Concerns have been raised about ‘teacup’ dogs and the way they are bred.
Animal experts are calling on potential owners to think twice before purchasing one, due to the health problems they suffer with.
The cute-looking pets are not a specific breed but instead a regular dog breed that has been shrunk, sometimes in unscrupulous ways.
Creating a smaller pet means they are frail and unable to perform certain tasks a healthy dog should be able to.
RSPCA dog welfare expert, Lisa Richards, said: “We are really concerned that many dogs, like so-called ‘teacup’ dogs, are being selectively bred to look a certain way.
“This often results in them having exaggerated physical features such as extremely small body size.
“There is no recognised definition for ‘teacup’ but the name is used by many breeders to sell extremely small puppies which are bred to be so small because they are considered to be cute – and therefore much more attractive to many potential buyers.
“Selectively breeding to exaggerate certain physical features – such as creating really tiny dogs – can cause serious health and welfare problems.
“For example, their ﬁne bones are very vulnerable to stress fractures and they are at risk of painful fractures from minimal trauma such as jumping.
“Dislocation of the kneecap is also common in toy breeds, leading to pain and lameness.
“Dogs bred to be extremely small can also suffer from respiratory problems that can severely limit their ability to run and exercise.
“It is also very concerning to see people breeding dogs to fit in with the latest trend or fad. Dogs are intelligent, sentient creatures and should not be treated as a fashion accessory.
“We are concerned that many pedigree and purebred dogs are suffering because they’re bred primarily for how they look rather than with health, welfare and temperament in mind.
“More needs to be done to protect the future health of dogs and we believe all breeders should prioritise welfare over appearance.”