A concerning trend of breeding dogs and cats to minuscule proportions—often referred to as "teacup" pets— has been gaining popularity in recent years and deserves closer scrutiny. Their petite size, while undeniably endearing, belies the profound health implications brought on by this selective breeding.
This article aims to shed light on the inherent issues tied to the cultivation of such small pets and to encourage potential pet owners to prioritize an animal's health and well-being over its aesthetic appeal.
I get it, I really do. I mean, who wouldn't want a pet that can fit in their purse or one that they could carry around all day like an accessory? Teacup pets are undeniably cute. They make our hearts do backflips every time we see them.
They're tiny, cuddly, and fit right into our modern lives. But just because we can, does that mean we should?
We're not here to place blame or incite guilt but to educate and encourage informed decision-making. Behind the veneer of cuteness, many teacup pets are victims of numerous health complications resulting from their unnatural size.
It is, therefore, the responsibility of all pet lovers to remember that animals are not fashion accessories or Instagram props, but living beings with needs, feelings, and deserving of a life filled with dignity and good health.
What qualifies as a teacup dog or cat?
When we talk about breeding animals to be as small as possible, we're stepping into murky waters. Breeding teacup pets involves selecting the smallest animals from a litter and breeding them with other smaller animals.
Over generations, these breeders create tinier and tinier offspring. But what does this mean for the health of these miniature companions?
Teacup pet health concerns
First off, these pets often suffer from a range of health issues because their organs are crammed into a body too small to properly accommodate them. These can include heart problems, respiratory issues, and joint and bone disorders.
Teacup dogs, for example, are highly likely to suffer from a condition called patellar luxation, where the knee joint slips in and out of place. This condition can cause pain, limit mobility, and might even require surgery.
Also, their teeny tiny size makes them more prone to injuries. A simple fall off a couch can lead to serious injuries, and their delicate bones can easily fracture.
They are also at high risk of hypoglycemia, a condition caused by low blood sugar, which can result in seizures and even death if not addressed immediately.
They may also be more prone to heart diseases and have a weaker immune system, leading to a higher risk of infections.
These issues don't even cover the potential mental and emotional stress these tiny pets may experience. Because they are so small and vulnerable, they may live in a constant state of fear and anxiety, leading to behavioral issues.
Purposefully breeding dogs of this minuscule stature can cause painful pregnancies for the mother, whose size is not able to properly support a litter. Often their puppies can only be delivered via c-section which can be a traumatic and long healing process.
Aesthetic breeding similarities
While we're on the subject of responsible pet ownership and breeding, let's discuss another issue that's all too familiar in the world of pedigree pets: brachycephalic breeds. These are "flat-faced" dogs and cats, like Bulldogs, Pugs, and Persian cats. It's a look that many people find appealing, but it's one that can come with a host of health issues.
The similarities between teacup breeding and brachycephalic breeding practices are hard to ignore. Both put aesthetics before health, aiming for a 'cute' look that often leaves the animals vulnerable to a range of health problems.
Just as with teacup pets, it's critical to be aware of these potential issues when considering a brachycephalic breed. Understanding the health issues associated with the "cute" features we've come to adore is the first step toward becoming responsible pet parents.
We need to shift our perspective to prioritize health and well-being over physical appearance, not just for teacup pets, but for all breeds.
Cost to insure a teacup pet
In addition to the health concerns associated with teacup pets, potential owners must also consider the financial implications. Due to their inherent health risks, teacup pets can often be significantly more expensive to insure than their full-sized counterparts.
Insurance companies base their premiums on risk, and with teacup pets prone to numerous health conditions, their insurance cost can skyrocket.
These premiums reflect the anticipated veterinary costs for issues such as heart problems, respiratory distress, dental diseases, and injuries from minor accidents that could require surgery or long-term treatment.
This potential financial burden is an essential factor to consider when contemplating the adoption of a teacup pet.
The ethics of teacup pets
I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty or bad if you've fallen for the teacup pet trend. That's not what this is about. This is about understanding that, behind the veil of cuteness, there may be a pet suffering silently, and it's our responsibility as pet lovers to put their well-being first.
So, if you're considering adding a dog to your family, consider looking past size and aesthetics and consider their overall health and quality of life.
Remember, a pet is a commitment, not just for their lifespan, but for yours too. When you choose a pet, you’re choosing a companion and family member, not an accessory.
Alternatives to teacup pets
There are many wonderful animals in shelters, many of them healthy and full-sized, just waiting for a loving home. Maybe one of them could be the perfect fit for you. By adopting, not only do you provide a home for a deserving animal, but you also take a stand against irresponsible breeding practices.
And who knows - you may even be able to find a teacup pet in a rescue or shelter, which allows you to enjoy their small stature while avoiding any contribution to the harmful breeding practice.
There are plenty of small dog breeds out there that could offer the compact size many people love without the extensive health issues associated with teacup pets. Here are some that you may want to consider:
Shih Tzu: Known for their friendly personality and luxurious coat, Shih Tzus are compact dogs that typically weigh between 9 to 16 pounds. They are excellent companions and adapt well to apartment living.
Boston Terrier: Boston Terriers are small, friendly dogs with distinctive tuxedo coats. They typically weigh between 12 to 25 pounds and are known for their friendly and outgoing personalities.
Pomeranian: A Pomeranian's fluffy double coat and lively demeanor make them a popular choice among small dog enthusiasts. They typically weigh between 3 to 7 pounds, making them compact but not overly fragile.
French Bulldog: Although they're a brachycephalic breed and thus prone to some health issues, French Bulldogs can be healthier than teacup pets when bred responsibly. They usually weigh under 28 pounds and are known for their friendly and patient temperament.
Dachshund: These long-bodied, short-legged dogs are known for their playful and stubborn personality. Depending on the variety, a Dachshund can weigh anywhere from 5 to 30 pounds.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Known for their affectionate nature and beautiful, expressive eyes, these dogs typically weigh between 13 to 18 pounds.
Chihuahua: Recognized as the smallest breed in the world, Chihuahuas are known for their bold and lively personality. Despite their petite size, generally between 2 to 6 pounds, Chihuahuas are sturdy, healthy dogs when bred responsibly. They make excellent companions, especially for those living in apartments or small spaces.
Each of these breeds has its own unique care requirements, personality traits, and potential health issues, so it's essential to research thoroughly and consult with a reputable breeder or rescue organization to find a dog that fits your lifestyle and can lead a happy, healthy life. Don't be afraid to walk away if something doesn't feel right.
At Figo, we believe it's important to step up, advocate, and enforce change for these voiceless beings who rely so much on us. Because at the end of the day, they're not just pets. They're our family.
Lizz Caputo is the Manager of Content Strategy at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.