The tiny teacup Chihuahua is a truly small dog. As an adult, could weigh around 5lbs, or even less.
Unfortunately, this miniature size causes some serious health issues. These include hydrocephalus, heart disease, and bone fractures, among others.
Standard sized Chihuahuas usually have long lifespans, but the health issues in teacup Chihuahuas can mean they live much shorter lives.
It’s really important to weigh up the pros and cons of a very small dog if you’re considering one. But this is what we will help you do.
We’ll find out what the term teacup Chihuahua means, and how being tiny affects the health of these scaled-down pups.
Teacup Chihuahua FAQs
You can click on any of the links below to get straight to the answer to your question.
- How much does a teacup chihuahua cost?
- How big is a full-grown teacup Chihuahua?
- Are teacup chihuahuas good pets?
- How long do teacup chihuahuas live?
We’ll also be talking about how to approach teacup Chihuahua breeders and looking at alternatives to this miniature version of the world’s smallest dog
What is a Teacup Chihuahua?
Chihuahuas have been popular companion dogs for millennia.
The tiny teacup Chihuahua is a much more recent arrival on the pet scene, but the teacup Chihuahua is not a new breed of dog.
In fact, teacup is just a cute and catchy word that breeders and owners have coined to describe a Chihuahua who is smaller than the average.
How big is a full-grown teacup Chihuahua
So just how much smaller than a regular Chihuahua is a teacup variety?
The AKC places an upper weight limit on show Chihuahuas of 6 lbs, although many pet Chihuahuas are bigger than this in reality.
But the breed standard doesn’t stipulate a minimum weight. So without one, who decides when a Chihuahua becomes a teacup Chihuahua?
Teacup Chihuahua Size
The answer is nobody. Teacup essentially means nothing but “small.”
Of course in any animal there is natural variation, and some are smaller than others.
Someone who breeds standard-sized Chihuahuas might one day find a smaller than average pup in their litter, and prefer to refer to it affectionately as a teacup pup rather than the runt.
Other breeders specifically pursue smaller Chihuahuas by breeding these small individuals together.
They might also decide their own weight bands and system of categorizing puppies, such as “teacup,” “mini” and “micro” Chihuahuas.
One of these breeders might decide that teacup means smaller than 5lbs.
Another might decide it means smaller than 4lbs. However, there’s no universally recognized consensus.
And many people consider these terms a business-savvy way of making undersized pups appear special and desirable
The Chihuahua Club of America has been robust in rejecting the idea that teacup Chihuahua has any formal, standardized definition.
Are Teacup Chihuahuas Good Pets?
Tiny dogs which don’t take up much space and look like puppies their whole lives are very appealing.
The puppy stage of dog ownership is an adorable period, made all the more bittersweet because we know it has to end.
Could a miniature teacup Chihuahua be the way to hold onto it forever?
Unfortunately it isn’t all good news. There are some important facts that you need to know before you take the plunge and purchase a miniature Chihuahua. And much of it is about health
Teacup Chihuahua health
The standard size Chihuahua has a number of health problems that are a direct result of being such a small dog
Several tiny breeds share these problems and they are strongly linked with being tiny.
When we make tiny dogs even tinier, as you can imagine these health problems can become much worse.
For teacup Chihuahua puppies, the odds are stacked against them as they embark on life in miniature.
These are some of the conditions they’re at risk of:
All teacup dogs show increased rates of heart disease.
Put simply, their hearts and bodies were never designed to be so small.
Instead of evolving and adapting gradually over thousands of generations, their organs have been dramatically scaled down very rapidly.
In this rush, their hearts have become unsuitable for the job they need to do, and breakdown or fail.
Teacup Chihuahuas come with teaspoon-sized tummies.
These small bellies can only hold very small amounts of food at a time, so teacup Chihuahua dogs need to eat regularly to stop their blood sugar from falling dangerously low.
As teacup dog owner, this means an inflexible commitment to feeding them every hour or two, and even through the night.
It’s a bit like having a forever baby, with sleep deprivation that could last for years
Another common problem for tiny dogs is difficulty toilet training.
Tiny bladders hold very little before they need to be emptied, and this means even an adult teacup Chihuahua will need to answer the call of nature many times a day.
Some teacup dogs may never master holding it in until their next walk, and need indoor solutions such as doggy diapers or a litter box.
Toilet training problems put dogs at a high risk of being relinquished to animal shelters or euthanased as many people find it hard to live with inevitable accidents
Part of the appeal of teacup dogs is that they look so dainty and delicate (try finding a breeder who doesn’t photograph them snuggled in a baby blanket, perched in fine porcelain, or even balanced on a stiletto shoe).
But of course, like that fine porcelain, teacup Chihuahuas’ bones are easily broken.
You’ll need to protect a teacup Chihuahua from collisions with clumsy feet, small children and other pets.
Even jumping down from the sofa can be too much for their fragile bones and cause fractures.
Hydrocephalus—or fluid on the brain—occurs when the flow of cerebrospinal fluid around your dog’s brain gets blocked, producing swelling.
The swelling causes pain and nausea, and sadly for many dogs the condition is ultimately fatal.
Hydrocephalus is a particular problem among Chihuahuas.
This could be entirely due to their size, or it could have a genetic component. (At the time of publication, the potential genetic connection has not been investigated, according to the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.)
What we do know is that becoming teacup-sized only makes matters worse.
Other Conditions Affecting Teacup Chihuahuas
Of course, besides the hazards of being small, teacup Chihuahuas are still prone to all the other health problems dogs can inherit or acquire, and the conditions particularly associated with being a Chihuahua.
The health problems most commonly associated with the Chihuahua breed are:
- luxating patellas (slipping kneecaps)
- tracheal collapse (loss of rigidity in the windpipe)
- atopy (predisposition to allergic reactions)
- Legg Perthes disease (deterioration of the top of the thigh bone)
- eye diseases
- periodontal disease (disorders of the teeth, gums and jaw)
- and idiopathic epilepsy.
You can find out more about all of these conditions in our Chihuahua breed review and the reading section at the end of this article.
How Long Do Teacup Chihuahuas Live
As a general rule small dogs live longer than giant ones. And standard sized Chihuahuas do have a reputation for longevity.
You’ll hear stories about Chihuahuas that lived to twenty years or more.
But these are the exception and the evidence from studies carried out in 2004 and in 2013 suggests a much shorter lifespan of between 7 and 12 years.
That is for standard sized Chihuahuas.
We don’t have any data to confirm the longevity of teacup Chihuahuas.But all the evidence points to excessively miniaturized dogs having worse health than their standard sized cousins.
I hope you’re still with me after that onslaught of medical information.
It’s a lot to get your head around and a lot to think of a tiny 4lb dog dealing with.
Without a doubt, all life exists on a spectrum, and some smaller Chihuahuas will be blessed with good fortune and good health.
These are the teacup dogs breeders are likely to want to tell you about, but sadly it’s not representative of the experience of most miniature pups.
We’ll find out more about approaching teacup Chihuahua breeders soon, but first, let’s look at what owning a teacup Chihuahua entails.
Life With a Teacup Chihuahua Dog
Besides the constant carousel of meals and toilet breaks, teacup Chihuahuas are high-maintenance dogs in other ways too.
Even though they’re small and unsuited to long walks, they’re still dogs and need appropriate exercise and stimulation through games and interaction with you.
Small dogs are also more likely to be badly behaved, according to a survey of over 8,000 dog owners.
These survey results found that the smaller the dog, the more likely they are to have attachment problems, be afraid of or aggressive toward other dogs, and be more excitable and harder to train.
Another study found that Chihuahuas, alongside with Daschunds, are the breed most likely to attack people.
Teacup Chihuahua Price
How much does a teacup Chihuahua cost?
One thing about teacup Chihuahuas is indisputable: These tiny dogs are big business.
Even though you’re taking home less dog, you can expect to pay far more for a teacup Chihuahua than you would for a normally reared Chihuahua.
Prices open at around the $1,200 mark, and some breeders command (and apparently receive) in excess of $11,300 for their teacup Chihuahua puppies.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Because when you bring home your teacup Chihuahua, the purchase price is just the beginning.
How Much Does a Teacup Chihuahua Cost Over its Entire Lifetime?
Like all dogs, teacup Chihuahuas need somewhere safe to sleep (such as a crate where they can’t accidentally be sat or stood on)
They also need annual vet checks, flea and worming treatments, vaccinations, toys, and food.
These pups are likely to need a specialized diet for their whole life, and remember they’ll need feeding and a chance to empty their bladder every hour or two.
If you won’t be at home to provide this, you need to factor in the cost of doggy daycare to make sure your dog’s needs will be met.
And finally, it’s likely that these ultra-reduced dogs will be no stranger to the vet. As they grow up, the health costs rapidly spiral upward.
Because of the risks to health of miniaturising dogs it’s important that you factor pet health insurance into your budget,
Teacup Chihuahua Breeders
Since teacup Chihuahuas are a relatively recent development, it’s no surprise to discover their breeders are often tech-smart, with sophisticated websites and a smooth sales pitch.
Since we now know that deliberately breeding dogs to fall way outside their usual weight range puts them in danger of a lot of health problems, here are some things to consider when approaching a breeder.
The Chihuahua Club of America—the American Kennel Club’s official breed club partner—does not endorse or condone using the terms “teacup,” “micro,” “pocket size,” “tiny toy” or “miniature” to describe Chihuahuas.
Therefore “teacup Chihuahua” is a completely unofficial non-standardized term to describe very small Chihuahuas.
This means that a teacup Chihuahua might very occasionally be a small individual on the edge of the healthy weight range, bred by a responsible breeder committed to the welfare of future Chihuahua generations.
But more often than not, the term teacup is used by commercial puppy farms to market badly reared pups and sickly runts at the expense of their health and well being.
How to Avoid Puppy Farms and Unscrupulous Breeders
It’s hard to get around the fact that any breeder advertising teacup Chihuahua puppies for sale should be avoided simply for using the term “teacup”
So if you see a breeder advertising their Chihuahuas as teacup dogs, then our advice is to avoid them.
If you are looking for general Chihuahua breeders and hoping to purchase their smallest puppy, our article on “11 Questions to Ask When You Phone a Breeder” will also help you identify poor quality breeders.
Bear in mind that the Chihuahua Club of America recommends all Chihuahuas be registered with the Canine Health Information Center, and tested for cardiac disease, eye diseases and patella luxation.
Your breeder should have records of this for all their breeding stock and be happy to talk candidly about the other health problems facing very small Chihuahuas.
If a breeder brushes your questions and concerns under the carpet, chances are they’re not worrying about it as much as they should be.
Finally, any breeder who always has litters available, never has waiting lists, or won’t let you meet the puppy with its mother before you collect it should be avoided.
Final Thoughts on the Teacup Chihuahua
This isn’t the first time we’ve looked at teacup dogs. Pippa also discussed the challenges facing tiny Yorkshire Terriers in her article on teacup Yorkies.
The idea of being able to minaturize cute little dogs even further has alway fascinated us. And perhaps one day it will be possible to do so without harming the dogs themselves.
But for now, the risks of taking home a sickly and sad little pup are too great.
For teacup puppies of all breeds, the concerns are the same: Exploitation by profit-grabbing breeders, a lifetime of veterinary care for problems caused by their size.
Plus the risk of abandonment or euthanasia when the cost and/or complexity of their care becomes too much.
In fact, the term “teacup” is such a consistent indicator of poor breeding that the Chihuahua Club of America has condemned its use.
We also strongly advise you against buying a teacup Chihuahua.
But I really long for a tiny dog..
If your heart is set on a really tiny dog and you have the determination to cope with the housetraining, feeding problems and medical issues that can face these little dogs, then the kindest thing you can do is to rescue an abandoned teacup Chihuahua.
You’ll need to visit your local animal shelter or Chihuahua breed rescue.
Rescuing a dog won’t encourage breeders to create more sickly dogs. And will give you the great satisfaction of providing a loving home and a second chance to your pet.
Plus, the dog will still be your own – you can even choose a fun small dog name for your Chihuahua rescue.
Chihuahua Rescue and Transport rehomes Chihuahuas across much of North America
Many individual states have their own Chihuahua rescue programs, and helpful websites, for example:
- Texas Chihuahua rescue
- Michigan Chihuahua rescue
- Long Island Chihuahua rescue
- San Diego Chihuahua rescue
- 2nd Chance Chi rescues and rehomes Chihuahua in Utah and Illinois
You can also find Chihuahua rescue centers around the world
If you would like your rescue organization added to the list, drop us a link in the comments section below
When a puppy is what you have decided on, then choosing a healthy-sized Chihuahua from a conscientious breeder will ensure you have a much longer, happier experience with your new friend.
It will also support the future of this delightful little breed, and help to put immoral puppy farms out of business.
What’s Your View on Teacup Chihuahuas?
Miniature teacup Chihuahua dogs are dividing dog lovers, but what do you think?
Would you consider bringing one home, or do you already have experience with teacup Chihuahua care?
Join in the debate using the comments box below.
References and Further Reading:
- Chihuahua Club of America
- Chihuahua, American Kennel Club
- Chihuahua, PDSA
- Tappin, S., 2016, Canine Tracheal Collapse, Journal of Small Animal Practice
- Adams VJ et al. 2010 Methods and mortality results of a health survey of purebred dogs in the UK. Journal of Small Animal Practice
- O Neill DG et al. 2013. Longevity and mortality of owned dogs in England. Veterinary Journal
- Teacup Puppies, 2013, The Kennel Club