The lure of a teeny tiny Yorkshire terrier cannot be denied -- the photo opportunities are endless. If you're looking for a purse-sized dog, there are a few things to know. First, there is no recognized breed of "teacup" dog, including a Yorkie. Second, dogs beneath their weight standard often have a host of health problems and a shortened life span.
The Yorkshire Terrier
The American Kennel Club recognizes the Yorkshire terrier in its toy group. When bred to the AKC's standard, the Yorkie stands between 8 and 9 inches tall and weighs between 4 and 7 pounds -- hardly a heavyweight. A healthy Yorkshire terrier can expect to live between 12 and 15 years, though he has some health risks associated with his breed, including hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, collapsing trachea and the liver defect portosystemic shunt.
The Making of a Teacup Yorkie
Generally, a "teacup" dog refers to a dog smaller than its breed standard, so in the case of a Yorkshire terrier, that's a dog weighing less than 4 pounds. To put it in perspective, a teacup Yorkie weighs less than the half-gallon of milk in your refrigerator. Sometimes a Yorkshire terrier will come in below that weight range, through no effort of the breeder. However, some breeders purposely breed smaller than normal Yorkies -- the "runts" of their litters -- to produce smaller than normal "teacup" Yorkies.
According to the Yorkshire Terrier Club of America smaller than normal Yorkshire terriers are prone to a wide variety of medical issues, beyond the hereditary problems the breed is naturally vulnerable to developing. Vomiting, diarrhea and undetected birth defects are common among teacup Yorkies. As well, these little dogs don't fare well under anesthesia, making additional testing necessary before they undergo even routine surgery. Their small size also makes them easily injured in the event of a fall or being stepped on. Ideally, the life span of a teacup Yorkie would be in the same range of his larger relative, however, these dogs often die at a much younger age. There is no stated life expectancy for teacup Yorkies since health and quality can vary widely.
Look for Health
Teacup Yorkies -- or poodles, Maltese, pugs, Chihuahuas or any other breed -- are not recognized by any major canine association. There is no standard for a teacup Yorkie, so a breeder selling a teacup Yorkie can call any Yorkie a teacup. A breeder may claim that a puppy is a "teacup," though the dog may grow into a standard-sized dog. Genetics, nutrition and medical care all contribute to a dog's adult size. The Yorkshire Terrier Club of America states that most breeders will not breed a female Yorkie who weighs less than 5 pounds. If you're in the market for a tiny Yorkie, do your homework to ensure your breeder's dogs are listed in the Canine Health Center Database, to help ensure you'll be getting a healthy puppy.