Common Health Issues in Teacup Dogs
Teacup dogs are tiny breeds of pups, sort of bending to the “Aw, I wish they’d stay this small forever!” idea about puppies. Unfortunately, purposefully breeding animals smaller and smaller means their tiny size comes with big health issues.
If you purchase your pet from an unlicensed teacup dog breeder, you could find your troubles are just beginning. There are many teacup dogs in shelters and rescues as well. Before you add a teacup dog to your fur family, be sure you have the time and budget to provide a forever home.
Heart defects and diseases
Teacup dog breeds are prone to developing heart disease because of their tiny size. No animal is designed to be so tiny – teacup dogs often weigh as little as four pounds – and the heart simply gives out after a time. Chronic valvular disease occurs in up to 40 percent of dogs; a heart murmur can develop along with heart valve damage or deformation. An enlarged heart, or dilated cardiomyopathy, is another heart disease common in teacup dogs.
Signs of heart disease in dogs include rapid breathing, excessive panting, fainting, coughing, loss of appetite, and lethargy. If you notice any of these symptoms in your teacup dog, visit your vet immediately.
Dogs are creatures of habit, stressed out by a simple ride to the vet. With their tiny, fragile hearts, teacup dogs are not built to handle stress. Adding to their potential stress is the fact that pet parents frequently carry around their teacup pups. On the other hand, if left home alone the dog will suffer from separation anxiety or potentially injure himself. Talk about stress! Arranging care or travel plans for a teacup dog can be just as demanding for pet parents.
A stressed dog may try to hide or burrow out of sight. Excessive whimpering or barking is another sign of stress in dogs, as is shivering. If startled a stressed pet may become incontinent or have an “accident.” To reduce stress in your teacup dog, provide a calm environment at all times, whether in a warm, padded dog crate or a quiet room. Loud noises and strange people are the primary stressors for teacup dogs, so try to avoid passing the pet around. If you have existing pets, especially large dogs, a teacup dog may not be the best fit for your fur family.
Teacup dogs must be fed throughout day to avoid low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, which can lead to seizures and coma if left untreated. Hypoglycemia in dogs can be particularly deadly for diabetic pets, so consult your veterinarian if any of the following symptoms arise:
- Disorientation or confusion
- Low energy level
- Increased appetite
Diabetic dog foods may be used to manage blood sugar levels, while individual episodes may be managed with glucose injections. Your veterinarian can determine the best course of treatment for your dog’s hypoglycemia, which may involve medication and lifestyle changes.
A liver shunt in dogs is a birth defect where the liver’s major blood vessel directs blood around the organ instead of through it. The teacup poodle, Shih Tsu and Maltese are more prone to developing liver shunts. Difficult to detect, the main sign of a liver shunt in dogs is failure to thrive when young, leading to malnutrition, weakness or being underweight.
Treatment for a liver shunt includes a low protein diet and medications to manage toxins in the blood. Although a number of supplements claim to increase liver productivity or filter out blood toxins, always consult a veterinarian before giving your pet anything.
This condition literally means, “water on the brain,” referring to the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull. Hydrocephalus puts pressure on the brain and can be acquired from a genetic condition or later in life as a result of trauma or inflammation. Many of the teacup dog breeds are more likely to develop the condition, which causes their dome-shaped head.
Symptoms of hydrocephalus in dogs include an enlarged skull, seizures, blindness, being cross-eyed, or an altered gait. Another sign can be difficulty potty training your dog, a result of the cognitive dysfunction caused by brain swelling. Treatment for hydrocephalus includes a brain shunt, which drains the built-up fluid. However, because this brain surgery is so expensive and specialized, most pets do not receive it. Instead, medications can manage seizures and brain inflammation. If the disease progresses or is too severe, euthanasia may be the kindest option.
Teacup dogs have teeny tiny bladders to match their size, making constant bathroom breaks necessary. As we mentioned before, chronic stress can also lead to incontinence, as can other types of anxiety in dogs. Set a timer on your phone to remember your pup’s potty breaks. Teacup dog breeds’ small size also allows them to be house trained inside, whether in a dog litter box or a turf potty patch.
Skin redness or a rash is one symptom of incontinence, along with a bad smell and excessive licking. Dog diapers are one way to manage incontinence, which require changing just like a human baby’s. Never limit your dog’s water intake without consulting your veterinarian first, as dehydration can lead to secondary conditions like a urinary tract infection.
They’re as fragile as they look, so teacup dogs are especially prone to bone fractures. Not only are their bones small, teacup dog breeds frequently suffer from osteoporosis because of breeders intentionally stunting their growth. The disease, caused by a deficiency of calcium or vitamin D, results in brittle bones vulnerable to fracturing. Teacup dogs’ bones are simply so tiny that even a short fall can cause a fracture.
Prevent bone fractures in your teacup dog by never leaving your pet unattended around heights, like on a couch. Signs of a bone fracture in dogs include swelling and pain indicated by limping, trembling, excessive whining, and even aggression. As gently as possible get your pet to an emergency veterinarian as soon as possible, stabilizing the bone fracture during transportation.
Teacup dogs may not be the best type of dog for families, as rough handling from sticky fingers can lead to accidents. Small children may be less aware of a pint-sized pup underfoot; many fractures in teacup dogs are the result of an inattentive human stepping or tripping on the animal. Never leave any sized dog alone with a small child or baby, for the safety of both. Place baby gates or other barriers in front of ledges as an additional precaution to prevent pups from taking a tumble.
With small size comes large medical bills, so be sure your lifestyle and budget can accommodate the breed of dog you’re bringing home. Getting a pet insurance quote should be the first item on every pet parent’s new puppy checklist! While pet insurance can help cut costs, you must be enrolled before a medical condition is diagnosed in order to receive coverage for it.