Imperial Shih Tzu breed facts and health information

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The Imperial Shih Tzu, also called the Teacup Shih Tzu, is a super-small version of a Shih Tzu. These names aren’t official, and neither the AKC nor the American Shih Tzu Club (ASTC) recognizes. Shih Tzu’s as an adult weighs around 16 pounds, but few (naturally/intentionally) are around 7 to 11 pounds.

Imperial Shih Tzu breed may happen in two ways  

  • A breeder who tries to stay within standards of AKC for the breed may have the occasional puppy who turns out smaller than they expected. These breeders won’t market as a special breed.
  • To appeal to public intentionally breed their smallest dogs, to ensure the puppies are also on the smaller side. These Shih Tzu are often called “Imperial Shih Tzu”

We have fallen in love with the smaller versions of the Shih Tzu. Breeders are simply supplying society’s demand for small dogs. In recent years different names are being used in the market – Imperial Shih Tzu, Teacup Shih Tzu, Miniature and many more. Shih Tzu breeders reveal that the demand dictates the supply. The law of supply and demand is alive and well in the dog breeding industry whether or not breeders or the general public are willing to acknowledge it.

As consumers want new and different inanimate products, so too are they search for unusual pets, often time as status symbols.  Is this right?  This is just the reality of the world we live in.

Naturally bred and Intentionally bred – Small/Miniature/Teacup/Imperial

Some of these puppies are born smaller than expected even though their parents are the normal size.  As with any breed, every once in a while there will be a runt or a puppy that will be smaller than his littermates and will thus be smaller than the breed standard once they reach adulthood.

 Others are purposely bred small.  Breeders who deliberately breed small Shih Tzu will choose two small dogs that are less than the breed standard hoping to produce offspring that are small as well

Not an AKC recognized

The undersized Shih Tzu are described as ‘Imperial’ and ‘tiny teacup’. Most of the unethical breeders to create a market for dogs that do not conform to the breed standard. The official breed standard approved by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the American Shih Tzu Club (ASTC) calls for a weight range of 9 to 16 pounds.

But when you read a lot of ads online, unethical breeders market it as most precious or special Shih Tzu – Imperial or teacup, and even claim it to be very expensive.

AKC standard of Shih Tzu is not a fragile dog, it’s solid and sturdy despite its relatively compact size. Responsible breeder on the other side, if their one of the Shih Tzu born small/tiny don does not advertise as Imperial Shih Tzu. Rather it is sold as a normal pet. Responsible breeders strive to breed healthy dogs that conform to the breed standard. Those desiring a very tiny pet should choose another breed rather than destroying the very characteristics that make the Shih Tzu such an ideal companion.

Therefore, it is important to understand the difference between a breeder who uses the word “Imperial” to simply mean “small” and others who use the word to mean the dog is much, much smaller than nature intended… this type of dog would most likely have many health issues.

They are simply sold as “pet” quality Shih Tzu without breeding rights.  These puppies could never be promoted to “show” quality because they would be disqualified in the show ring since they do not meet the breed standard.

Imperial Shih Tzu

What is the Imperial or teacup mean – well it means small, tiny. As I said the dog below 9 pounds does not fit AKC standards. An imperial adult weighs around 7 to 11 pounds. Their hair grows fairly quick. In the US, the reputable breeder can ask a premium price for these puppies varies between $900 – $2,500. The cost will fluctuate if you are buying from a pet store or from a new breeder. Requires a lot of brushing to keep their coats free of matted hair. Just like Shih Tzu’s energy level s are good. Life expectancy of 16 years. Though Imperials are good with Children. This extremely small size and fragile it is not recommended for young children.

Are These Imperial Healthy?

There are many health problems that can arise when these dogs are unethically bred to be incredibly tiny. Producing smaller versions of dogs that are already small to start with,  risks magnifying the chances for health problems. When the breeder then breeds 2 of these already unhealthy tiny dogs, even more problems can arise. They can suffer from calcium deficiencies. Some of their vital organs may also be affected.

Eventually, they often develop heart disease and/or liver failure. Shih Tzus that are too small can also have difficulty with basic needs such as eating and breathing. Their organs may be underdeveloped or unnaturally small inside of their tiny bodies.

As with other small dog breeds, Hypoglycemia can be a problem in tiny breeds.  Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar is a possible problem with all toy breed puppies but becomes an even greater risk to tiny Shih Tzu pups.  If not caught early, it can be fatal.  Other problems associated with the Shih Tzu breed can worsen in the tiny versions of the breed.

Other problems associated with the Shih Tzu breed worsen in the tiny versions of the breed.

What Do I Do if I Already Purchased an Imperial Shih Tzu

Getting to your dog’s veterinarian must be the first priority. Careful testing should be done to check for any health issues or pending health issues. A dog that is much smaller than nature intended will need special care.

Dogs that are too small are often quite sensitive to temperature. They will find it difficult to adjust to a change in temperature, so you must be careful when taking them outside in the cold. Dog clothing may be more than just a fashion choice. They can also overheat easily when temperatures rise.

Bones of Imperial are very fragile. Care must be taken so that socialization with larger dogs or small children should be avoided at most. They may get easily injured in what should be a normal play. Even care should be taken that it should not fall, a lot of attention to be given always.

You will also have to carefully monitor their food intake. New foods should be introduced slowly, and much more carefully than other Shih Tzus who are merely smaller than average. If your puppy is having trouble with solid food, you may have to get a prescription puppy formula from your vet.

Regular checkups at a veterinarian’s office are crucial. The sooner you are aware of any health issues that may be developing, the more effectively they can be treated

Impulse buying should be avoided

New owners have the right and responsibility to research and make an informed decision as to the size of Shih Tzu they prefer.  New owners should not be caught up in the terminology and should do their homework prior to purchasing a new puppy.  As with any living creature, impulse buying should be avoided.