The Designer Dog Trend – How Small Is Too Small?

What could possibly be more desirable than a Birkin bag? A dog tiny enough to sit in one

By Fransi Weinstein


Problem is, these itsy-bitsy, teenie-weenie, trend-setting “designer” cuties have health issues

I find it so ironic. On one hand we live happily in a supersized world, where the bigger the mansion, the bigger the yacht, the bigger the diamond, the bigger the burger the more we like it. And on the other, a micro-dog tucked into its owner’s pocket, or a teacup, can draw almost as large a crowd as your favorite Kardashian.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not passing judgement. In fact, I’ll confess to oohing and aahing over those palm-sized Maltese, Yorkies and Chihuahuas too.

But as an animal lover and unofficial advocate, I have wondered if this “selective inbreeding” is harmful. Selective inbreeding, by the way, is the repeated breeding of undersized dogs, the intent of which is to produce a litter of even smaller dogs and then even smaller dogs and then even smaller dogs again.

For some answers I turned to an expert: our Get Leashed Veterinarian-In-Residence

A graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College Dr. Sheldon Jafine, who has a professional pedigree even the most awarded show dog would love to have, has been a Veterinarian for 30 years. And talking to him revealed that I’m right to be concerned:

First off, I was shocked to hear that these miniature dogs “have the exact same number of teeth as a Great Dane.”

So it didn’t come as much of a surprise when Dr. Jafine went on to explain that “regardless of the breed, they all have serious problems with over-crowded teeth which, in turn, can lead to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontal disease (which ranges from simple inflammation to damage to the soft tissue and bone). As in humans, this can cause a lot of pain and lead to heart, kidney and liver disease.”

That’s not all, though. While he was quick to point out that not every “trophy” dog suffers from all of these other medical problems, many of them will have at least one, and maybe more. “As one might expect,” he told me, “their livers are very small, which certainly can result in medical issues. Some of them have kneecaps that dislocate inward so they keep popping out, which can cause the dogs to go lame; and, without surgery, they can get arthritis. Their trachea (windpipe) can collapse from running or getting too excited and then they can’t breathe. The worse news is, it’s a condition that’s rarely treatable surgically.” Do I have to tell you what that means?

Why then, are they so popular, such a hot commodity?

I wish I knew. Is it because they’re small enough, lightweight enough to take everywhere? Is it because they’re more like adorable little toys than real living creatures? Is it because they’re a status symbol?

Is it because we’ve been unaware of the risks, the discomfort this inbreeding can cause, that it can shorten the lifespan of the very pets we adore?

It’s not my intention, or my place, to speak for you. However, I’m thinking that maybe some things are better left to Mother Nature. I’m not crazy about Monsanto messing around with my food and the idea of mass-produced dogs, bred solely to be an accessory, regardless of what pain it causes them, doesn’t fill my heart with joy either.

Think about it. Today, it’s corn on the cob and puppies. Tomorrow it could be human beings. It’s a slippery slope and once we go down that road, anything’s possible.