If You Love Animals, Never Buy A Teacup Dog

Their hearts may be tiny. But they still beat for you.

Trouble is, for so-called teacup dogs, those hearts beat so hard and so fast to help push blood through their frail, underdeveloped bodies, it often adds up to heartbreak.

Welcome to the misery that is miniaturization.

"I started seeing that trend maybe 10 years ago," Veronica Perry, rescue and foster coordinator at East Valley Animal Shelter in Van Nuys, California, told The Dodo. "I don't know what started it. I'm sure it was a TV show or something."

Or Paris Hilton.

The hotel heiress seems to have a very public taste for micro-dogs, paying a Canadian breeder $13,000 for a 12-ounce Pomeranian in 2014 - and subsequently topping that with a 6-ounce model from the same breeder, the boutique dog purveyor Betty's Teacup Yorkies.

"She led the way of destruction," Perry says. "She flaunted buying a dog from this breeder in Canada who breeds these tiny little dogs. And then everyone had to have one."

The definition of teacup is pretty loose. Essentially, Perry says, any "exceptionally small" dog falls under that umbrella.

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No specific breed is a teacup by default. That leaves unscrupulous breeders to devise new and brutal ways to shrink an already small breed like a Chihuahua or Yorkshire terrier into something new and terrible.

Aside from Paris Hilton's dubious menagerie — she says she has 35 pets — teacups are also frequently seen at shelters. Shelters like East Valley, where Perry often sees teacup dogs brought in. People will return them and say, "I can't do anything with them."

As though they're expecting teacups to be like, well, dogs.

Trouble is, these pint-sized pooches are not Swiss watches. They're not ingeniously designed micro-marvels. Physiologically, tiny breeds take a licking - Perry cites tiny bones that scarcely develop, precious little exercise, overworked organs - and more often than not, they don't keep on ticking.

"They have tiny little hearts," Perry says. "And tiny little lungs. They don't last as long."

And, much to some new teacup owners' surprise, they can't quite do all the things normal-sized dogs do. Even some things that are quite vital.

"The reasons why people want toy dogs are the worst things for dogs." Indeed, a life spent inside purses, having little exercise and even less interaction with other dogs is never a recipe for a healthy, happy canine companion.

"No matter what, they're dogs," Perry explains. "Dogs are social animals."

Frail-bodied teacups don't get a lot of opportunities to just be dogs. And often, to meet surging demands for the micro market, they hail from places like this:

"They want them little," Perry says. " I don't know why. So they can put them in a purse and walk around with them?"

"I say get a stuffed animal," she says.

If you're up for giving one of the thousands of regular-sized dogs a home, visit Adopt-a-Pet.