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 great family companions.
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 Issues
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.
Oftentimes, 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 that commonly affect Maltese.
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.
Furthermore, make sure that you do your research about the breed.
There is a plethora of information available online about Maltese, their needs, history, and health.
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.
Supervision doesn’t stop after puppyhood.
Thousands of dogs die every year due to trauma, car accidents, ingestion of toxins and other causes that could be easily prevented by supervision.
Keeping your dog on the leash outdoors and preventing your dog from running outside the door are two huge points that will minimize the chance of trauma outside.
But also your own home can be a health hazard.
Cleaning products, drugs, fertilizer, houseplants, and toxic food are all potentially dangerous to your canine friend.
Armed with this knowledge, I hope that you will enjoy many happy and healthy years with your amazing Maltese!
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 their compact size, they are more prone to develop health issues compared to the regular Maltese.
Tuesday 30th of March 2021
Hi, I would like to know if my Maltese Daisy 11 yrs. sleeps at least 14 hrs. a day and Molly 11yrs. only sleeps 6-7 hrs. a day . Same food same walk regimen. Molly is 10 lbs. Daisy is 17 lbs. We adopted them 3 1/2 yrs. ago Daisy has had ligament surgery , She has healed fine, both on CBD oil and have great personalities but is the sleeping with Daisy habit healthy or should I try to keep her awake more. Forgot to mention different breeders and lived side by side in same cage for 7 yrs. only going out to eat and do their poop and pee . It was so sad some people should live in cages. NO NO CAGES for these GIRLS Just LOVE LOVE LOVE
Tuesday 30th of March 2021
Hi Fran, so do you really mean Daisy sleeps 14 hours and Molly 6-7 hours during the day, or do you mean the whole day including night? If you mean only during the day, 6-7 hours is all right but 14 hours would mean your dog is practically sleeping the whole day, assuming she gets 8 hours at night.
If you mean during the whole day, then 6-7 hours would be far too less. From the way you framed the question (whether or not Daisy is sleeping too long), I'm assuming it's the first.
22 hours in total is a lot of sleep for a dog and usually a sign of something wrong. While it's normal for senior dogs to sleep longer, I'd definitely get her checked out thoroughly by a vet to eliminate any problem that could've been easily treated in the beginning.
If your dog's just lazy, keeping her awake and engaged a bit would help but if the sleeping habit is just a symptom of an underlying health issue, keeping her awake won't do anything, it might even worsen the condition if she doesn't get enough sleep.
I'm with you on that, dogs definitely shouldn't live in cages.
All the best for your Daisy & Molly, Danielle
Tuesday 30th of March 2021
My toy Maltese is 4 lbs and about 12 years old. She is perfectly capable of using her dog door and going potty outside but prefers to pee inside the house. What do you recommend??? I’m at my wits end. The vet says she is in perfect health.
Tuesday 30th of March 2021
Hey Liz, at 12 years old, your Maltese is definitely a senior so bladder issues can be the cause.
Is she doing it while you're there? During the day as well as night? If there's no real pattern to when she pees inside the house and she's been potty-trained for several years now, the only issue could be the bladder or some other medical issue. What has your vet checked to say she's healthy and what did he say when you mentioned the peeing inside the house?
It's quite unusual that dogs forget their potty training, so I'd definitely look further into this. If the accidents don't stop, you can try using dog diapers, many seniors or dogs with issues use these. Not a fix for any underlying issue, of course.
Have a great day, Danielle
Saturday 6th of March 2021
I can’t say enough about my little Maltese, Taylor. She is five years old and I am 65. We stay together at least 22 out of 24 hours. She is loved and cared for and she is very happy and healthy. Gary C
Tuesday 8th of December 2020
Our Logan turns 19 today. For the most part still going strong. Has more accidents and can't jump up or down but a lit of times he will go until he crashes.
Tuesday 8th of December 2020
congrats! That's great to hear, doesn't happen too often that any dog is really healthy even in old age. Only cleaning up occasionally is a privilege at that stage :-).
Sunday 15th of November 2020
Today I said good bye to my Carly Bug, she had kidney disease. I rescued her 6 years ago, and she had half yearly vet checks, nothing prepared me for today, I feel a tremendous loss, and I wish I could have just a little more time with my beautiful Carly Bug.
Sunday 15th of November 2020
Hey Suzie, I'm really sorry for your loss, it's always hard to see our canines go. The fact that this will happen many times throughout our life, especially when we're used to living with dogs early on, doesn't make it easier. It's always great to cherish every moment and memory with our companions!
Wish you the best, Danielle