| 7°C Dublin

Beware of tiny dogs that can lead to large vet bills

DOG lovers should avoid buying tiny so-called 'teacup' dogs no matter how many celebrities endorsements they get, the DSPCA has said.

Welfare groups are becoming increasingly concerned about the growing trend of miniature dogs.

Gillian Bird, of the DSPCA, told the Herald: "People often think miniature animals make great gifts, as they stay small, especially in the run up to Christmas. But any animal bred below its natural size will carry genetic health problems.

"The veterinary bills for some of these small dogs like Chihuahuas can be unbelievable."

The 'teacup' dogs are not recognised by the Irish Kennel Club but puppy farms and individual breeders here breed hundreds of them every year.

Paul Allen, who runs a website which offers advice to people in Ireland about pedigree dogs, explained why small dogs are likely to have costly health problems.

"Breeders are taking the runts of the litter and breeding them with other runts to produce smaller pups of the small breeds. But these pups are the weakest of the weak and many develop health problems such as blindness."

He said that celebs who carry dogs as fashion accessories drive up demand for miniature breeds here.

"People see Paris Hilton with her Chihuahua in her bag and decide they want one. But irresponsible breeders who see what's selling try to breed smaller and smaller dogs."

The pedigree dog blogger advised people who are interested in getting a pure bred to go to a reputable breed club.