The teacup Shih Tzu is a smaller version of the beloved little Lion Dog.
With their big dark eyes, long flowing coat, and playful and affectionate demeanor, Shih Tzus have been the quintessential lap dog for thousands of years.
This article will look at the ways that dogs are miniaturized and the potential problems associated with creating tiny dogs like the teacup Shih Tzu.
What’s a Miniature Shih Tzu?
The teacup Shih Tzu is not a separate breed or a variety of the breed.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) and American Shih Tzu Club do not recognize such a breed.
They are simply Shih Tzus who are below the minimum size of the breed standard.
Check out these other teacup breeds
Some of these dogs might be just slightly under the normal weight.
The problem arises when breeders purposely strive for a miniature Shih Tzu full grown who weighs 5 pounds or less.
Shih Tzus are not meant to be this tiny.
Therefore they will undoubtedly have serious health problems as a result, which we’ll look into shortly.
Shih Tzu Info
Like their dignified bearing suggests, the Shih Tzu was bred to be the pampered companion of Chinese royalty.
Their exact origins are unknown.
They’re probably the result of crossing the Sino-Tibetan breeds, the Lhaso Apso and the Pekingese.
Although the Shih Tzu has been around for centuries, they didn’t appear outside of China until the 1930s.
Since then, they’ve become one of the most popular toy breeds.
Small and stocky with flat faces and covered in silky hair, their appearance is certainly striking.
Their long coat requires daily grooming sessions.
Their long hair also must be kept out of their eyes to avoid irritation.
An adult Shih Tzu will stand between 9 to 10.5 inches high at the shoulder.
They weigh from 9 to 16 pounds.
Affectionate and loyal, the Shih Tzu has a stubborn streak.
This can come into play while training.
Positive reinforcement and plenty of treats will get the best results.
What’s the Appeal of a Teacup Shih Tzu?
People have a natural attraction to tiny dogs.
A smaller dog is often more desirable.
You can take them anywhere and they’re sure to attract a lot of attention.
There’s no question that miniature Shih Tzu dogs are unbearably adorable.
There’s a certain appeal to having a dog that retains the appearance of a puppy forever.
Unfortunately, there’s an underlying ugliness about how these dogs are produced that some unscrupulous breeders don’t want you to know about.
How Do You Get a Miniature Dog?
You can miniaturize a dog by mixing a standard breed with a smaller breed.
The gene that causes chondrodysplasia, or dwarfism, can also be introduced to prevent bones from growing to their full size.
Finally you can create a miniature dog by breeding two purebred dogs who are the smallest, or runts, of different litters.
Problems With Teacup Puppies
Due to their smaller size, runts are usually weaker and more susceptible to numerous health problems.
Breeding two underweight dogs together has a high probability of creating puppies with even more serious health issues.
Some of the health problems these tiny animals can face in their lifetime include:
- calcium deficiency
- liver shunts
- heart disease
- dental and gum problems
Their small bones are very delicate and easily break.
You’ll see plenty of advertisements that use terms like imperial, miniature, teacup, and micro mini.
Despite what some breeders would like you to think, these are merely adjectives to describe Shih Tzus who are smaller than the breed standard.
The purpose of creating extremely small dogs is to convince buyers that teacup Shih Tzu puppies are rare and worth more money than the standard version of the breed.
Teacup Shih Tzu Price
How much does a mini Shih Tzu dog cost?
In this case less is more—dollars that is.
The teacup Shih Tzu price will vary from breeder to breeder.
You can expect to pay more than you would for a standard sized dog.
Pricing for teacup and micro mini dogs can be $2,000 or $3,000.
Additionally, some breeders will ask for astronomical amounts in the 5-digit range.
Bear in mind that the initial cost is only the beginning.
You will have the usual outlay for food, vaccinations, grooming, annual checkups, toys, and treats.
It’s also not unlikely that your pint-sized pup will have more than his share of expensive visits to the vet.
Teacup Shih Tzu Health Problems
The standard Shih Tzu is generally healthy with a lifespan of 10 to 18 years.
Like any breed, they are susceptible to certain diseases and health conditions.
Unfortunately, some of the things that are so adorable about this breed also cause them the most problems.
For the miniature Shih Tzu, it’s their sweet, snubbed faces and short legs that give them plenty of trouble.
Teacup Shih Tzu and Brachycephaly
The Shih Tzu is a brachycephalic breed.
This means they have breathing issues related to their shortened skull and flat muzzle.
The most common issues related to brachycephaly for the Shih Tzu include:
- collapsed trachea
- elongated palate, where the tissue grows into the back of the throat
- stenotic nares, in which the nostril openings are too narrow
Although not all Shih Tzus dogs are severely affected by brachycephaly, serious cases can require surgery so they’re able to breathe without restriction.
You can see how having an even smaller than average facial structure can negatively impact the miniature Shih Tzu.
In addition to brachycephaly, Shih Tzus are prone to other health issues, too.
Miniature Shih Tzu Back Problems
The combination of a long back and short legs makes the miniature Shih Tzu prone to intervertebral disk disease (IVDD).
This Japanese study found the Shih Tzu is particularly at risk for intervertebral disc herniation.
Back problems can cause a great deal of pain.
It also can result in muscle spasms, problems with coordination, and in severe cases, paralysis.
Teacup Shih Tzu Eye Problems
The beautiful, large eyes of the miniature Shih Tzu are also at risk for a host of eye issues.
- progressive retinal atrophy
- retinal detachment
- corneal ulcers
- third eyelid gland prolapse
- corneal dryness
Other Teacup Shih Tzu Health Problems
Hip dysplasia is a degenerative joint disease that causes the hip’s ball and socket joint to slip out of place.
It is a common problem for many breeds, including the Shih Tzu.
Patellar luxation occurs when the kneecap is dislocated.
It is particularly prevalent in toy and miniature breeds.
Finding a Reputable Breeder
Even with reputable breeding, sometimes puppies are born who are smaller than average.
These littler dogs are often referred to as the runt of the litter.
A good breeder might sell this dog with full disclosure, but the dog will not be allowed to reproduce.
Seeing the parents and siblings of the puppy is a good indicator of the care they’ve received and the intentions of the breeder.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions about their breeding practices.
Reputable breeders will be happy to discuss health issues surrounding teacup breeds.
Most significantly, responsible breeders will have screened their stock for health issues like hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, and eye abnormalities.
Avoiding Unscrupulous Breeders
On the other hand, there are disreputable breeders who will purposely breed two runts together to create an entire litter of smaller than standard dogs.
Truly despicable is the practice of depriving puppies of nourishment to intentionally stunt their growth.
The practice of purposely miniaturizing is done without regard for the health or well-being of the dog.
You might see advertisements for a miniature imperial Shih Tzu or a miniature teacup Shih Tzu.
This is nothing more than a marketing strategy to attract buyers into thinking they’re getting a dog that’s rare.
Their puppies aren’t exceptional or unique.
They’re just undersized Shih Tzus who may be looking at a lifetime of health issues.
The Final Word on Teacup Shih Tzu Puppies
When you see photos of the teacup Shih Tzu, it’s not hard to understand the appeal.
Petite pups have a perfect stuffed animal quality.
Unfortunately, this is part of the problem.
Regrettably, celebrity interest has further popularized tiny dogs small enough to easily fit into a designer handbag.
A dog is not a fashion statement.
There are a lot of important factors to consider before buying a puppy.
Sad as it is, getting a tiny dog can mean heartache and medical expenses for you.
Before buying a miniature dog, think about the fact that there are many small dog breeds who will live a long and healthy life.
Instead of opting for a teacup Shih Tzu, or another miniature breed, consider how many of these dogs will be subjected to a life of health problems.
This could be avoided if no one bought them.
References and Further Reading
- American Shih Tzu Club
- Parker et al. “An Expressed Fgf4 Retrogene Is Associated with Breed-Defining Chondrodysplasia in Domestic Dogs,” Science. 2009.
- Trappler et al. “Canine Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome: Surgical Management” Compendium: Continuing Education for Veterinarians. 2011.
- Huck et al. “Technique and Outcome of Nares Amputation (Trader’s Technique) in Immature Shih Tzus.” Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, 2008.
- Itoh et al. “A Retrospective Study of Intervertebral Disc Herniation in Dogs in Japan: 297 Cases.” Journal of Veterinary Medical Science. 2008.
- Christmas, RE. “Common ocular problems of Shin Tzu dogs,” The Canadian Veterinary Journal. 1992.
- Itoh et al. “Investigation of fellow eye of unilateral retinal detachment in Shih‐Tzu.” Veterinary Ophthalmology. 2010.