Minnie the Miracle Mi-Ki is 1 Year Old!

For those of you who follow us, you may be familiar with Minnie the Miracle Mi-Ki. Many of you call her “Chapstick” as she was photographed next to a tube of Chapstick for size reference when she was born. She was only 2.2 ounces at birth and then dropped to 1.8 ounces after not being able to nurse. We didn’t know why she couldn’t nurse, but like all our fragile pups, I always try to help them survive with supportive care. As long as they keep fighting, I will fight alongside them – even if it means losing sleep and aging prematurely.

Minnie was about the size of a ChapStick!

Tiny but Mighty, and Mighty Sensitive

Minnie was part of the “M” Magic Kingdom litter. Her brothers were Mickey and Mushu, and she also had a sister named Mulan. Perhaps there was a bit of Disney Magic that helped sustain her and made her a strong protagonist.

Because Minnie couldn’t latch on properly, though she tried and tried, I had to tube feed her using puppy formula every two hours around the clock for her first few weeks. I learned from previous puppies that the Myra Savant-Harris puppy formula recipe is better than any of the commercial versions I’ve tried as far as preventing constipation and enabling weight gain.

The trick was figuring out how much formula would help Minnie grow but not injure her tiny stomach. The recommended dose of 1 cc per ounce of weight was far too much for her, so I’d have to feed a little, stop, then feed a bit more. As soon as she squirmed, I learned I needed to stop right there or she would be miserable for several hours from a too-full tummy. I would be equally miserable thinking I’d nearly killed her.

All newborn Mi-Ki puppies are quite sensitive due to their small size, and Minnie was particularly sensitive. Newborn puppies require a consistent temperature of 87-90 degrees F and humidity between 40-60%. Minnie also required extra oxygen and antibiotics as she would regularly spit up her formula, so we were constantly worried about pneumonia.

Minnie the Miracle Mi-Ki in a Pyrex cup to keep her head elevated so she won't spit up her formula.
Minnie propped up in a blanket-lined cup to keep her from spitting up formula

Minnie spent the first couple of weeks in a Puppywarmer Incubator. I like this brand because it has gradient heat so the puppy can find their perfect temperature. I also use their oxygen concentrator with distilled water added for humidity. Here in Colorado, it’s extra dry, so puppies under heat can dehydrate just by breathing. In addition to the moisture provided through the concentrator, our hygrometer and thermometer indicated we had to use a humidifier next to the incubator to provide the ideal climate. We went through so much distilled water!

Minnie’s canine mom was also supportive and helped clean her and facilitate her pottying. Newborn puppies cannot defecate on their own without stimulation, so I was grateful for her mom’s help in this regard. Sometimes I would have to use a warm wet cotton ball to help. She always had to be cleaned and pottied before feedings so she had room for formula.

After feedings, we would prop Minnie up for about 15 minutes to try to keep milk from bubbling up her nose. Actually, it was more like watching the exorcist with a tiny spinning head and projectile vomiting. I still have formula sprayed on my walls from her. Neither of us got very much sleep during those first four weeks. At this point, we weren’t sure why she spit up. She was too fragile to take to the vet. We thought perhaps she had esophageal reflux or megaesophagus.

The diagnosis, and a possible cause for puppy birth defects!

Eventually, we felt Minnie could be outside of the incubator without supplemental oxygen long enough to visit our vet who is just two miles away. Dr. Atkins determined that she had a small cleft palate far in the back of her throat, which is why I had trouble seeing it. That is why she couldn’t latch on to nurse, and that was why there was always milk coming out of her nose, despite careful feeding techniques.

The interesting thing about this diagnosis is that my mother’s dog also had a litter with a single puppy survivor (he had a stillborn brother) who also had a cleft palate during the same timeframe. Mom has a toy Australian Shepherd from lines that have never experienced a cleft palate in over 25 years.

My parents have their own spacious apartment downstairs in our home. Since we live in a rural location, mice had also decided to enjoy our lovely abode. We didn’t want to use traps or poison because of our dogs. Instead, we used a rather expensive plug-in device. Unlike the little ultrasonic rodent deterrents, this device emits powerful EMF (electromagnetic frequencies) throughout the wiring of the house. As long as there is electricity flowing through the wires (and we kept the lights on to ensure there was power on at all times) the EMFs would chase away the mice. It was highly effective.

Unfortunately, we believe the EMFs at this level also caused birth defects, specifically cleft palates, in our litters. The company that makes the device says it is completely safe for humans and pets, but I don’t believe it is safe for developing fetuses – human or otherwise. I started combing the Internet for information about EMFs and found lots of data correlating birth defects with EMF exposure. I also found several products designed for pregnant women to block EMFs from their unborn babies. Cell phones, computers, and all those wireless products we love can all contribute, but this EMF rodent-deterring device was apparently quite strong and dangerous.

We surmise that Mom’s puppy’s cleft was potentially more severe due to the fact that the device was plugged into the basement where she and her dogs live. Despite our best efforts, her puppy didn’t make it. Most cleft-palate puppies don’t survive.

We’ve since unplugged the Pest Free device and have had fewer litter complications. I’ve also added a few EMF-neutralizing devices to my electronics. Incidentally, my houseplants have also started doing better while using these products. One time, I accidentally unplugged one of my EMF harmonizing devices and the plant nearby started getting yellow leaves and dropping them all of a sudden again. I plugged in the neutralizer and the plant fully recovered. If I thought the EMF neutralizing devices were a hoax before, I don’t any more!

The care and feeding of Minnie the Tiny Miracle Mi-Ki

Tube feeding is a little scary. For one thing, Mi-Ki puppies are quite small, and you have to use a very small feeding tube (3.5 French to start) which is tricky to thread down their throats and position it down into their bellies. It is important to have your veterinarian help you learn how to make sure you are tube-feeding a puppy correctly. Otherwise, you can put the tube into the lungs and drown them or cause pneumonia.

I have learned to measure and mark the feeding tube with a Sharpie so I know I’m in the stomach, rather than the lungs. The proper length can be determined by positioning the feeding tube on the side of the puppy measuring from the mouth to the first rib while imagining the line of the throat down to the stomach. Wi-KiHow has some helpful instructions for tube feeding a puppy.

Tube feeding Minnie when she was just two weeks old.

After 6 weeks of tube feeding, Minnie decided she was now “big” and wasn’t going to tolerate a tube any longer. It was tricky figuring out what she could eat and how she could drink. She taught herself to drink formula like a little bird out of a syringe by tilting her head back to have it stay out of her sinuses. She would chew the heck out of those syringes too!

Minnie drinking her formula like a “big dog.”

Minnie can’t handle overly soft foods as she ends up sneezing them out her nose. We tried any way we could to get good calories down her because she was always just so tiny. Eventually, we tried moistening freeze-dried foods and squeezing the liquid out of a morsel to let it slip down her throat. Overall, she now seems to have the best luck with kibble or other dense foods.

The trials and triumphs of a cleft-palate puppy

Keeping Minnie alive during those first two months was quite the feat. I constantly worried about her — every drop of nourishment, every breath, every sneeze, every spit-up.

Once we got through those first few months, I sometimes wondered if we might be able to find a home for Minnie where this highly-socialized pup could be a support for someone needing some extra tiny companionship. Unfortunately, Minnie had several months of dealing with severe recurring sinus issues due to the continued communication between her mouth and nasal passages. She also had a foul odor because of the infection.

We had hoped that the removal of a couple of lingering deciduous teeth might calm down the inflammation, but it didn’t seem to help. Sedating her briefly for the procedure did allow my vet to finally get a really good look at her mouth, though. He confirmed the cleft palate at the back of her mouth by her throat, but there is also a tiny hole in the front right under her nasal cavity. This is likely what causes her congestion and chronic infections.

Minnie weighs 2 pounds, 10 ounces as an adult. Because of her size and the sensitivity of the area, Dr. Atkins doesn’t believe Minnie is a good candidate for cleft palate surgery as he believes she most likely wouldn’t survive the procedure. I still may get a consult with a specialist, however. I am hoping they might be able to fit her with some sort of an orthodontic device like a retainer to help her eat and drink more easily.

Maintaining Minnie, our Miracle Mi-Ki

The good news is that I’ve had tremendous success clearing up her sinus infection and odor with the use of colloidal silver-soaked treats and red-light therapy, which she loves. She gets pre and probiotics to improve her gut health after chronic antibiotic usage. We’ve installed a few large elevated water dispensers to help her drink, which she also enjoys. She still gets to sneezing and wheezing with excitement or drinking wrong, but for her, it’s just how it is and she’s used to it. She always has a messy, snot-nosed face.

Though Minnie is just 2.5 pounds, she is very good at bossing people around. She communicates very clearly what she needs. I suppose that’s also one of the skills that have kept her alive.

Minnie, the messy-faced Miracle Mi-Ki manipulator!

Minnie is one tough little girl. She runs with absolute joy across the yard and she’s wicked fast. She will take on the biggest Mi-Ki in the manor to fight for a bully stick and they will actually back down. Her fighting spirit isn’t exactly encouraged, but we know it’s what has sustained her through this amazing year. It’s been an adventurous 12 months with scarce sleep, but it was totally worth it. Minnie is a miracle Mi-Ki!

Minnie gives me encouragement whenever I have a tough case with a puppy and reminds me that there’s always room for hope. Minnie is our little black snot-nosed angel with a goofy smile. We’re very grateful that she’s here.

How to Groom Mi-Ki Puppies with Minimal Stress

This is a video grooming tutorial for how to groom a long-coat Mi-Ki puppy. This video can help tide you over until your puppy is fully vaccinated before heading to the professional groomer, or you can learn to groom Mi-Ki puppies if you have the time and patience.

I am not a professional groomer (and not a professional videographer, as evidenced by this video!) but I enjoy spending time with each puppy and getting them used to the sounds and sensations associated with grooming. This will make future grooming experiences less stressful whether our clients do their own grooming or take them to a professional.

Products to Groom Mi-Ki Puppies

As mentioned in the video, every Royal T Mi-Ki puppy will be sent home with some of the grooming tools including a Li’l Pals slicker brush and two-sided comb. In this video, we’re using Skout’s Honor Probiotic Shampoo + Conditioner as well as Skout’s Honor Detangling Spray in the Honeysuckle fragrance. We also like Life’s Abundance Pet Shampoo and Grooming Spray.

  • grooming table to groom Mi-Ki puppies and dogs
  • pet detangling spray
  • pet grooming scissor set
  • Kwik Stop Styptic Powder

Some of the other tools we use are the Wahl Mini Arco Clippers, the Master Equipment Pet Grooming Table, and this surprisingly decent quality set of Pet Grooming Scissors that won’t break the bank.

It’s also a great idea to have some Kwik Stop Styptic Powder on hand since everyone, even professional groomers, accidentally nip a toenail too close occasionally. It’s easy to do on a little tiny Mi-Ki puppy!

Grooming your Mi-Ki puppy doesn’t have to be intimidating. It can actually be a bonding experience for you and your pet. Regularly grooming your Mi-Ki will help you keep a close eye on your dog’s health and condition. For instance, you may find a tiny lump on the left side of your young Mi-Ki puppy’s ribcage. This is likely due to their vaccination site and will usually resolve within a couple of weeks. After their rabies vaccine, you may notice the same phenomenon on the right side.

Benefits of grooming your Mi-Ki yourself

Grooming your own Mi-Ki will expose them to fewer pathogens, which is particularly important before they are fully vaccinated. By grooming your own puppy, you will know exactly how their grooming experience went. If your Mi-Ki is getting too stressed, you can always take a break and try again later.

Some Mi-Kis simply do better with a professional groomer because the dog will behave with an experienced grooming artist who is used to dealing with wiggly puppies. We hope this video will give you grooming options to assist you no matter what you choose.

Please note that products listed on this page feature affiliate links and we may receive a small commission with your purchases. Thank you for your support.

Royal T Mi-Kis Adds Two New Champions at UKC Dog Show

We were pleased to participate in the High Plains Kennel Club summer dog show in Kiowa, Colorado this past weekend. We’re proud to have added two new UKC champions to our pack – Royal T’s Irresitible Isabelle and Estrellita’s Count Cosmo Royal T. Royal T’s Brilliant Brighton and Royal T’s Harley Ryder are also working towards being Grand Champions.

Friday’s Dog Show

Harley had a great day on Friday, July 15, 2022, and earned a Champion ribbon as well as Best of Breed. Brighton was our Reserve Champion. Isabelle got some competition wins with First Place, Best of Sex, and Best of Winners.

Chanel got First Place ribbons in her class all weekend and earned several points.

Royal T’s Cocoa Chanel Couture – our chocolate sable beauty! Photo by McGiv Photography

Despite doing really well in his conformation classes on concrete floors, Cosmo wasn’t too sure about this new situation with walking on dirt. He looked at me as if to say, “You realize I look like a mop. Should I really be walking around in this horse barn after you worked so hard to make me handsome?”

  • Estrellitas Count Cosmo Royal T UKC Dog Show

We resolved to practice walking with Cosmo in the arena before the next day’s show! It paid off.

Saturday Dog Shows

Saturday was also a hot and toasty day but we did our best to stay cool and collected. Saturday was a great day for our Brilliant Brighton who took the Champion ribbon twice as well as Best of Breed.

  • Brighton, white Mi-Ki at dog show

After earning more competition wins and bonus points in the first shows, Isabelle had now earned her championship status and could be moved up to the Champion Class. This would enable our champions to start earning legs towards their grand champion status!

Royal T’s Irresistible Isabelle earned a new title – Champion! Photo by McGiv Photography

Apparently, UKC champions need to beat 5 other dogs to earn legs towards being Grand Champions, so we wish we had more Mi-Kis entered on Friday and Saturday morning. If we’d managed that, Harley and Brighton would have earned even more competition leg wins towards their Grand Champion status. Hopefully, some of our locally-placed puppies will start competing soon. As it was, showing five Mi-Kis was quite a feat for us! Thankfully, we’re making friends with junior handlers who love showing our dogs with us.

Sunday Dog Shows

By Sunday, we humans were pretty tired, but Cosmo was just getting his stride! Not only did he earn enough points and competition wins to earn his championship, but he also started beating our other Champions and took “Best of Breed” twice! Cosmo is just in the Junior Class having just turned 1 in May, so we’re very excited for his continuing show career. We named him Estrellita’s Count Cosmo because his breeder Rebecca Thomason and I just knew he would be a star!

We’re grateful to the High Plains Kennel Club for hosting a successful dog show and for our judges Ron Horn, Sally Davidson, Kathryn Kudron, Judith Lehman, and Debra Mitchell.

How to Protect Yourself from Online Puppy Scams

Buying a dog or puppy online can be difficult to navigate – especially with fraudulent websites posing as legitimate dog breeders. Here are tips to protect yourself and avoid online puppy scams. We’ll also give suggestions for finding a reputable breeder whether you’re adopting a Mi-Ki or any other dog breed.

Cheap puppies are almost always puppy scams

The first red flag to look for when searching for your next pet is whether or not their pricing is in line with the going rate within reputable breeders of your chosen breed. For Mi-Kis, the price range will run from about $2,800 – $3,600. Breeding rights will add to the price an additional $1,000 – $1,500.

For instance, if you’ve been looking for a French Bulldog puppy that’s less than $3,000, it’s not likely coming from someone who actually bred the dog or at least someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. Since the vast majority of bulldogs are delivered by C-section (a surgery that will likely cost the breeder well over $3,000) you can easily figure out that the breeder will lose money if they are only getting a few puppies out of a litter.

Even if a puppy was not delivered via C-section, an underpriced puppy reflects that the breeder is cutting corners either on health testing, subpar food, vaccinations, or the general care of the dogs in their kennel. With the prices of everything pet-related going up – veterinary costs, genetic testing, health tests, pet food, grooming, etc., the prices of puppies are also going up.

Sometimes you’ll find a less expensive puppy from a backyard breeder who purposely bred their pets without breeding rights. Because of this, they cannot furnish you with registration papers for the puppy. These folks have not tested the parents for the recommended health panels, and probably don’t know anything about the breed standard. They are not breeding to improve their breed. They are simply breeding to make money.

Usually, a cheap puppy was either stolen or might not even be in the possession of the person claiming to sell the puppy. Fortunately, no one has stolen a puppy from me in real life, but people have stolen my puppy photos and tried to sell puppies online with my images to unsuspecting buyers.

Recently, someone tried to pose as a puppy buyer through social media from an account they had hacked and asked me to send them a copy of my breeding license. No doubt they planned to forge the information to replicate their own dog breeding website. The true account owner informed me she had been hacked and did not request the information.

There is one exception for finding a discounted puppy through a legitimate breeder. This happens when a breeder is aware of a severe fault, a temperament issue, a congenital anomaly, or health consideration with a particular puppy or adult. Breeders will sometimes discount a dog in these circumstances or even offer the dog for free with the understanding that the savings will be put towards the pup’s veterinary care or specialized training. Most breeders aren’t just trying to unload a “problem” puppy, but they know a family with fewer dogs to care for will offer a special-needs pup the individualized care he or she needs.

Inconsistent Puppy Photography

When you’re looking at a breeder’s website, do the images they supply look like a collection of photos stolen from all over the internet? Do the puppies and dogs on the site look remotely related to each other? Do some photos look like stock photos from Shutterstock while others look like they were swiped from someone’s social media post?

How about the environment where the puppies are photographed? Do some of the available puppies look like they live in the tropics while others live on a farm in the Midwest? Of course, if these are client-supplied testimonial photos, there will be differences. Does the photography background give clues about the cleanliness of where the puppies are being kept?

Don’t just look to see if the puppies are cute – see if there are consistencies between the dogs, the photography style, and the settings they are pictured in. If you’ve spent a good amount of time on a breeder’s website, you’ll start to get to know the breeder’s dogs and get a feel for their puppies. You might even see age progressions to further verify that these are dogs that the breeder is well acquainted with instead of just a random conglomeration of dog photos used to create an online brochure.

If you’re suspicious that the puppy and dog photos on a particular website might have been stolen, you can right-click on each image and ask the browser to search for the image elsewhere on the Internet (i.e., Google lens, etc.) If you find the photo appearing in multiple places or on another breeder’s website, it’s a fake website that is selling you dogs they don’t actually have. If you see any of my photos on other websites (other than my listing on GoodDog.com or ones I’ve supplied to the American Mi-Ki Club, BaxterBoo.com, or the future American Mi-Ki Registry Association website) please let me know!

Overly Consistent Puppy Photography

I’ve been on some puppy websites that have dozens of puppies of all different breeds and “designer mixes” posed on the exact same background. This might be aesthetically pleasing, but this is a red flag that you are looking at a puppy mill or a puppy broker that gets puppies from several breeders to sell in a warehouse-type setting. Some of these dogs are shipped from overseas.

The establishment might have appropriate licensing or not, but you can be sure that this is a very stressful situation for a young puppy. The puppies may come with a health guarantee (which you’ll likely pay extra for) but that stressed puppy has most likely been exposed to a lot of other dogs, has been over or under-vaccinated, and has a high risk of disease.

These websites that feature hundreds of puppies that are available at all times almost never show any photographs of the parents. Sometimes these sites are just a directory of hundreds of different breeders, but it is difficult to know if the breeding dogs are well cared for, let alone loved.

Look at the Testimonials

I had a friend ask me to look at a golden retriever seller’s website as she had some concerns that the operation might not be genuine. As outlined above, the prices seemed too good to be true, the responses via email seemed canned, and the ones that weren’t had broken English.

I noted that the puppy photos looked suspicious because the dogs didn’t look related. I used the right-click trick and found the dog and puppy photos came from all over the Internet.

The most damning indicator of this being a fraudulent website was the testimonials page of glowing pet owners. One of the images was a picture of a woman in business attire supposedly from my area, and I thought, “Women around here don’t look or dress like that.” Another image looked like a professional headshot of a man. Sure enough, a right-click revealed that the image was stolen from the book jacket of an author of a popular motivational book!

If you are looking at reviews supplied by the breeder, do they feel authentic and diverse? Or do they sound like the same author wrote them?

If you’re looking at online reviews, do they look like they were created by solicited friends and family members that are overly glowing, have really poor grammar/broken English, or have other red flags? If there are negative reviews, did the breeder respond with grace and tact?

If you’ve left us a review either by email or on Google, thank you!

Is there a Cart Checkout or Deposit Link?

Most breeders care about the type of home their puppies are going to. Therefore, they will screen buyers before they allow clients to place a deposit. If you are able to make a payment on the website for the puppy or a deposit without actually contacting the breeder, you should probably shop elsewhere.

deposits without an application could be puppy scams

Is the Breeder Accessible by Phone or In-Home Visits?

There are legitimate reasons breeders have concerns with people visiting their homes such as disease exposure for both humans and dogs (i.e., COVID or parvo.) But even during the height of COVID, we had visitors outside on our porch while wearing masks so people would feel comfortable with us, our puppies, and could actually see the parents of our puppies and get a feel for their temperaments and possible development. Thankfully, people can now visit with us indoors.

If people can’t remove their shoes or prefer not to, we have shoe covers available to ensure our unvaccinated puppies stay safe. Hand sanitizer is also available if people have visited other dogs or kennels recently.

Breeders may be nervous about theft and may prefer not to meet at their homes. They may worry that their home isn’t fancy and prefer their privacy. That is their choice. But every breeder should be accessible by phone. They should be able to do video calls to show the puppies and their mothers. The pandemic taught us all how to do Zoom meetings, and these technologies are great for out-of-state buyers.

Do they offer paperwork from a reputable registry with DNA-verified parents?

The main Mi-Ki registries – the American Mi-Ki Registry Association and International Mi-Ki Registry -require DNA-verified proof of parentage before the litters can be registered. Some breeders hold papers on pet contracts until there is proof of spay or neutering, but they should at least be able to give you the certificates from the DNA laboratory that shows who the puppies’ parents are and that their parents are certified through the Mi-Ki registry. If not, your Mi-Ki is either not a real Mi-Ki or was bred from pet-quality dogs that did not receive breeding rights from the original breeder.

Can the breeder offer proof of parental health testing and/or DNA screens?

The recommended health tests to be performed on breeding Mi-Kis include a cardiac exam, patella exam, and an ophthalmology exam. We go a step further and also do Embark and/or Wisdom Panel testing on our breeding dogs. Someday, we hope to offer genetic testing on all of our Mi-Ki puppies as well if the technology gets faster and more cost-effective.

Ask for Referrals

If your friends had a great experience with a breeder, consider working with that same breeder. If you are interested in a breeder you haven’t previously worked with, ask the breeder for referrals of former clients who wouldn’t mind being contacted. If a breeder doesn’t have what you’re looking for in a puppy, a good breeder is likely in contact with other good breeders in the community who will happily refer you to someone else.

Trust Your Gut

If something feels off when you’re interacting with someone selling a puppy, trust your instincts. It may be a simple personality clash where you might mesh better with another breeder. But sometimes, you might be getting scammed.

Let us know if you have seen other clues for suspicious dog breeding sites. I’m sure we’ve missed some details to share.

We’re not perfect, but we do strive to help people find the Mi-Ki puppy that they have dreamed of – even if it’s through a referral to another breeder. We believe this is a wonderful breed that the world should experience more of, especially in these trying times. Everyone needs love, companionship, and puppy kisses!

Mi-Ki Breed Now Reported on Embark

We are pleased to inform our readers that the Mi-Ki is now an officially reported breed on Embark Veterinary DNA testing for dogs as of May 5, 2022. Previously, any Mi-Kis submitted for testing would show “mixed ancestry,” and percentages of contributing breeds would be broken down for us to ponder.

This was always an interesting read for us because the DNA has told a different story than some of the written histories we’ve been given regarding our magical Mi-Kis. For instance, most folks have heard that the Mi-Ki ancestry included Shih Tzu, Maltese, Papillon, and Japanese Chin.

Out of the 32 Mi-Kis we’ve tested through Embark, the breeds we consistently see in the largest percentages are Maltese, Shih Tzu, Pomeranian, and Pekingese. We’ve also seen small percentages of Bichon and Yorkshire Terrier in some lines. We’ve never seen any traces of Japanese Chin, and have only seen a hint of Papillon in one of my dogs (as of May 6.)

The First “Official” Mi-Ki Revealed on Embark

We first heard about the Mi-Ki being reported as a breed on Embark testing from our friend and new Mi-Ki breeder Rachel Greene of Tagi’s Little Cutie’s in Michigan (TLC Mi-Kis on Facebook.) She informed us that she’d received an email from Embark on 5/5/2022 that her smooth-face Mi-Ki puppy Barnaby’s results were ready.

She was excited because he was listed as 100% Mi-Ki instead of the usual “mixed ancestry” that all Mi-Kis have thus far been labeled. She checked the previous dogs she’s tested but their results still read as “mixed ancestry.”

Barnaby smooth-face Mi-Ki on Embark
Barnaby, a smooth-face Mi-Ki owned by Rachel Greene. He is the first “official Mi-Ki” tested by Embark.

A few minutes later, I received a text that our new male Louie’s Embark results were ready. With much anticipation, I clicked on the link and learned that Louie is…

Louie's Mi-Ki results on Embark.

91.1% Mi-Ki and 8.9% Unresolved. Needless to say, that was an unexpected result! Upon further inspection, it appeared that the unresolved portions may be DNA from “distant ancestors”:

UNRESOLVED ANALYSIS Learn More

There may be small amounts of DNA from these distant ancestors:

  • Chihuahua
  • Papillon

This was actually the first time I’d ever seen Papillon in any of my Mi-Kis I’ve tested, so this was exciting! But Chihuahua? That would be a big fat NO. Chihuahua should not be in the background of the Mi-Ki to my knowledge.

Did I freak out a little bit with this news? Sure. Maybe a little bit. After all, the benefit of a purebred dog is the predictable traits and temperament associated with a given breed. Mi-Ki buyers are willing to pay a pretty penny to own a purebred Mi-Ki.

But then I realized that it said these were “distant ancestors” and would assume that mathematically Chihuahua would be less than 5% of his genetic makeup. Would I be willing to dismiss a wonderful dog who definitely has the full Mi-Ki package of good looks and temperament over less than 10% of “unresolved” breed information that “may” be included?

After discussing Louie’s results with Tamara Beebe, the American Mi-Ki Registry Association’s registrar, she said it’s possible that the Chihuahua result is a “miss” hit and that when the Wisdom Panel dog DNA company first began to identify the Mi-Ki breed, they also had results that didn’t turn out to be correct. We decided it would be fun to test Louie with the Optimal Selection Wisdom Panel as well to get a comparative study.

We’ve found that the two DNA companies do not always return the same results. For instance, on Savannah, our mascot, the Wisdom Panel says that she has the genetics for a short muzzle. Embark says Savannah has the genetics for a medium or long muzzle! This may be frustrating for breeders, but it has been a lesson to me that DNA testing is a developing science and can’t be relied upon exclusively when making breeding decisions.

Mixed Ancestry results in purebred dogs

Embark has some insights about purebred dogs that show mixed ancestry.

Genetic ancestry can be complicated. Here’s what you should know:
If you have a purebred dog:

A purebred dog can sometimes share DNA with another breed. If this happens, you’ll see “Mixed Ancestry” in your dog’s results. These results in no way affect registered “purebred” status or your dog’s standing with the registration body. Typically, a registration body certifies a dog’s purebred status through pedigree records and parentage verification, which do not rely on genetic testing.

Louie’s results didn’t even say “Mixed Ancestry.” It said “unresolved,” so I reached out to Embark for clarification. As of 5/10/22, Embark answered my inquiry that asked, “Is the ‘unresolved’ designation the same as a ‘mixed breed’ designation?”

If the print of my email screenshot is too small, the important part says [unresolved ancestry] “can be due to ancestors of a different breed far back in the family tree, but it can also be because there’s diversity in a purebred breed that isn’t reflected in our reference panel yet. For a relatively rare breed like the Mi-Ki that was developed fairly recently, I fully expect the unresolved result you are seeing is due to genetic diversity in the breed rather than mixed breeding in the recent past.”

I also found this helpful bit of information on Embark‘s website:

For a variety of reasons, the registered purebred dog tested by Embark may not perfectly match the genetic signature of the reference panel. One example is the dog may have an ancestor that is in a closely related breed which was utilized prior to the closing of the breed’s studbook many generations ago. Another reason is that the dog may come from a bloodline that is geographically very distant from the group of reference panel dogs. These results in no way affect the “purebred” status of the dog or its standing with the registration body. In fact, because these dogs usually contain genetic signatures not common in the breed, they can be highly useful for maintaining or even increasing genetic diversity in the breed!

For readers who are new to the importance of genetic diversity, having higher diversity gives dogs a better chance of not inheriting two identical gene mutations that could result in the expression of disease. Additionally, a higher diversity is associated with health, longevity, and better reproductive outcomes. Losing genetic diversity can eventually lead to the extinction of dog breeds.

With this in mind, we are hopeful that Little Louis will have great OFA health test results and will be a great addition to our breeding program in late 2022. Louie also carries tan points and blue, according to his Embark test results.

DNA proves dog parentage

Before the advent of DNA parental testing, most breeders had to give their best guess or just assumed which dog sired a litter. It’s entirely possible that there was an accidental breeding or unknown sire even in the most structured of breeding programs.

We are pleased that the American Mi-Ki Registry Association requires DNA-proven parental verification to register any Mi-Ki. AMRA has been requiring DNA verification since 2006, so any possible chihuahua ancestor in Louie’s background would likely have been many years ago if his ancestors were AMRA registered. I believe the International Mi-Ki Registry also requires DNA parental verification for registration, so that is also a comfort.

I should take this moment to mention that Royal T Mi-Kis is not listed on the AMRA website because they are no longer able to edit it. We look forward to the new AMRA website when it is launched!

We have not applied to be members of the IMR but have traded dogs with an IMR kennel.

When will previously-tested Mi-Kis get their updated ancestry results on Embark?

Rachel Greene was kind enough to forward the response from Embark regarding when other Mi-Kis might have updated ancestry results.

The Embark Science team is now doing an internal update of all owner-reported Mi-Kis after a recent reference panel update. Embark will be contacting all owners whose results have changed with this recent update within the next few weeks once the audits and updates are complete.

We’re saving all of our old Embark data to ensure we have access to all of the interesting mixed ancestry data. If you’ve previously tested with Embark, be sure to save your old data before the updates are complete.

We use and endorse Embark dog DNA testing

Royal T Mi-Kis is pleased to have submitted several samples to Embark when members of the International Mi-Ki Registry invited Mi-Ki breeders from all registries to participate in a breed-wide genetic survey. Many kennels participated as well as several Mi-Ki pet owners. We are grateful for everyone’s participation to help raise awareness of our fantastic breed.

In addition to having insight into the Mi-Ki’s ancestry, we’ve also enjoyed learning more about the genetics that affects coat color and other physical characteristics. The most important information we’ve gained through Embark testing is regarding health genetics including diversity and disease.

All of this data is helping breeders to make informed and balanced breeding decisions. We hope these efforts will create a healthy, sustainable breed for Mi-Ki fanciers to enjoy for generations to come.

Please visit the Our Dogs page to see what dogs have been tested with Embark. If you’re a breeder and would like $50 off to test your dog, use this Embark link. If you’re a pet owner who would like to test with Embark, use this link to also get $50 off. For each purchase, Royal T Mi-Kis will receive credit toward future Embark test orders. Thank you for supporting the Mi-Ki breed!

Giardia in Mi-Ki Puppies

Giardia is an intestinal protozoan that is commonly found in puppies. It is so common in dogs and cats that it is generally considered to be part of the natural intestinal flora. Giardia is especially common in the western half of the United States and the Northeast, though it is found throughout the country.

Occasionally, puppies that undergo big changes (i.e. rehoming, traveling, or major diet changes) may experience intestinal imbalances which can lead to Giardiasis. Giardiasis is an active infection of giardia producing watery, mucousy light-colored stools. Diarrhea in puppies can lead to dehydration and lethargy, so supporting your Mi-Ki’s health is important to help your puppy get back to his or her playful self.

Human and Pet Safety

Generally, dogs and cats don’t become infected with the same type of giardia as humans contract. Most human cases of giardia infections come from contaminated water sources. Rarely, some cross infections between people and puppies have been reported, however. Any animal showing signs of infection (from giardiasis or any other illness) should be considered a potential infection source to humans. Children and immunocompromised individuals should take greater precautions.

The reverse is also true – people with any sort of infection should also be considerate of animals in their care. Use common-sense hygiene practices such as hand-washing after using the toilet, after food preparation, before feeding, watering, and handling your Mi-Ki. This will help keep your Mi-Ki healthy.

If you or someone in your family is in a higher-risk category with a compromised immune system, please let us know. If this is the case, we will use whatever tools are available to us to ensure your Mi-Ki puppy is as giardia-free as possible. Your puppy will always be given a deworming protocol before adoption.

Giardia Drug Treatments

There is currently no FDA-approved drug to treat giardia in Mi-Kis or any dogs or cats. Managing clinical signs of diarrhea should be the goal of treatment. Eliminating giardia from any puppy, adult dog, or kennel is unlikely as the organism is present in the environment, and your puppy will enjoy time outside. There are no known methods of disinfecting grass and soil from giardia cysts. Giardia cysts can survive for weeks and even months in almost any climate.

There are several off-label medication options that veterinarians and kennels have for minimizing the risk of infection for giardia. It is also important to manage other co-infectious organisms since other parasites may compound intestinal distress.

Fenbendazole

Fenbendazole is the least toxic drug used to manage giardia and other parasites and can even be safely used during pregnancy.

We have traditionally treated puppies with a 5-day regimen of fenbendazole before going home. This was to hopefully have fewer reports from our clients’ veterinarians of giardia-positive stool or an ELISA (antibody test.) We have since revised this regimen based on the latest research that the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) states, “the majority opinion of the CAPC Board is that asymptomatic dogs may not require treatment.”

Metronidazole

Metronidazole is another off-label antibiotic used to treat giardia in puppies. Many breeders would routinely administer this before puppies went to their homes in hopes of negative fecal test reports.

Unfortunately, metronidazole has been linked to brain and liver damage in puppies. Therefore, this treatment for giardiasis should only be done under veterinary supervision for safety.

For resistant strains of giardia, some veterinarians will recommend metronidazole in combination with fenbendazole. Again, this is not an FDA-approved drug combination.

Secnidazole – a promising option against giardia

Some Mi-Ki breeders believe the giardia they have battled has become resistant to fenbendazole and many have concerns about using metronidazole. Therefore, several breeders are starting to use Secnidazole which has shown a lot of promise against the pesky protozoan. Secnidazole has to be compounded and there isn’t much data on dosing yet. We are keeping an eye on this option as the risks associated with this product include reports of nausea and possible elevated liver enzymes.

Should your veterinarian decide that your Mi-Ki would benefit from any of these off-label treatments, follow your veterinarian’s recommendations. Do not skip doses. Verify the correct dosages as they will be callibrated to your Mi-Ki’s weight.

Revival Animal Health has helpful tips regarding giardia and interpreting test results:

“Remember to treat the dog, not the test results. Recent treatment and lifestyle should be considered when developing a treatment plan. Unless a negative result on both microscopic evaluation and ELISA testing is required, as in the cases where a sub-clinically affected dog or cat lives in a home with immunocompromised people with high zoonotic risks, only treat if the dog or cat has clinical signs of abnormally soft stools or similar signs.”

Royal T Mi-Kis’ parasite & disease prevention protocols

We are aware that overtreating any parasite or germ may create drug-resistant forms, so we are hesitant to use routine or chronic antibiotics. We are hopeful that a regular safe deworming protocol and a more natural regimen with probiotics and good nutrition will have our Mi-Ki puppies’ immune systems functioning as they should to keep imbalances in check.

There are important things we do to limit our puppies’ exposures to parasites and other infectious organisms. For instance, we treat our entire kennel with Safeguard fenbendazole twice a year to keep Giardia and other parasites in check. This regimen is followed by bathing everyone!

Pyrantel pamoate is also a safe dewormer that we use at two-week intervals on our growing puppies. It features a wide dosing safety margin and ensures puppies are protected against roundworms, hookworms, and pinworms (though we really haven’t seen signs of these parasites.)

Prebirth puppy protection and planning

We have previously used an end-of pregnancy fenbendazole protocol in an effort to reduce transmission to nursing puppies. While we’ve had fewer reports of giardia in puppies who were treated in utero with this regimen, we’ve also had some moms experience preterm labor and neonatal loss when using this protocol. We are still evaluating if fenbendazole during pregnancy is affecting litter outcomes negatively or positively.

We wash our Mi-Kis before labor to minimize giardia exposure.
Brighton and her International Litter in 2021.

Our pregnant mothers are bathed with a skin-safe germicidal treatment before delivery to provide a clean birthing environment for our puppies.

Keeping Mi-Ki Manor safe from giardia and other pathogens

We keep Mi-Ki Manor here at Royal T Mi-Kis meticulously clean and dispose of waste promptly. We use Rescue® Disinfectant Cleaner as a pet-safe solution to keep the floors and other surfaces clean and safe. We wash our dogs’ bedding with chlorhexidine solution rather than bleach as bleach has been implicated in fading puppy syndrome. Fabrics softeners are used sparingly due to the toxic chemicals in most brands. Our puppy pad holders are also misted with skin-safe chlorhexidine after being scrubbed with hot soapy water.

We have even been known to use UV-C sterilizing wands on our birthing boxes, pens, puppy pad holders, incubator, and bedding as an extra step to create a clean environment for our dogs!

With visitors, we will likely have guests slip their shoes off before meeting our Mi-Kis. If this isn’t possible, we offer shoe covers to be worn. This protects our unvaccinated puppies from unknown exposures, especially to parvo. Handwashing before and after visiting with dogs is also recommended.

Other causes of diarrhea or other intestinal distress

Not all diarrhea or loose stools are due to giardia. Some soft stools may be due to your Mi-Ki puppy experiencing stress, adjusting to a new diet, a new water source, or even having too many new treats, including people food . Too much Forti Cal or Karo syrup can also cause soft stools. (Karo syrup is often recommended to remedy puppy constipation!) Environmental exposures can also cause loose stools including lawn chemicals and household cleaners.

It’s always prudent to limit your Mi-Ki puppy’s exposure to new dogs. Only allow your puppy to socialize with animals that are known to have been fully vaccinated and that aren’t experiencing symptoms of illness such as diarrhea, or respiratory symptoms. Infectious diarrhea can be spread from one dog to another.

Do not bring your new Mi-Ki puppy to parks, or areas where unknown dogs have been playing or defecating until they are fully vaccinated.

How to support your Mi-Ki’s health when experiencing diarrhea

Nutritional Care: If your puppy has an upset tummy, in the short term, feeding a bland diet of bone broth, rice, boiled chicken, turkey, or another easily-digested diet will calm your Mi-Ki’s GI tract.

Adding probiotics can also bring your dog’s intestinal health into balance. We like Life’s Abundance Wellness Tabs for a daily probiotic dose and nutrition for intestinal balance. For acute gastrointestinal upset, we recommend Proviable®️-DC Capsules by by Nutramax®️ to reestablish gut flora after antibiotic use. Kaolin-Pectin is also helpful for getting diarrhea under control.

Slowly reintroduce your puppy’s regular diet — hopefully, a high-quality one with probiotics already included. We recommend Life’s Abundance Small/Medium Puppy food. Life’s Abundance puppy food has prebiotic fiber and guaranteed live probiotics for a healthy gut biome.

Supportive Care: Giving your puppy good hydration with electrolyte therapy such as Breeder’s Edge Puppy Lyte, and additional treatment of symptoms with products such as Kaolin-Pectin will help your Mi-Ki bounce back quickly and shorten the course of the disease.

You may find other recommended products and suggestions for keeping your Mi-Ki puppy healthy on our Puppy Care and Recommendations Page.

Remember that parasites, protozoans, and bacteria have been around since the beginning of time. These organisms can’t be fully eliminated, but they can be managed and brought into balance so you won’t have to keep your Mi-Ki in a bubble!

Protecting Mi-Kis from Predators & Wildlife

Adult Mi-Ki dogs generally range between four to nine pounds, and puppies are even smaller. The small size of this toy breed makes Mi-Kis vulnerable to predators including coyotes, birds of prey, mountain lions/cougars, bobcats, and occasionally foxes. Wild carnivores could easily mistake a small Mi-Ki for a rabbit, and will gladly take your pet as a snack from your backyard buffet. It’s crucial that we learn how to protect Mi-Kis from predators and other wildlife.

Coyotes

Coyotes are highly adaptable and have been documented in nearly every environment across North America. They are comfortable in the wilderness, in the suburbs, and even in cities. Coyotes have learned that pets are easy prey. An online search will reveal that coyote-pet predation is on the rise and has become a frequent news topic.

We used to hear coyote singing and feeding activities frequently when we lived in the suburbs. Thankfully, we hardly hear them at all in our new rural location. We wonder if this is because they are feeding on their usual wild prey out here or if it’s because they find it easier to eat in suburban corridors.

I’ve heard talk at social gatherings back in town of pets attacked by coyotes on off-leash walks. I’ve even heard of a few cases of problem coyotes attacking pets while being walked on leashes! Some municipalities are hiring hunters to deal with these particularly brazen coyotes.

Even if you are not on a walk and are just letting your Mi-Ki play in your fenced yard, coyotes can easily scale a 6-foot privacy fence. If you don’t have an HOA, you could install coyote rollers on the top of your fence to protect your tiny pup from coyotes and other large dogs that might enter your yard.

To protect your Mi-Ki from coyote attacks, the best protection is you. Don’t let your dog go on off-leash walks. Use a non-retractable leash. Supervise your Mi-Ki outdoors – even in your fenced yard.

Birds of Prey

Red Tailed Hawks and Great Horned Owls are the prominent birds of prey here in Colorado. Hawks are concerning during the day, and owls are usually on the hunt from dusk until dawn. In some areas, eagles are the aerial predators of concern.

We know from experience the devastating loss that can happen in an instant with these silent flying killers. Our good friends lost their Mi-Ki Dexter to an owl attack at dusk. Dexter was one of our partner studs, and he was killed on December 1, 2021, just when we were just getting ready to borrow him again for our upcoming litters.

Dexter was our Isabelle’s “one true love.” She never liked any other males romantically other than Dexter. We’re still in shock and grieving with our friends over the loss of this 3.5-pound Mi-Ki prince. He was killed despite his owners having installed netting over their yard. Apparently, there was an opening, and the owl was able to get through it and it broke Dexter’s neck. Please watch your Mi-Kis carefully!

Several years ago, a large old, dead tree was removed from a ridge that towered over my old hometown. When the tree came down, there was a large nest in it with dozens of pet collars with IDs inside. It was a stark reminder that birds of prey find our pets to be a suitable food source.

Don’t have bird feeders on your property

Hawks and owls are attracted to properties that have bird feeders because songbirds are common menu items for birds of prey. Some bird watching sites have encouraged bird lovers not to have bird feeding stations in backyards because it’s an easy way for hawks and eagles to grab a distracted songbird. If your tiny Mi-Ki puppy is close by, an opportunistic bird of prey will easily grab your pet.

Make sure you are visible from the sky

Hawks and owls are much less likely to attack a small dog if they see a human nearby. This means you have to stand near your Mi-Ki during potty breaks and not under a covered porch, tree, or pergola.

Other predators that can harm your Mi-Ki

Depending on where you live, wildcats such as mountain lions and bobcats may also be a problem for small pets. These stealthy predators are skilled hunters and there are many, many cases of pets being taken by both cougars and bobcats.

Foxes and Racoons are less likely to have an encounter with your pet, but caution should be used around them as well. Since both are opportunistic feeders, be sure never to feed your Mi-Ki outside or have accessible trash available as a food source. Dogs being fed outside are easy prey for hunters and their food also attracts wildlife.

Vests to protect Mi-Kis from predators

Consider anti-predator dog clothing to protect your little dog if you are in high risk areas. These vests are equipped with spikes and optional nylon “quills” to deter hawks, coyotes, and larger dogs from hurting your pet.

This Coyote Vest will protect Mi-Kis from predators
This Coyote Vest will protect Mi-Kis from predators and is available at Amazon.*

Coyote vests not only protect Mi-Kis from coyotes and birds of prey – they also protect small dogs from aggressive large dogs. Protective vests will give you enough time to react to save your pet from a sudden attack.

Covered dog runs

If you can’t supervise your Mi-Ki while they are outdoors at all times, a practical solution is to have a covered dog run. Some people like to keep their small dogs in an outdoor enclosure similar to a “Catio” or a screened-in porch to give their pets fresh air without worrying about wildlife encounters.

An outdoor turf potty area in your covered enclosure is a great way to train your pet to the outdoors without exposing your pet to the open skies of your yard. A fenced in area with lattice and a pergola top is an aesthetically pleasing way to make a play area for your pup in the garden.

Other Mi-Ki Wildlife Hazards

Mi-Kis are also at risk for being harmed by other wildlife such as porcupines, venomous snakes, wasps and hornets, deer, elk, moose, and skunks. Lizards, frogs, and salamanders might also be toxic if your pet licks or ingests them.

Wildlife encounters can happen in your own backyard or while you are out camping or traveling in your RV.

Teach your Mi-Ki not to chase wildlife and to ignore them. Have high-value treats on hand to distract them and keep your dog more interested in you instead of the animals around them. Do not encourage interactions with wildlife and your pet. Do your best to encourage wildlife to leave. Wild animals can carry diseases that can harm your pet, so it’s best to keep your distance.

Always be vigilant to be near your Mi-Ki when outdoors. Because of their small size, they are counting on you to protect them. A sturdy leash and/or a nice pet carrier will keep your Mi-Ki at an arm’s reach. Teach your Mi-Ki the “lift up” command to know that it is time to get picked up when there is danger nearby.

Keep your emergency vet’s number in your phone in case the unexpected happens.

*If you buy products through the links we recommend, we may earn an affiliate commission. Thank you for your support.

Mi-Kis Compete at the UKC Dog Show, Kiowa, CO 2021

Royal T Mi-Kis participated in the annual High Plains Kennel Club UKC dog show this year in conformation. Despite not being able to work regularly with our two show contenders because of recent litter complications, Cocoa Chanel and Harley did very well in the competition. It was thrilling to be showing again after giving it up for 2020 due to COVID.

Mi-Kis Compete at 2021 UKC dog show
Mary Parker, breeder/handler with Royal T’s Harley Ryder and Royal T’s Cocoa Chanel Couture

Royal T’s Harley Ryder and Royal T’s Cocoa Chanel Couture are only 8 months old, however, they represented the Mi-Ki breed quite well for judges who had never seen them before. In fact, one of the judges remarked that he could see why the Mi-Ki could become quite popular when evaluating Harley and seeing his enthusiastic antics.

Harley is a bit of a knucklehead and won’t stand and stack nicely for anything. Despite being silly while “standing,” he relishes time with me and would excitedly prance around the show ring. His signature head tilt would win over the judges every time! As a result, Harley won a group 2, two group 3s, and a group 4 in the companion ring. This was very satisfying when competing against other great breeds who also show with the AKC. Harley earned his championship over those five shows!

Cocoa Chanel was too scared to show off her winning personality at first. Consequently, Bill actually ended up carrying her around the ring for her first show (he’s such a good sport!) By the last two shows of the weekend, Chanel was walking around on her own. She even showed off her marvelous tail set. Unfortunately, Chanel didn’t get any competition wins, but it was a great experience for her. We’re sure she’ll do better in the future.

Photos from the UKC Dog Show

We offered our photo booth equipment for the High Plains Kennel Club to use in a self-serve fashion. Bill and I would help take photos of the winners with people’s cell phones. Thankfully, a professional photographer helped out on the second and third show days. Brittany McGivney of McGiv Photography specializes in pet photos and rock climbing. Her attention to detail made every participant look their best.

Brittany was so grateful to have a ready-made photo setup to use that she graciously offered us our photos at no cost. Thanks to her generous gift, we’re able to share these professional photos of the dog show with you. Should you need any pet photography done in the northern Colorado region, please reach out to her! Brittany was wonderful to work with.

How We Estimate Adult Size in Our Mi-Ki Puppies

You may have noticed in our Nursery that we give estimates for what a Mi-Ki puppy is charting to be at maturity. It is helpful for people to know how big their Mi-Ki puppy might end up being as an adult, particularly if they are going to function as an emotional support or medical alert dog that is regularly going to be carried. Or perhaps you have a family with young children or grandchildren visiting where a larger, sturdier Mi-Ki is going to be a better choice.

The best we can do is provide an estimate based on the parents’ size, the history of the pedigree, and use some of the tools that other toy dog breeders use as a guide. We list the parents’ sizes as a reference, but sometimes the puppies surprise us and end up maturing to be smaller or larger than their parents. Sometimes the same two parents can produce a wide range of Mi-Ki sizes within one litter.

The general rule of thumb is to triple the weight of an 8-week-old Mi-Ki and double the weight at 12 weeks.

We use two online resources to chart our Mi-Ki puppies’ sizes. For young puppies under a pound, we start by using a Yorkie Weight Chart originally found on pricelessyorkiepuppy.com, I believe.

Once our Mi-Ki puppies reach a pound, we start using the puppyweights.com online dog size predictor. Unfortunately, they don’t list the Mi-Ki as a breed. For a similar comparison, I use the Maltese as a reference since my Mi-Ki lines tend to have higher percentages of the Maltese breed, according to Embark.

Influences on Mi-Ki Size

There are several factors that can influence a Mi-Ki puppy’s birth weight and eventual size a puppy matures to. These include:

  • Genetics
  • Uterine placement
  • Litter size
  • Health of the mother
  • Environment/lifestyle

Genetics

Genetics are the single most important factor to influence a puppy’s eventual size as an adult. I’m always mystified at the variation in size of mature Mi-Kis from the same litter! I’ve had a litter of two puppies where the male ended up being 3.5 pounds as an adult, and his sister ended up being nearly 9!

It would be nice if dog DNA tests had more accurate estimates for predicting size. On the Embark DNA dog health and trait tests we use to screen our breeding dogs, we’ll often see a Mi-Ki has genetic markers to be small, intermediate, and sometimes even large because multiple genes influence size. It does explain some of the genetic diversity in sizes we’ll see in just one litter, depending on the genes each puppy inherited.

Uterine placement

Some puppies get a nice, plush spot in their mother’s uterus with plenty of available nutrients. These are the largest puppies at birth. It is thought that regardless of multiple mating dates, all puppies are the same gestational age as the eggs are all released at the same time. Very small puppies in a litter may not have had proper placenta formation to nourish the developing puppy or had less desirable uterine placement. These are known as “small-for-gestational-age puppies.”

Sometimes the smallest puppies at birth end up being the biggest dogs as adults and vice versa. This is one of the reasons we track the arc of every puppy’s growth and look for trends to give us a better prediction of how the puppy might end up developing.

Litter size

Some of our bigger Mi-Kis have 5 or even 6 puppies in a litter. With a larger litter, there has been more competition for nutrients both in utero and at the milk bar after birth. For this reason, puppies in larger litters may initially seem to be tracking smaller. Once supplemental foods are added, you can begin to see what a puppy’s true genetic programming is as far as size. This is why some puppies suddenly start trending bigger at around 4 weeks on their weekly size chart estimates.

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A healthy newborn Mi-Ki litter with fairly even-sized puppies.

Conversely, if there are only one or two puppies in a litter, they are going to have less competition for nutrients in the womb and while nursing. This means the puppies may seem larger on their weekly adult weight estimates early on. These puppies look like chubby little seals! They don’t tend to move a lot because they don’t need to. As these puppies get more active at around 4 or 5 weeks of age, their growth may start to stagnate. Once again, you’ll see where the dog’s genetics come in to play.

Genetics is definitely a bigger factor than litter size or uterine placement when influencing a puppy’s size that they will eventually mature to.

Health of the mother dog

We do our very best to make sure our dog moms get the very best care and nutrition. We also make sure they get exercise, sunlight, and regular veterinary checkups. Keeping our dog moms at an optimal weight helps them have a healthy litter.

We use Breeder’s Edge Oxy Mate prenatal vitamins as well as Oxy Momma postnatal supplements to ensure our moms are getting the extra support they need during their pregnancy, birth, and lactation.

Because our Mi-Kis have planned births, we are able to influence the health of the litters including making sure the puppies achieve their optimal growth with mothers that have plenty of milk, etc.

In contrast, rescue puppies from mothers of unplanned litters may have smaller puppies that are less healthy. This is one of the reasons it is important to research breeders and support reputable ones.

Environment and lifestyle

Dogs tend to adopt a similar lifestyle as their humans. If your family is sedentary and is centered around snacks and meals, there’s a pretty good chance your Mi-Ki will be heavier.

If your Mi-Ki goes to doggie daycare and maybe plays a little too hard and doesn’t get enough calories, he or she may end up being smaller. Active, young, Mi-Kis need to be watched closely to make sure they are eating regularly (every 4 hours) so they don’t get hypoglycemic.

Making sure your Mi-Ki puppy has a balanced diet, sunlight, fresh water, exercise/playtime, and has minimal parasites will ensure your puppy grows to their genetic potential. This sets the stage for a lifetime of good health.

I have had smaller females I’ve been trying to “fatten up” to be big enough to breed. Despite my attempts to pack on some pounds, I’ve only had moderate success, so genes still have a bigger influence over size than environment and lifestyle.

A few words about “runts”

Sometimes people refer to tiny puppies as “runts,” a term which is often used disparagingly. I’ve had specific requests for a runt from our program either because they are looking for a particularly small “purse pet” or perhaps because they are looking for a discount because the puppy is “weak.” If a puppy has a true health issue causing them to be small, we’re not going to sell it to anyone. We’re responsible for every puppy we create.

Again, if the mothers are well cared for, if a puppy is charting small, it’s often more about the size genetics the puppy inherited than a sign of weakness or ill health. As a 5-foot human who has had every caloric advantage, I can personally attest to the power of genetics!

Mi-Kis naturally come in a wide range of sizes so a puppy that is charting 3.5 – 4 pounds is not usually truly a runt. Smaller Mi-Kis are likely to be just as healthy as a 9-pound Mi-Ki. Smaller Mi-Kis may be more vulnerable to injury and will be more sensitive to veterinary procedures, however, so that is a consideration when selecting your puppy.

No matter what size your Mi-Ki puppy ends up being, we know that you’ll love your new family member. All Mi-Kis are perfectly portable and are ready to fit into your lifestyle as a steadfast companion.

When should I spay or neuter my Mi-Ki?

Clients often ask me when they should spay or neuter their Mi-Ki. After all, they want to be a responsible puppy owner/guardian. In the U.S., traditionally, it’s recommended that dogs be spayed or neutered around 6 months of age, but that recommendation is beginning to change based on studies of the long-term health consequences of early neutering.

Some breeders are quite fussy about requiring a spay or neuter within a certain window of time. Some won’t even provide registration paperwork without proof of neutering. We understand that there have been people breeding irresponsibly and without authorization. We never want people to breed Mi-Kis casually without doing the proper health tests and inbreeding coefficients. We strive to promote a strong and healthy Mi-Ki breed for generations to come!

We’re hopeful that our screening process has eliminated unscrupulous buyers and would-be breeders with less-than-honorable intentions. We believe you want what is best for your Mi-Ki. After all, your Mi-Ki was an investment and you’ll want them to live a long and healthy life as a treasured family member.

This means taking another look at long-held beliefs about neutering (including spaying) because removing the gonads will forever alter their hormonal chemistry and can have significant implications for a dog’s health.

Our first advice would be not to go to social media to poll other Mi-Ki owners about the proper time for neutering your pet. You will get a million different answers and realize belatedly what a passionate group of people that dog owners are!

Science-based data

Fortunately, there have been some recent studies done on the spay/neuter conundrum so that dog owners can have meaningful conversations with their vets to determine the best course of action for their pet.

I recently attended a webinar on the topic given by the authors of a long-term-study at UC Davis. Their team combed the records of thousands of dogs from the last 15 years, sorting them by breed and gender. Then they categorized these patients as to whether they were intact (never neutered) or by the age when they were spayed or neutered: Early – 0-6 months, 6-12 months, 12+ months, and 2-8 years.

They were looking for how this spay/neuter data corresponds with hip/joint disorders, metastatic cancers, urinary incontinence, and pyometra (uterine infections.) Sadly, no data was recorded regarding endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism, etc. Other studies have suggested that neutering dogs has an impact on the endocrine system including metabolic function, thyroid function, etc.

Small Breed Findings

According to the UC Davis 2020 study, the big takeaways for Mi-Ki owners is that small breeds were not statistically impacted by neutering, including spays, at any age in regards to hip and joint disorders like so many of the larger breeds.

In small-dog breeds, the occurrence of cancers was low in both those kept intact and neutered. Two exceptions were the Boston Terrier and Shih Tzu where there was a significant increase in cancers with spaying and neutering.

There is a high percentage of Shih Tzu in the Mi-Ki breed profile

One of the tools we use in our kennel to better understand our breed is the Embark DNA breeder’s program. Embark results tell us the traits that our Mi-Kis have (such as coat type, hair color and patterns, and even muzzle length and size estimates.) They also test for hundreds of genetic diseases.

Recently, Embark has also given us access to their data on what breeds are in the ancestors of the Mi-Ki. Remember that all pure-bred dogs came from other breeds at one point!

Here are some screen shots of a few of our Mi-Kis in our program and their breed makeup:

This breed breakdown may be surprising to some of you who have heard that the Mi-Ki is made up of other breeds (especially the Japanese Chin) but the DNA doesn’t seem to bear this out much according to Embark and to the Mars Wisdom Panel.

The health director of the American Mi-Ki Club, Geri Wojeck, is of the opinion that the Bichon Frise that Embark identifies in the Mi-Ki background is probably actually the Coton de Tulear – a close cousin of the Bichon. But I digress… The point is that Shih Tzu genetics are notable in the Mi-Ki!

Shih Tzu spay/neuter recommendations, according to UC Davis

This is the quote regarding the Shih Tzu breed from the 2020 UC Davis Study. The brackets and bold emphasis points are mine.

“The study population was 104 intact males, 112 neutered males, 77 intact females, and 139 spayed females for a total sample of 432 cases. In this small-dog breed there were no occurrences of joint disorders in either intact or neutered males and females, revealing virtually no vulnerability in this regard. There was no occurrence of the cancers followed in intact males and females. In neutered males there was no occurrence of cancers. However, in females, the occurrence of cancers for those spayed at 6-11 mo. was 7 percent and at 1 year this measure reached a significant 18 percent (p <0.01). MC [metastatic cancers] occurred in 3 percent of intact females. PYO [pyometra] occurred in 5 percent of intact females. UI [urinary incontinence] was not reported in any females. Lacking a noticeable occurrence of increased joint disorders or cancers in neutered males, those wishing to neuter should decide on the appropriate age. The picture is very different for spaying females where the increased risk of cancers started with spaying at 6-11 mo., reaching 18 percent with spaying at year 1. The suggested guideline for females is to delay spaying until the female is 2 years of age. Another possibility is to spay a female a month or two before 6 months to avoid the increased risk of cancers.”

So for small-breed males, including Mi-Kis, it really is your choice with your vet for when the time is right to neuter your dog, at least according to what this particular study is suggesting. Neutering males is often performed around 6-9 months in hopes of minimizing marking and humping behaviors.

For female Mi-Kis, particularly if your pup has a high percentage of Shih Tzu in her background, it might be wise to delay her spay until after 24 months.

Since the Mi-Ki is much smaller than the average Shih Tzu, I would not recommend following their suggestion of spaying a female “a month or two before 6 months to avoid the increased risk of cancers.” Mi-Kis are simply too small and vulnerable at 4-5 months of age to undergo such a major procedure.

I’ve even had one client’s girl get so stressed (with a temporary increase in blood sugar level) just doing the pre-surgery bloodwork, that it was determined that she probably wasn’t a good candidate for the elective spaying procedure. Remember, spaying is a major surgery requiring general anesthesia and a two-week recovery period.

Alternatives to Spay and Neuter Procedures

Thankfully, there are more options today for people who prefer less invasive procedures for their dogs while ensuring there are no unplanned pregnancies. There are ovary-sparing spay procedures for females and vasectomies for males that allow dogs to keep their hormones intact.

For a nonsurgical option for males, you can use belly bands to keep them from marking inappropriately. The belly bands also serve as a barrier against breeding but are not foolproof! The use of crates, pens, or separate rooms is also recommended for keeping males and females apart during her cycle.

For females, there are cute small dog underpants to use during her heat cycle. These also provide a secondary barrier against breeding (again, not foolproof!)

Keep in mind that there really isn’t that much discharge with a toy-breed dog during her cycle. You can line both the boy’s and the girl’s undergarments with cut-up sanitary napkins to prevent leaks.

What about the Mi-Ki heat cycle?

Should you and your vet decide to delay your Mi-Ki’s spay, or even forgo the procedure entirely (i.e., for very small Mi-Kis, or those with underlying health issues) you should know that the average female Mi-Ki will cycle every 6-9 months starting at around 9 months of age. The heat cycle will last about three weeks, and one of those weeks, she will be especially fertile and flirty. She must be watched very carefully during her entire cycle to make sure she doesn’t get loose.

The heat cycle shouldn’t ruin your schedule, your camping trip, or anything important. I’ve even had Mi-Ki females in full heat compete in conformation dog shows without much fuss. In fact, Truffle gained her championship with the UKC during her cycle.

Keep your Mi-Ki intact for showing

Speaking of showing, only intact dogs (that are not spayed or neutered) have full options for being exhibited in conformation dog shows. While it is true that there are special classes for altered dogs, neutered dogs won’t be able to compete against unaltered dogs. If you have big plans for showing your dog, it’s best not to spay or neuter them!

It’s a personal decision between you and your vet

The Mi-Ki is its own breed. Although it shares some traits with the Shih Tzu, the Maltese, and other small breeds, your Mi-Ki is probably genetically different enough from the Shih Tzu that it is safe for you to get your female Mi-Ki spayed if that is what you and your vet decide is best for your family. But there may be benefits with neutering alternatives.

Toy breeds mature faster than large breeds, so having your Mi-Ki spayed or neutered in the 6-12 month range will likely not be as impactful health wise as it would be for a slow-growing large breed.

But toy breeds can also be some of the longest-lived dogs, so you’ll want to be sure to discuss this important aspect of your pet’s health with your vet to ensure that all of those years spent together are as vibrant as they possibly can be. Your dog’s hormonal function can be an important piece of the puzzle for your dog’s long-term health. Delaying the spay or neuter until your dog is fully mature allows your dog to develop as nature intended.

We are grateful for the recent studies to help inform our choices in being our pets’ guardians! Find a vet you feel comfortable with who stays current on the latest studies and procedures. Together, you’ll find the best health path for your Mi-Ki.

Our featured image includes our chocolate smooth-face Quigley who lives with Ms. Lisa, and our lovely Isabelle.