Teacup Shih Tzu or Imperial Shih Tzu

Many people love tiny toy dogs, and it’s not hard to find a shih Tzu anywhere in the world where there is a demand for small dogs. Known variously as Teacup Shih Tzu or Imperial Shih Tzu and by other names, it’s important to recognize that all the “Teacup Shih Tzu puppies for sale” may not be recognized by the AKC (American Kennel Club) for good breeding practices. How do you make sure you are buying a healthy pet that has not been bred too small to be safe?

Teacup Shih Tzu or Imperial Shih Tzu important facts

picture of shih tzu in teacup - teacup shih tzu or imperial shih tzuMany breeders will deceptively market Shih Tzu puppies as having a Chinese imperial bloodline. But the truth is, not all puppies bred today can be traced back to the imperial dogs of China. Shih Tzu means ‘lion’ and it is reputed to be the oldest of Tibetan holy dogs associated with the Buddhist religion. These dogs are known (from paintings, documents and artifacts) to have existed as far back as 624 AD and may have been introduced to China from Tibet or the Byzantine Empire.

Whatever its ancient history, the Shih Tzu was a house pet along with Pekinese and pugs in the Chinese Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644AD). The breed almost became extinct during the Communist Revolution in China. But there seem to have been seven dogs and seven bitches rescued, from whom breeding began in the 1930s. Originally classed as “Apsos”, the breed was recognized by the Kennel Club (England) as being separate from the Lhasa Apso. American soldiers stationed in Australia and Europe where the members of the breed were exported brought them back home, and the Shih Tzu was added to the AKC Stud Book in 1969, and was classified as a Toy Breed for regular shows.

Teacup Shih Tzu or Imperial Shih Tzu AKC Recognition

For all the different names that the Shih Tzu is sold under, the best of these essentially belong to the one breed that AKC recognizes. This is the Shih Tzu breed, members of which weigh between 9 and 16 pounds, or 4.08 to 7.25 kilograms. This doesn’t mean that Imperial Shih Tzu or Teacup Shih Tzu are unacceptable. Many times, the dogs which are bred on the lower end of the weight scale (weighing closer to 4.08 kilograms) are labeled as Teacup, Imperial etc. and this is a legitimate practice.

But when purchasing dogs of this breed, it is important to remember the healthy teacup Shih Tzu weight range to ensure humane breeding practices are carried out by the breeder. Any puppy that is deliberately bred to weigh less than 5 pounds, may suffer from health problems. Therefore, it is very important to understand the difference between a breeder who is using the term Imperial to simply mean ‘on the smaller side’ or to mean ‘much smaller than was intended by nature’.

Also remember that while a Shih Tzu under 9 pounds may not fit AKC breed standards, you may still be able to register it with the AKC.

Teacup Shih Tzu Health Problems

When Imperial Shih Tzu’s are bred too small, especially weighing around 2 to 3 pounds when fully grown, they can have a shorter life span along with a host of other health issues. They can have eating problems or breathing problems. They are incredibly delicate since their organs are very small and plenty of care must be taken with these dogs. They can also suffer from calcium deficiency, and be vulnerable to every condition ranging from heart disease to liver problems such as liver shunts.

Many animal lovers involved in Teacup Shih Tzu or imperial Shih Tzu rescue see it as more satisfying rescuing heavily underweight dogs than purchasing healthy AKC-approved puppies. The first thing to do with an underweight Shih Tzu (and even healthy members) is to take it to a veterinarian and check for any health issues or potential health issues. The puppy will need special care from thereon, including careful monitoring of food. The usual ‘Miniature’ Shih Tzus which are much smaller than is healthy should have food introduced to them very slowly. If the food isn’t tolerated, your vet may give you a special formula for the puppy.

Shih Tzus in general are quite temperature-sensitive, and don’t tolerate heat well because of their thick fur. They are also not good swimmers. Always avoid eye injuries, as these dogs have large eyes and no muzzle for protection. Juvenile renal dysplasia or improper kidney development is a common problem in puppies, a symptom of which is excessive thirst. Your pet should receive regular health checkups to prevent potential health issues and keep it in tip-top condition.

When healthy and in the right weight range, Shih Tzu lap dogs are full of spunk and love to be spoiled. They are affectionate and playful, gentle and sweet, clever and easy to train. You can give these sweet “chrysanthemum-faced” dogs a good life, when you partner with a reputable, honest breeder who cares about the animals.



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