The Maltese is a toy dog breed that allegedly originated from the island of Malta.
Despite the name similarity, Maltese were probably bred from spitz-type dogs in south-central Europe to create a new lapdog that was especially favored by children.
Their breeding purpose was to love and be loved which makes them a great family companion. Sadly, dogs won’t be with us for our whole lives but depending on the breed and size you may have the ability to spend more or less time with your dog on average.
So how long do Maltese live and what can you do to increase their life span?
Are there any critical breed-related health issues that you need to be looking out for?
Maltese Life Expectancy
Due to their small size, the Maltese has fairly good longevity with a life expectancy of 12-15 years while the average dog only reaches 10-13 years. This obviously only applies to dogs that have died from natural causes.
The oldest Maltese dog to have ever lived became 20 years old.
With the right care and love, you can definitely increase the life expectancy by a few years. But why does the Maltese have such a long lifespan compared to larger breeds?
Why Do Small Dogs Live Longer?
It’s weird to think that animals from the same species can have such big differences in their life expectancy. A Pomeranian can statistically live nearly 10 years longer than a Great Dane. So the longevity must have something to do with size.
Paradoxically, large animal species tend to live longer than small species so why does this rule change within the same species. The causes of this phenomenon are quite unclear but a study with 80,306 dogs on the breed‐related causes of death has had the following results:
There is evidence that small and large dog breeds are differentially susceptible to certain diseases, with large dogs being more prone to musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal and neoplastic disorders, and small dogs to endocrine-related disease.
Hormonal and genetic factors that have been found to modulate lifespan in model organisms also vary significantly across big and small breeds.Ageing: It’s a Dog’s Life
A more recent study has found that large breeds experience an earlier onset of senescence with an increased rate of aging. They also proved that the average lifespan of a dog drastically decreases when body mass increases, especially in giant breeds.
A clear positive relationship between the absolute rate of aging and body mass was detected, with the mortality hazard increasing more rapidly in larger breeds following the onset of senescence.Ageing: It’s a Dog’s Life
Maltese Health Problems
Now that we have clarified why Maltese dogs live longer than larger breeds, we want to look at their breed-related health problems and main causes of death.
Always monitor your dog for any signs of illness. Although many conditions can be fatal, they are also treatable if diagnosed in the early stages. Yearly health checks at the vet are a must.
Heart conditions are so common in Maltese that they form the number one cause of death. Those defects can be very fatal so you will have to look out for early signs including stunt growth, breathing problems, fatigue or irregular heartbeat.
Often times, surgery is necessary to correct the issue. Since early heart diseases are asymptomatic, yearly screenings are advised to prevent further damage or even heart failure.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
PRA is a heritable disease that affects a dog’s vision. Either the rods can be affected leading to night vision loss (Nyctalopia) or the cones can be affected leading to vision loss during the day (Hemeralopia).
Dogs with this illness don’t always show early symptoms so the disease can develop unnoticed until adultery. Symptoms include disorientation, bumping into objects, vision loss and dilated pupils.
Sadly, PRA cannot be treated and only slowed down with supplements. Only adopt dogs with an eye certificate, stating that their puppies do not inherit any hereditary diseases.
Liver shunts are caused by birth defects and occur when a connection between the portal vein or one of its branches develops, allowing blood to shunt around the liver.
This is a major concern in toy breeds but the survival rate is over 95%. Early signs can include poor muscle development, disorientation and seizures.
White Dog Shaker Syndrome
The shaker syndrome is a neurological disease that causes the dog to shake uncontrollably. It is most commonly seen in Poodles, Maltese or Bichons giving it the name “white dog shaker syndrome”.
A dog between one and six years may experience mild symptoms to severe shaking and uncontrollable movements without experiencing any pain. The primary treatment for the tremors involves steroids that can fully resolve the disease.
Small breeds, including the Maltese, often suffer from retained teeth, abnormalities or dental diseases. Build-up tartar can lead to gum and root infections that may cause your dog’s teeth to fall out.
Misaligned teeth can cause a lot of problems and will need to be fixed with dental braces. If your Malty’s puppy teeth won’t fall out at the age of 4 months, they might start to overcrowd the adult teeth, preventing them from growing naturally which can cause infections and cavities.
Cleaning your dog’s teeth regularly and sending him to check-ups every year will prevent any serious teeth damage.
How To Increase Your Maltese’s Lifespan
Owning a dog is a wonderful thing and we all want them to enjoy a healthy, happy and meaningful life. Although they will only share a part of their life with us, we can influence various factors that will significantly increase your Malty’s lifespan.
Choosing the Right Breeder
Achieving maximum health for your companion starts right at the beginning when you choose a puppy. Correct breeding is the foundation of a healthy and confident dog.
Always insist to see the health certificates of the parents to ensure that they don’t carry any hereditary diseases. Pay special attention to the breed-related issues of your specific puppy.
The puppies should live in a clean and calm environment preferably with both parents. They should be vaccinated, dewormed and at least 8 weeks old before going into a new home.
Read my guide on All 17 Questions You Need to Ask Your Potential Breeder which will help you determine a responsible breeder.
Thorough health care is a must to ensure that no underlying diseases remain unnoticed. Early treatment is the best thing that can happen to your dog in case of a diagnosed illness.
Take your dog to the vet regularly and take advantage of yearly health checks and dental cleaning. If your dog shows signs of discomfort or sickness, take him to the vet immediately.
You have probably heard of the saying “you are what you eat.” Nutrition defines your health, energy and wellbeing. Feeding your dog high-quality dog food that is tailored to your dog’s needs will support healthy aging.
If you are not sure whether to choose dry, wet or raw food then talk to a certified pet nutritionist to get some tips and guidelines on different diets and supplements. A well-balanced diet will keep your dog’s teeth clean, his coat shiny and his body healthy.
Quality Time and Bonding
Spending plenty of quality time with your dog on a daily basis is a definite factor in his overall health. A strong bond significantly boosts his happiness and reduces stress, therefore, increasing his life expectancy.
Nutritiouring and improving this relationship will come with so many benefits besides mental and physical health. True affection will make your dog fall in love with you. You will know him better than anybody and you will be the first one to recognize if something is wrong with him.
Recommended Reading: Bonding with your dog
Sufficient exercise is a must for every dog owner. While every breed has different needs, they all require daily mental stimulation and physical exercise.
Toy breeds don’t require as much physical exercise as larger breeds but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be exercised.
Brain games or teaching new tricks are great ways to tire out your small dog indoors. Short walks with lots of sniffing and exploring will keep him satisfied.
Recommended Reading: 9 Unique Dog Tricks for Beginners
Trauma is the leading cause of death in puppies and toy breeds are physically very similar to puppies and are prone to fatal injury. Their small size and weight significantly increase the risk of trauma compared to large breeds.
Avoid sleeping with your Maltese in bed at night and keep an eye on him when walking around the house to avoid accidentally tripping over him. Teach your children how to handle your Malty appropriately and don’t allow any rough play that could hurt the dog.
For safe transportation in the car, use the GENORTH Dog Car Seat and always keep him buckled up. When leaving the house, leash your dog and avoid overly crowded places.
Teacup Maltese Lifespan
The Teacup Maltese is a smaller version of the Maltese with a life expectancy of 12-15 years. They reach about 8-10 inches in height and only 2-4 pounds in weight. Due to its compact size, it’s more prone to develop health issues compared to the regular Maltese.