So You Think You Want A Teacup Micro Mini…
By Cara Ryckman
Published in December 2017 Top Notch Toys
“Yes, I’d like a teacup girl applehead!” “We are wanting a micro mini chihuahua.” “About 2 pounds.” “We want the runt; we will take her off your hands.” “She must be tiny.”
Toy breeders everywhere cringed when they read the preceding paragraph, yet it’s one they read every day when they open their email, sign onto Facebook, or answer their phone. The teacup micro mini explosion. Everyone thinks they want one. Yet, most of them have no idea what they are signing up for.
My daughter has hand raised her very own micro mini teacup – or, as we say, just a very small Chihuahua. The Chihuahua Club of America does not recognize any of these pet breeder terms, and serious breeders get very upset to hear them. Fights are breaking out in the Facebook chihuahuas for sale groups. A pet owner will ask about a micro or a mini or a teacup. Then several pet breeders will offer one up. Someone might try to educate but it is often met with ugliness, and the mud gets slung right back. Why? Because money breeders are breeding for disaster, and these unknowing pet owners are signing up for a mess.
The most careful of toy breeders will occasionally have a tiny, but these tinies are out of health tested much loved parents, raised in a home in a clean environment with educational mind stimulating toys and lots of touch and socialization. We aren’t breeding for tinies. The majority of us would be happy if we NEVER had a tiny. Behind that cute little puppy face and tiny body may be many health problems unseen from the outside. Little hearts may not be working correctly, brains may have water or cysts going through them, internal organs may not function correctly. There may be seizures waiting to happen. Besides, we are breeding for the standard, which says the Chihuahua must be under six pounds. Six pounds is still a very small dog. We are breeding for a healthy dog, which many tinies are not. We are breeding for a show dog, and showing is for breeding stock; nobody can or should breed a tiny. Tinies to a show breeder are a loving little life we attempt to keep on going, but often meet with heartbreak. Waking up every hour to check on a baby who struggles to breathe or you wake up to a horrible seizure, then signing on to Facebook to see the demand from pet people being met with babies from pet breeders sends some blood boiling.
I have known a pet breeder who was as careful with her dogs as any show breeder I’ve ever met. However, she’s in the minority. Most people who breed for pets only are money breeders. Their goal is to make the most money they can. This fad of the micro minis and teacups is their dream come true. Breed tiny Chihuahuas (and other toy breeds) and add zeros to their price point. It’s the survival of the fittest, and many do not survive. What they aren’t telling the pet puppy buyers who are paying four or five thousand dollars for one of these tiny little dream puppies is that last night, it was having seizures and struggling for its life, yet there’s no guarantee. Many do not even explain to their buyers about hypoglycemia, and a normal sized toy could sugar out with them having no clue. With these tiny puppies, it could happen four or five times a day. Most people are not even home for this to happen, and they will come home to a dead puppy.
Back to my daughter, we have a tiny Chihuahua named Snowball. Snowball was not a plan of mine, but happened a little outside my plan. She was in trouble the day her litter was being born, and my vet was in a hurry to get her out as she was in distress and accidentally cut her head. She was always a little smaller (just under 2 oz at birth), and the glued head concerned me a bit but she was very strong willed and had a big desire to live. We always said Snowball may not have a particularly long life, we don’t know…but she lives life to the fullest. Chelsea posts photos of her all the time on Facebook. She accompanies Chelsea everywhere. When she was little, it was because she had to be watched 24/7, and now it’s…well, she still has to be watched 24/7. Chelsea’s life is the dogs. She is training or breeding or grooming or showing dogs, all the time. If she worked a regular job, there is no way she could have successfully raised a tiny. The reason Snowball ended up at her house is, I have 5 kids under the age of 10 at my house. I have a 3 year old child at my house who is as loving and careful with the dogs, as any three year old child could be, supervised. My older kids all show Chihuahuas. They have been raised with them their whole lives. However, I didn’t feel that my supervised Chihuahua-aware kids were safe with a 2 oz puppy who was not growing. Yes, you heard me right, she wasn’t growing. She stayed the same. I told Chelsea that she was going to die. If she couldn’t get her to grow, she would die. She didn’t grow, and she didn’t die. She kept on keeping on.
Chelsea couldn’t go out to eat, because she couldn’t leave Snowball. When we would run into the dog show to show our dogs, when we came back out we would not be sure if Snowball would still be alive. But she was. She had good days and bad days. And finally she did get a little bigger. We finally decided she would be about 1 pound 12 oz as an adult, if she could make it there. We took her on a hunting trip with us, and at the lodge she posed with all of the mounted animals. We even took her to a fun match, where she strutted her stuff for judge Andrea Carter. Chelsea has put up photos of her in purses, in tiny beds, wearing little dresses and t shirts. She is her best friend. I have been offered as high as $4000 for Snowball, and I turned it down. If I was a money breeder, I would have waited until one of the good weeks and she would have been sold for the big bucks to an unsuspecting person who didn’t realize the dark side.
And oh there have been dark days. We took a trip to Texas to the Dallas Chihuahua Specialties and we thought Snowball was breathing her last breaths. Actually, her breathing has never really fully returned to normal since that trip. Our vet put her on a nebulizer right before it, as she had the sniffles. Prior to the trip, Snowball had one seizure and thankfully at that point, Chelsea had received a medication that was able to stop a seizure. This medication proved extremely important on this trip. In one day on the trip, Snowball had five seizures. She had horrible diarrhea. She curled in on herself, is all I can describe…she used to have a great topline which is now curved. She used to have a great rear, which is now narrow and awkward. We tried to make light of it in calling her “Snowstick.” She refused to eat. I truly believe she had decided she was dying, and she had given up. The one person who did not give up was Chelsea. Chelsea was up every hour to two hours with her and forcing her to eat, having constant conversations with our vet, trying different things from the vet and from our various friends. One day Chelsea just sat on the floor of the motorhome crying, holding her, realizing that this was probably it. We have a little kit we take with us and we were exhausting our resources with electrolytes and probiotics, and we took an Uber to Walgreens to pick up our vet’s four medications of choice for the videos we were sending her on the phone. Those videos and that medication saved Snowball…this time. It was a strong antibiotic for the congestion in her chest, a steroid, Lasix, and a sedative to keep her from seizuring. This, and we changed to saltwater in the nebulizer rather than the albuterol. She still rattles when she breathes a bit, but we have returned for now to the good days.
Good days meaning, she still has to have all this medication on a daily basis, which she hates. She still has to be somewhat handfed, to make sure she eats like she should, or at least watched like a hawk to see exactly how much she is eating. She has to be watched constantly because one step on top of her would break her. Accidentally kicking her when walking would kill her. Setting down your purse on her would kill her. She can’t be on your bed when you sleep, because you could roll over on her and kill her. Or you could knock her off, which would kill her. Are you sensing a theme here? Yet every request is for a “teacup.” Chelsea, a single girl whose life is devoted to dogs, has this much trouble keeping one alive, but a working family with four kids and two large dogs thinks she’ll fit right in. Do you see why we get so irate? Do you see why it’s hard for us to keep trying to breathe and educate when all we want to do is scream?
You can’t do it, folks. I’ll be honest, she is a miracle worker. I am great with a litter of normal puppies with one sugaring out at weaning time. I’m a mess without sleep. And even Chelsea had to leave a dog show midway through the weekend in Arkansas, sicker than a dog herself, which I feel sure was brought on by lack of sleep in the weeks before. There are others like Chelsea. But most of them – and her – are not going to let that tiny go after they have stayed up all night, loved it, cared for it, nurtured it through only to hand it to someone who may or may not have what it takes to follow up. You aren’t going to get one from us. We have placed one – ever – who had only one episode of sugaring out at weaning time, and that was with a home that had previously raised a tiny to old age; a woman who, like Chelsea, works at home and can devote the time that it might take.
So if you aren’t getting one from us, who are you getting it from? Are they telling you all this? They better be, or they are not being truthful with you. If you are talking with a breeder that has a 1 week old, 3 week old, or 5 week old tiny puppy and they are trying to sell you this baby, you better take a step back right now. Serious responsible breeders do not sell puppies at those ages. If it is a puppy that is charting 1-3 pounds, I would be really concerned. These puppies may not, and often do not, live.
In the first place, charts lie. In some lines, they are more reliable than others. I had a male once who his puppies would be charting 5 pounds or so until they got to be about 6 weeks old. Then things would change. They slowed way down on growing. He would often have puppies who would end up very small. You just couldn’t tell from the charts on him. I have heard of other lines who do the opposite. I have a bitch right now that I am placing as she looks like she will be oversize and for most of her young weeks of puppyhood, she was charting 4 ½-5 pounds. I do chart my puppies, but I also consider size of sire and dam and of dogs in the pedigree, and I tell people that charts are a guess.
Pet breeders lie, too. I can’t believe sometimes on the sales groups someone will put up a picture of a dog saying it’s a 4 pound dog and it looks like it’s an 8 pound dog. I’m stunned at how the money breeders will tell these people anything they want to hear. Oh yes, she’ll stay under 2 pounds! She sure will! (or you won’t be able to find that breeder again when she doesn’t!)
A friend of mine asked me to make a list of what it takes to raise a tiny.
1. Work at home, or don’t work at all. The dogs are completely your life.
2. You don’t mind a lot of extra work. Giving medicines at certain times. Often having to force feed food. Wellness checks.
3. Constantly thinking of the safety and welfare of your dog. I mean constantly. Where is she, what might be dangerous nearby. Is she still alive? How does she look? Is she sick?
4. You have no other dogs, or you can keep them COMPLETELY separated. We do have a few males who are allowed to be with Snowball, and she can play with puppies up to about 4 months. And that’s about it.
5. You have no children, or you can keep them COMPLETELY separated. Don’t give me your sermon about how great your children are with dogs. Mine are PERFECT with dogs and have been around dogs their whole lives, and I would never leave them with Snowball unsupervised.
6. You have unlimited financial resources. You may need them. One of the operations that was described to me recently for a tiny was $5000. Snowball’s medication we bought in Dallas was $300. You may be building your vet a new wing on their office.
7. You have no social life, and plan to go to no place where you can’t take this dog because you can’t leave it. We have taken Snowball in a purse into PF Chang’s. They never knew it.
8. You can find a breeder who, after going through all of this and the puppy actually lived (which is rare in itself), can actually part with the puppy. Most tinies I know live with their breeders or with their breeder’s close friend or family member.
9. You can live with whatever health problems this tiny size is going to throw at you. Very rarely are they not coming. These health issues may affect your dog's appearance, its conformation, it's ability to stand and walk and run, and certainly its quality of life. You may have to watch this little dog suffer as you puzzle and question and ask resources to help. The dog may never again be that cute purse puppy.
10. You can accept losing this baby. Because it very well may happen.
I would like to give anyone a little bit of advice who thinks they really want a “teacup” or “micro.” Get a 4 to 6 pound, healthy loving Chihuahua who can actually be a pet. Still a very tiny dog, but a tiny dog that has a chance at a great life without the misery and heartbreak of health issues, early death, and a crazy caregiver schedule that takes over your whole life.