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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.

Important notice: There is something I want to show you that will change the way you interact with your dog. Check it out here.

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.

Cardiovascular Disease

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.

Portosystemic Shunt

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.

Dental Issues

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.

Health Care

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

Preventing Trauma

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 toxics 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 minimise 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.

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Maltese Pictures

Page 1

A furry, white Maltese is sitting on a tan couch looking up. There is a brown marble floor and a white pillar behind it.

Bentley the Maltese at 3 years old—"Bentley's personality and playfulness have caused everyone to fall in love with him. He is a bit spoiled and a very picky eater, but he still managed to reach 12 lbs. although the breeder estimated he would only be 7 lbs."

A furry, white Maltese is sitting on a brown leather ottoman in front of a decorated lit Christmas Tree.

Bentley the Maltese at 3 years old

A furry, soft looking white Maltese is being held in the arms of a person in a green jacket in a kitchen that has brown granite countertops and a white tiled floor.

Bentley the Maltese at 3 years old

A small white Maltese is sitting on a cloth computer chair and looking to the left.

Elenore aka Ellie the Maltese

A long-coated white Maltese is sitting in a fancy wooden chair in front of a green wall and looking to the left. Its mouth is open and tongue is out and there are pink ribbons at the top of each ear.

Twinkle the Maltese with her hair groomed long and pink bows in her hair

Close up upper body shot - A longhaired white Maltese is sitting on a red backdrop wearing a red and green ribbon in its top knot.

"This is Angel, a Maltese who is four years old and weighs 4 pounds. She is a true lap dog who is happiest when sleeping on my lap. She is very dainty and would walk a block out of her way to avoid any puddles or anything dirty. She doesn't bark very often, but when she does she has to raise her front legs off the ground to get any kind of loud noise to come out. She has won a couple of contests and had her picture in a few pet catalogs. She loves to have her picture taken; she will just sit anywhere she is put until the picture taking is done. She was named Angel because she looks as if she is on a cloud floating across the floor."

view from the front - A long coated white Maltese is sitting on a black backdrop and wearing a red scrunchy in its top knot.

Angel the Maltese

A well-groomed, longhaired white Maltese standing under a single light with a ribbon of leaves on its forehead.

Photo courtesy of Highsteppin' Kennel

A stuffed toy looking, soft, white Maltese puppy standing on a purple mat looking down.

6-month-old Maltese puppy, photo courtesy of Highsteppin' Kennel

A wavy-coated white short haired Maltese is standing on a hardwood floor in front of a white wall looking to the left.

This is Jenny. She has a pet clip.

Extreme Close Up head shot zoomed in on the nose with the focal point on the eye - The face of Maltese with its coat groomed medium langth.

Elenore aka Ellie

A shorthaired white Maltese is laying on a pink carpet with the tail of a black plush dog in its mouth. It has a purple ribbon in its top knot.

This is our Sugar Pie as a 2-month-old puppy. Proud owners Harry and Eileen Blair

A longcoated white Maltese is laying on top of a pillow in the corner of a white tiled room next to heater baseboard registers looking up.

This is Cassie at 10 years old laying down on her dog bed.

A white Maltese is sitting in a white lawn table and looking down and to the left with its head tilted to the right. There is a wooden wall behind it.

Pooh the Maltese up on the table

Close up head shot - A white Maltese is laying on a wooden deck with its tongue showing looking happy.

Kiss me!

A tan with white Maltese is walking across a blacktop driveway with its tongue curled out.

Latte the light ivory purebred Maltese at 3 years old

Side view - A tan with white Maltese is walking across a blacktop driveway with its tongue curled out. Its front paw is in the air.

Latte the light ivory purebred Maltese at 3 years old

Front view - A panting tan with white Maltese is walking across a blacktop driveway with its tongue curled out. Its front paw is in the air.

Latte the light ivory purebred Maltese at 3 years old


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Dog mortise

Maltese dog

dog breed in the toy group

For other uses, see Maltese.

Dog breed

Maltese 600.jpg

Maltese groomed with overcoat

OriginCentral Mediterranean Region[1]
Height Dogs 20–25 cm (8–10 in)
Bitches 20–23 cm (8–9 in)
Weight Dogs 1.4–3.6 kg (3–8 lb)
Bitches 0.91–3.18 kg (2–7 lb)
Coat white
Litter size avg. 1 to 3 puppies.
Life span 12-15 years[2]
Dog (domestic dog)

The Maltese is a breed of dog in the toy group. It is thought to have originated in south-central Europe from dogs of spitz type.[3] Despite the name, it has no verified historic or scientific connection to the island of Malta.[4][5]

It traditionally has a silky, pure-white coat, hanging ears and a tail that curves over its back, and weighs up to 3.6 kilograms (8 lb).[6]


The FCI adopted the Maltese breed standard under the patronage of Italy in 1954, at the annual meeting in Interlaken, Switzerland. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1888,[7] its latest standard being from March 10, 1964. Parti-colour and solid colour dogs were accepted in the show ring from 1902 until 1913 in England,[8] and as late as 1950 in Victoria, Australia.[9] However, white Maltese were required to be pure white. Coloured Maltese could be obtained from the south of France.[9]

Little is known about the origin and spread of the Maltese dog. It probably originated from spitz-type dogs in south-central Europe, where it may at first have resembled the modern Pomeranian.[3]


The Maltese dog was a lapdog favoured by both the ancient Greeks and Romans, especially their children, and appears on amphorae with the word Μελιταίε (Melitaie).[10] References to the dog can also be found in Ancient Greek and Roman literature.[11]Aristotle mentions the dog around 370 BC. Early writers attribute its origin to the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, called Melita in Latin, though the island of Mljet off the coast of Croatia was also called Melita in Latin, which confuses where the dog originated from.[12][4]

Pliny suggests the dog as having taken its name from the Adriatic island Mljet (also Melita in Latin),[13][page needed] however Strabo, in the early first century AD, identifies the breed as originating from the Mediterranean island of Malta.[14]

During the first century, the Roman poet Martial wrote descriptive verses to a lap dog named "Issa" owned by his friend Publius.[15] It is proposed that Issa was a Maltese dog, and various sources link Martial's friend Publius with the Roman Governor Publius of Malta,[16] though others do not identify him.[17]

John Caius, physician to Queen Elizabeth I, also claimed that Callimachus was referring to the island of Melita "in the Sicilian strait" (Malta).[18][page needed] This claim is often repeated, especially by English writers.[19] The dog's links to Malta are mentioned in the writings of AbbéJean Quintin, Secretary to the Grand Master of the Knights of MaltaPhilippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, in his work Insulae Melitae Descriptio.[20][21]

English writers in the early 20th century also gave Malta as the place of origin of the breed.[22]



Characteristics include slightly rounded skulls, with a finger-wide dome, a black button nose and brown eyes. The body is compact with the length equaling the height and the tail is almost always curled. The drop ears with (sometimes) long hair, and eyes surrounded by darker skin pigmentation (called a "halo"), gives Maltese their expressive look. Lacking exposure to a lot of sunlight, their noses can fade and become pink or light brown in color. This is often referred to as a "winter nose" and many times will become black again with increased exposure to the sun. The Maltese's paws are very sensitive to touch.[23]

Maltese showing tear staining

The coat is dense, glossy, silky and shiny, falling heavily along the body without curls or an undercoat. The colour is pure white, however a pale ivory tinge is permitted.[1]

The Maltese does not shed, and is therefore may be a good choice for people with dog allergies. No dog is hypoallergenic, however, and it is recommended to spend extensive time with several maltese before committing to one.[24][25] They can exhibit signs of tear-staining. Tear stains can be caused by health issues, blocked tear-ducts, or allergies. They can be removed through tear stain wipes, soft chews, and formula that can be placed in their food or water. Tear staining happens on other breeds as well, but it is more prevalent in the Maltese breed because their coat is white.[26] Some people prefer their dogs to have the coat short, clipped to a few centimeters in length.[27]

Adult Maltese tend to weigh 3–4 kg (6.6–8.8 lb).[1]


The Maltese is kept for companionship, for ornament, or for competitive exhibition.[citation needed] It is ranked 59th of 79 breeds assessed for intelligence by Stanley Coren.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abc"Maltese"(PDF). FCI standard No. 65. Archived(PDF) from the original on 2014-08-11.
  2. ^"Maltese". Animal Planet dog breed directory. Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  3. ^ abMacKinnon, M.; Belanger, K. (2006). "Ch.5". In Snyder, L.; Moore, E. (eds.). Dogs and People in Social, Working, Economic or Symbolic Interaction. Oxbow Books. p. 43. ISBN .
  4. ^ abLee, Rawdon Briggs (1894). A history and description of the modern dogs of Great Britain and Ireland. (Non-sporting division.). London: H. Cox. pp. 312–322. Archived from the original on 2017-08-09.
  5. ^Cramer, John Anthony (1828). Geographical and Historical Description of Ancient Greece. Clarendon Press. pp. 45–46. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
  6. ^"Maltese | breed of dog". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-07-03.
  7. ^"Maltese dog breed". Archived from the original on 10 May 2016. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  8. ^Foxstone Maltese - Maltese Breed HistoryArchived 2009-02-23 at the Wayback Machine by Sharon Pearson, Eads, Colorado, member of the American Maltese Association, retrieved 2009-04-14
  9. ^ ab'The Maltese of the Past'Archived 2009-07-04 at the Wayback Machine by Trudy Dalziel - Snowsheen Maltese (Maltese Kennel Club of Victoria, Australia) at, retrieved 2009-04-14
  10. ^Johnson, Helen M. (1919). "The Portrayal of the Dog on Greek Vases". The Classical World. XII (27): 209–213. doi:10.2307/4387846. JSTOR 4387846.
  11. ^Busuttil, J. (1969). "The Maltese Dog". Greece & Rome. Cambridge University Press. 16 (2): 205–208. doi:10.1017/S0017383500017058.
  12. ^Raymond-Mallock, Lillian C. (2005) [1924]. The Up-to-date Toy Dog: History, Points and Standards, With Notes on Breeding and Showing. Read Books. pp. 72–74. ISBN .
  13. ^C. Plinius Secundus. The Historie of the World. Book III. Translated by Philemon Holland. pp. 50–71.
  14. ^Jean Quintin d'Autun Insulae Melitae Descriptio, 1536, vii, "Huic insulae Strabo nobiles illos, adagio, non minus quam medicinis..."
  15. ^Serpell, James (1996). In the company of animals: a study of human-animal relationships. Cambridge University Press. p. 47. ISBN . Retrieved 2009-04-16. Note:refers to a "lap dog"
  16. ^Blarney, Edwin Reginald; Charles Topping Inglee; American Kennel Club (1949). The complete dog book. The care, handling, and feeding of dogs; and Pure bred dogs; the recognized breeds and standards. Garden City Publishing Co., inc. p. 622.
  17. ^Vioque, Guillermo Galán (2002). Martial, book VII: a commentary. Translated by J. J. Zoltowski. BRILL. p. 467. ISBN . Retrieved 2009-04-16.
  18. ^Wentworth (1911). Toy Dogs and Their Ancestors: Including the History and Management of Toy Spaniels, Pekingese, Japanese, and Pomeranians. Duckworth. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
  19. ^Bryant, Jacob, Esq. (1807). A New system, or, An Analysis of Antient Mythology: Wherein an Attempt is Made to Divest Tradition of Fable and to Reduce the Truth to its Original Purity. V (3rd ed.). London: J. Walker. p. 359. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
  20. ^Jean Quintin d'Autun Insulae Melitae Descriptio (1536).
  21. ^"The Maltese dog: a toy for ancient royalty". Times of Malta. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  22. ^Drury, W.E. (1903). "Ch.59-The Maltese". British Dogs, Their Points, Selection, and Show Preparation. Charles Scribner's sons. p. 574.
  23. ^The Maltese Dog - Complete Anthology of the Dog. King Lear chapter (further down after opening link).
  24. ^"Are Maltese Puppies Hypoallergenic?". VetInfo. Archived from the original on 2012-10-21. Retrieved 2012-10-06.
  25. ^The Dog Selector, David Alderton, 2010, pg 59, ISBN 978-0-7641-6365-4.
  26. ^"Tear Staining". Retrieved 2021-03-16.
  27. ^"Maltese". The Complete Book of Dog Care. Retrieved 2016-09-12.
  28. ^Coren, Stanley (2006). The Intelligence of Dogs. London: Pocket Books. p. 124. ISBN .

External links[edit]

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