfast and dinner. The food also needs to be very small to prevent choking.

Although they can suffer poor health if they’re not bred or handled correctly, with proper breeding and the right owners, Teacup dogs can live long and happy lives. To avoid heartache and expensive vet bills, always buy from reputable breeders, and always research the dog you are buying – Teacup dogs need loving, gentle, devoted families.

One comment on “Are Teacup Dogs Healthy? The Main Health Risks”

  1. morehappawness

    I am planning to adopt a tea cup dog, thank you for a very helpful post

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