Throughout the centuries humans have developed breeds of dogs that are far different than what the early ancestors of the canines looked like. Distinctive breed types and characteristics such as coats, colors, ear shapes, leg lengths and body size have all been developed through very selective breeding practices. Most of these selective genetic modifications have been the result of an original gene mutation or abnormality that was then bred for in future generations. Typically these modifications and changes have lead to the development of specific breeds, which have then been identified by these unique characteristics. After all it is the both appearance as well as the behavioral traits of a dog that makes it part of a breed. A German Shepherd Dog is identifiable from a Jack Russell Terrier because of these very specific features. Generally these genetic tinkerings have lead to relatively mild problems, some which are more pronounced than others, but none that are serious enough to make continued breeding of the dog unethical or inhumane.
It is important to note that small dogs, even those in the toy group, typically range in weight from a low of about 5 pounds to up to higher weight of 18 pounds. This is the individual weight that is the breed standard and is appropriate to ensuring the dog is healthy and genetically sound. A dog that is designated by a breeder as a teacup, micro or mini is not a separate breed but rather is a dog that will mature at a weight under the standard for that breed. In many cases, especially for the already small breeds like the Yorkshire Terrier and the Chihuahua, a teacup or mini of those breeds will usually mature at less than 3-4 pounds. These very tiny dogs may not be suitable for show, but this is entirely dependent on the breed. In the Pekingese there is a smaller weight designation known as a Sleeve Pekingese, which is less than 6 pounds, but this distinction is not made by the Kennel Clubs or associations and registries for purebred dogs.
Minis, micros and teacups are abnormally small dogs even within a toy breed group. These dogs are bred by constantly downsizing the breeding parents to produce smaller and smaller offspring. While there are some very responsible breeders that produce smaller but not abnormally small teacup or mini breeds, generally the motto with the less that reputable group of breeders is "the smaller the better and more expensive". In reality it is simply not possible to constantly breed abnormally small dogs together since often the reason they are so small to begin with is due to poor overall health and defective genetics. Decreasing the size of the breeding pair over time will simply develop more and more genetic defects within these small lines. Often these smallest of the small dogs are prone to easily broken bones, digestive problems, neurological disorders and respiratory problems throughout their lives.
The Realities Of Teacup, Micro or Mini Puppy Care
Individuals that are interested in these very tiny puppies first have to realize that they are going to need significantly more time, energy and effort to raise and keep healthy than normal sized toy puppies. These tiny puppies are going to weigh only a few ounces even at the time when they are able to go to their new homes. Often the mother dogs aren't able to provide enough nutrition for the puppies and they will be fed with formula and supplements right from birth. To further compound the difficulty of keeping these small puppies is the fact that they are metabolically unable to regulate their body temperature. Any puppy under a minimum of 2 pounds is going to need constant temperature control to avoid illness and serious health complications.
Teacup, mini and micro puppies need to be kept confined to a small area of a room that is free from drafts or any exposure to cold air from air conditioning units or fans. They cannot be allowed to wander around a room or space as they are simply too fragile and can easily be injured or become chilled. They should be kept in this area, ideally a wire cage with a soft, padded type of floor. Heating with a heating pad wrapped in a thick towel is often necessary to keep the temperature in the area high enough.
These smallest puppies have to be fed every four hours round the clock, at least until they are a minimum of 2 pounds. They need to have good quality supplements and eat at least one tablespoon of high protein puppy food every 4 hours. Some will be very difficult to feed and may need to be fed with a syringe if they won't eat on their own. Dehydration can also be a big issue with these puppies so be sure to monitor water intake and urine output. Housetraining is going to be extremely difficult with these puppies and paper training or pad training is highly recommended. Since these toy dogs are very sensitive to cold, hot and damp weather it is really better to avoid any situations where they have to go outside in these conditions.
Many of the teacup, micro and mini puppies have serious health conditions right from birth. A fairly commonly seen condition is known as open fontanels, which are similar to the soft spot on a human infants head. When the bones of the skull don't form properly the dog is left with soft spot in the skull and is likely to have neurological problems throughout their life. Another common condition in very tiny dogs is the presence of portosystemic shunts. These are actually atypical blood vessels that cause the blood to by-pass the liver, result in toxicity and death.
It is important to realize that there are healthy teacup, micro and mini puppies but avoiding the smallest of the small is really the best option. Additionally owners that are not familiar with caring for these incredibly small puppies should consider an older puppy, even as old as six months, to get a better understanding of overall health and care. Another great idea is to adopt an older teacup or micro sized dog from a rescue, which will allow you to still enjoy the dog but not have to deal with the very difficult first few months.