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Maltese Dog Life Expectancy: 25 Smart Tips

The best time to start thinking about long-term health for your Maltese puppy is when you first bring him/her home.

Everything from the food you feed your dog to the exercise and care you provide will contribute to his/her lifespan.

The average Maltese lifespan is anywhere from 12 – 15 years and sometimes longer!

Small dog breeds such as the Maltese have a longer life expectancy than some larger breeds.

This post will give you the best advice on ways to keep your Maltese pups strong and healthy for many years. You’ll learn everything you need to know about the breed and more. 

Did you know the Maltese dog breed is one of the most gentle mannered small dogs? They are full of energy, intelligent and very playful. If you want a dog to keep you entertained, the Maltese is for you.

The dog might be tiny but the responsibility of keeping one healthy is huge.

Keep reading and discover unique ways to help your Maltese live a long and happy life.

Maltese dogs are prone to cardiovascular disease

Quirky Facts About the Maltese Dog 

Maltese dogs are short (7 to 9 inches) and lightweight (less than 7 pounds), making them the perfect lapdog. These dogs are so incredibly adorable you’ll want to hold him/her all day.

People often don’t realize that smaller dogs can be just as feisty as their larger counterparts.

Maltese dogs tend to be reserved around strangers, but will exert plenty of enthusiasm for the people they love and trust.

Did you know that the Maltese dog makes a good watchdog? This little dog has a mighty bark. It might not be loud enough to scare away a stranger, but you won’t be surprised by unexpected company!

They will be your eyes and ears, always on the lookout for an “intruder”. 

A Quick History of the Maltese Breed

It’s thought the Maltese breed has existed for centuries. In fact, research dates the breed as far back as 6000 B.C.

This dog is part of the Bichon breeds indigenous to the areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Politicians, aristocrats, states persons and royalty kept these dogs as a status symbol. 

In fact, ancient writings and artifacts suggest the Maltese was worshipped by the ancient Egyptians. There is ongoing debate as to whether the breed originated from the island of Malta. 

Theoretically, the Maltese has existed since Classical times. However, any direct link between those celebrated dogs of Malta and the modern incarnation of the breed is extremely questionable.

Citation: The Canine Chronicle, “The Maltese”, 2015-16, Amy Fernandez

Do You Have a Breed Worthy of Maltese Show Dogs?

The Maltese became a recognized breed by the American Kennel Club in 1888. A show-worthy dog has to have particular qualities. Judging is based on:

  • Whether the neck holds the head in a high position
  • Curled tail over the dog’s hind end
  • Long hair groomed to be silky straight
  • Back feet cannot be turned outwards
  • Completely black paw pads
  • Slightly rounded face
  • Drop ears
  • Deep brown or black eyes
  • Coat should be pure white, silky, and thin
  • Obedience is important
  • Easy going temperament 
  • The AKC requires a Maltese to be under 7 pounds. Four to 6 pounds is preferred.
  • Attention to grooming details
Maltese Dogs are Toy Breeds

Life Expectancy of Maltese Cross Breeds

Mixed breeds are often known for having fewer health concerns than their purebred counterparts.

Mixed Maltese puppies are the result of designer dog breeding where two purebred parents of different breeds are mated. 

Designer dogs (or hybrids) are well-loved and sought after in North America and beyond. In fact, the Maltese is a favorite cross-breeding dog because of their adorable looks, intelligence, personality, and high-energy playfulness.

Some Hybrids of the Maltese Breed include:

  • Maltipoo (cross between a Maltese and toy poodles)
  • Malteagle (cross between a Beagle and a Maltese)
  • Cortese (mix between a Welsh Corgi and a Maltese)
  • Maltipom (mix between a Pomeranian and Maltese)
  • Mauxie (cross between a Dachshund and a Maltese)
  • Morkie (Maltese and Yorkshire terrier mix)
  • Malshi (Maltese and Shih Tzu)
  • Mauxie (Maltese and Dachshund)

Big Expectations for a Tiny Little Dog – What You Didn’t Know

The Maltese is known for its adaptability and friendliness towards other pets. They’re considered hypoallergenic with minimal shedding. They are a bundle of all things good. 

The one big con? They are difficult to housebreak. Maltese puppies are sensitive souls that need gentle words of encouragement. Regardless, it might be difficult to train them to go potty outside.

Luckily, you will have the tiny stature of this breed on your side! 


Maltese dogs are perfect for apartment living (or condo life!), but you may not be interested in the constant coming and going related to potty training.

It’s easy in the summer months, but what about the cold dark nights of winter? Do you really want to get yourself bundled for the cold weather several times a day? Your Maltese will not be happy at all with cold weather. 

The tiny stature of Maltese dogs makes them more vulnerable to cold temperatures. Even summer months can be hazardous because of high-humidity and soaring temperatures.

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Health Conditions That May Hinder Life Expectancy of Maltese Dogs

The Maltese may be prone to congenital disease and other health problems, including:

Dental Problems

Dental problems are common to the Maltese dog. Regular brushing is required to prevent gum disease. In addition, regular professional teeth cleanings are advised.

Unfortunately, dental problems can lead to inflamed gums and infections that can cause more serious health issues for the dog.

Collapsed Trachea

Collapsed trachea tends to affect small or toy breeds.

The trachea is held open by circular cartilage (tracheal rings). Over time, these rings weaken and collapse inwards. This causes breathing problems and difficulty eating properly.

Read everything you need to know about Tracheal Collapse in Toy Breeds 

Congenital Liver Disorders

Maltese dogs can develop congenital inherited liver disorders including Portosystemic Liver Shunts (PSS). When a liver shunt develops, blood flow is diverted away from its normal pathway.

The result can be the buildup of toxins in the dog’s body.

Symptoms include:

  • poor weight gain in puppies
  • seizures
  • bladder stones
  • sometimes blindness.

White Dog Shaker Syndrome

White Dog Shaker Syndrome is caused by an inflamed cerebellum. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that controls motor function. 

Dogs with this condition will appear to have repetitive and rhythmic tremors. 

Patellar Luxation

A luxating patella is simply a kneecap dislocation. It’s common in Maltese and other toy breeds.
In most cases, the kneecap can be slipped back into place by a veterinarian.

Surgery is only required in severe cases.


Deafness is an inherited disorder. When looking for reputable breeders, be sure to ask if there is any deafness in the parents of the breed or in any other offspring.


This is a life-threatening condition caused by fluid buildup in the brain. Signs include loss of coordination, seizures, skull enlargement and slow growth.

Unfortunately, the condition is hard to diagnose. Although treatment is available, severe cases may not be cured.

Eye Irritations

Eye irritations can occur in the Maltese due to long hair getting in the eyes. Abnormal eyelash growth known as aberrant cilia can also lead to eye ulcers.

25 Everyday Ways to Extend Maltese Life Span

1. Diet & Exercise

Heart failure due to cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in Maltese dogs. Although you can’t change genetics, there are some things you can do to keep your dog’s heart healthy. 

Feed your Maltese dog food made exclusively for small or toy breeds.

These foods have a specific balance of nutrients, minerals, and supplements designed to help offset some of the common health problems. 

The Maltese is such a small breed that he/she could easily get regular exercise in the hallway of an apartment building.

In fact, a short game of chase with small breed toys is generally enough to keep your dog’s heart healthy.

2. Remove Choke Hazards

As the Maltese goes through the aging process, he/she may begin to develop new health issues, including tracheal collapse. When this happens it becomes more difficult for the dog to swallow.

These little balls of white fur love to put new things in their mouths. Unfortunately, those things might be easily swallowed and choked on.

Buy small toys that are appropriate for tiny mouths. A few good examples include the following:

3. Grooming

Naturally, regular grooming will keep your Maltese shiny and smooth.

But grooming can also have health consequences. For example, grooming your dog gives you an opportunity to notice any new lumps or bumps.

New lumps, bumps, itchy skin, red skin, or hot spots are reason enough to bring your dog to the veterinarian. 

Finding and treating cancerous lumps can extend the life expectancy of your Maltese dog.

4. Spay/Neuter

Having your Maltese pups spayed or neutered is vital to their lifespan.

Studies show that dogs are more prone to certain cancers if they are spayed after 6 months of age. Allowing your dog to go into heat puts the family at risk of having a new, unwanted litter. 

Find out more about the health implications of spay and neuter programs. 

5. Vaccinations

It’s easy to get the impression that small dogs don’t have as many health problems as their older counterparts. The reality is that the Maltese can, and does, have health issues.

Some pet owners worry about the safety of vaccines, especially the rabies vaccine for small breed dogs. It’s important to have your dog vaccinated at the intervals suggested by the veterinarian.

Rest assured, a licensed veterinarian understands the proper dosing of vaccinations for small breeds.

You should always feel comfortable asking questions about vaccinations, especially common side-effects.

Maltese dogs are prone to cardiovascular disease

6. Dental Cleaning

Keeping your dog’s teeth gleaming white and healthy takes commitment. Bacteria that can form on a dog’s teeth can turn into a serious health problem if the dog’s teeth are not brushed regularly.

If the teeth are left to decay, your Maltese will eventually lose his/her teeth. When this happens, your dog can’t properly chew healthy food. This can lead to serious digestive and nutritional issues.

As the Maltese ages, he/she will need to have a professional dental cleaning to scale built-up tartar on the teeth.

7. Yearly Checkups

Regular checkups with the veterinarian provide a baseline health report. That report can be used to compare your dog’s health as he/she goes through the ageing process. 

Given that the Maltese are susceptible to certain health conditions, it’s important to stay ahead of this through regular veterinarian visits. 

8. Prevent Fleas

You may not think your tiny dog needs flea prevention, especially if he/she doesn’t venture outside that often. 

If you have any other pets in the house, however, the risk of fleas is much greater. Toy dogs can become allergic to flea bites. In addition, fleas can quickly become a huge infestation. 

Keeping fleas at bay is easier than getting rid of an infestation. Fleas can jump from pet to pet and can nest within furniture and dog bedding.

9. Prevent Ticks

It’s unlikely your little indoor Maltese dog will get ticks on his/her own. However, if you are a hiker, walk anywhere through tall grass, or have other pets in the home, the risk is real. 

Prevent Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illness to extend your dog’s lifespan.

10. Deworm

Talk to your veterinarian about deworming toy breeds.

This may be a one-time event depending on where you got your Maltese.

Whether a Maltese dog was dewormed at the breeder’s depends on the age of the dog when he/she was brought home.

11. Avoid Toxins

Common household cleaners and antifreeze are lethal for dogs. Unfortunately, the sweet taste of things like antifreeze are really tempting. 

Remove any opportunity for your dog to get into things like rat poison, bleach, or other toxins.

Certain foods like grapes and chocolate can also be deadly for dogs. 

READ: 11 Signs of Poisoning in Dogs

12. Research Breeders

Good breeding is vital for dogs that are as healthy as possible.

Maltese dogs live longer than many other dog breeds, but there are some health factors that can compromise a dog’s life expectancy.

Choose a responsible Maltese breeder that ensures a thorough health screening of the breeding stock.

You’ll want a breeder that can provide health certificates to prove your dog is healthy and comes from healthy parents. 

 13. Adopt with Care

Pet adoption is highly respected, but you still need to do your homework. If you can find out about previous owners, do so.

You may need to know about any previous health issues that need to be treated going forward.

14. Secure in a Moving Vehicle

It’s easy to simply carry a small dog when travelling in a vehicle but is it the safest option? Sudden stops can happen with enough force to propel a dog out of your arms and into a hard surface.

The easiest way to keep your tiny dog safe is in a carrier designed for toy breeds. Keep the crate tucked on the car floor or (for better safety), secure the dog carrier with a seatbelt.

15. Do Not Overfeed

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight may help prevent the onset of obesity-related disease.

Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other health problems can arise in overweight dogs.

The Maltese dog only requires 400 calories a day according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. 

16. Regular eye checkups from middle-age to senior (vision loss, eye ulcers)

Maltese dogs are prone to various eye conditions including eye ulcers. This is usually caused by fur irritating the cornea. 

Yearly or bi-annual eye exams can help identify and treat eye disease before surgery becomes necessary. Surgery for older dogs can be dangerous due to the general anesthesia sometimes required. 

17. Watch for signs of cardiovascular disease

Signs of cardiovascular disease in dogs include:

  •  exercise intolerance
  •  weakness
  •  coughing
  •  difficulty breathing
  • increased breathing rate
  • abdominal swelling (caused by fluid pooling in the abdomen)
  • loss of consciousness due to lack of blood flow to the brain (fainting
  • a bluish tinge to skin and membranes

18. Easy on the Treats (prevent obesity)

Preventing obesity in dogs is one of the best things you can do to extend life expectancy.

Obese dogs have more wear and tear on their joints making exercise difficult. They are also more likely to succumb to health conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

19. Keep hydrated (water, coconut water)

Tiny dogs like the Maltese can easily become dehydrated. 

A hot day, a short period of vomiting and diarrhea can leave your dog dangerously dehydrated.

Dehydration can quickly lead to death if you’re not careful. Keep your Maltese well hydrated with regular water or the occasional treat of natural coconut water.

20. Play with Care

Maltese dogs are fragile creatures that can be easily hurt during fought play.

Unfortunately, these little dogs can succumb to dislocated kneecaps. Small breed dogs don’t need as much exercise as the larger breeds

21. Pet insurance

Pet insurance is a good option for new pet owners. While they may not cover every health emergency, having insurance can help offset unexpected expenses.

Unfortunately, some pet owners simply can’t afford emergency care for their dogs. Sometimes that timely care is the difference between a long life expectancy versus short.

22. Skin & Fur Checks

Ageing dogs typically develop a variety of new lumps and bumps on their skin.

Most of these are harmless lipomas or papilloma warts. The problem is that there is no way to just look at a lump to determine whether it’s cancerous or not.

Make it a routine of checking your dog’s skin for signs of trouble.

23. Watch Around Young Children & Other Family Members

Small breeds like the Maltese are like teddy bears to young children.

While the dog itself will love the attention, it’s important to watch the child.

Their excitement over the dog is easy to understand, but you don’t want the dog to be handled too roughly.

24. Appropriate Diet/Dog Food for Toy Breeds

Maltese dogs only require about 400 calories a day. That means there should be no table scraps given to the dog. People’s food can quickly add on calories and weight gain. 

These days, there are many options for feeding toy breed dogs including food specific to certain breeds.

25. Supervise Playtime 

Smaller dogs love to play with larger dogs. They seem to think they are the same size if not bigger. As long as the larger dog is gentle with the Maltese, it’s fine. 

The problem is that dogs don’t understand their own strength. Some of the largest breeds in the world are considered gentle giants (for example, a Great Dane).

Unfortunately, large dogs can get rambunctious and may hurt smaller dogs. The Maltese is a wonderful and playful dog, but his small size can leave him vulnerable to injury.

The maltese dog was once a source of pride for royalty

The Take Away

The Maltese is a loving, intelligent, and playful breed. Although they can come with the potential for health issues, there are things you can do to offset those. 

Early treatment and awareness of illness can go a long way in increasing long lifespan.

Dog owners should watch for the health conditions noted above, supervise their miniature breed on play dates, and ensure the house is set up as safely as possible.

Maltese dogs can easily become best friends with other pets in the home. The trick is to make sure your tiny little dog remains safe from injury. Young children, for example, may be a little rough for the Maltese pups.

The best way to keep your Maltese living a long and happy life is to keep him/her safe from injury, maintain regular dental hygiene, and have your pup regularly checked by a veterinarian.

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Works Cited

“10 Dog Breeds That Live the Longest.” Country Living, 22 Jan. 2021,

Editorial, Chewy. “10 Longest Living Dog Breeds.” BeChewy, 21 Dec. 2016,

Maltese Dog Advice 

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