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Maltese Lifespan – What to Expect & How to Help a Maltese Live Longer

Written by: Ejay C.
| Published on February 15, 2024

The Maltese, with its luxurious white coat and charming demeanour, has been a beloved companion across civilizations for over two millennia. Esteemed for their elegance and spirited personality, Maltese dogs are more than just lapdogs; they are agile, competitive in dog sports, and incredibly affectionate with their families. Despite their diminutive size, Maltese possess a robust constitution, but like all breeds, they face specific health challenges that can impact their lifespan. Prospective and current owners should be aware of these issues to provide the best care possible. This guide aims to explore the expected lifespan of Maltese, common health challenges they may encounter, and strategies to potentially extend their time with us, ensuring these graceful companions lead a full and healthy life.

Lifespan Expectancy of Maltese

Maltese dogs typically enjoy a long lifespan, often living between 12 to 15 years. Some Maltese can live even longer with exceptional care, including a balanced diet, regular veterinary check-ups, and plenty of exercise. Their longevity is influenced by genetics, lifestyle, and the proactive management of health issues. Ensuring your Maltese maintains a healthy weight, receives dental care, and lives in a stimulating environment can contribute significantly to their lifespan.

Common Health Challenges

Despite their generally good health, the Maltese breed is prone to several health challenges that may impact their lifespan. These include dental issues, patellar luxation, hypoglycemia, liver shunt, heart conditions, and white shaker syndrome. Each of these conditions can vary in severity and may require different levels of management or treatment to ensure the best quality of life for the affected dog.

Dental Issues

Maltese dogs are particularly susceptible to dental problems, including periodontal disease, which can lead to tooth loss and affect overall health. Regular dental care, such as brushing teeth daily and professional cleanings, can prevent these issues. Additionally, dental chews and toys can help maintain oral hygiene and prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation occurs when the kneecap dislocates or moves out of its normal position. It’s a common condition in small breeds, including the Maltese. Symptoms can range from occasional limping to constant pain. Treatment options vary from weight management and physical therapy to surgical intervention in severe cases.


Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a condition that can affect Maltese, especially puppies or those under stress. Symptoms include weakness, lethargy, seizures, and, in severe cases, coma. Preventative measures include regular feeding schedules, monitoring during stressful events, and consulting a vet if symptoms appear.

Liver Shunt

A liver shunt is a condition where the blood bypasses the liver, leading to insufficient detoxification. Symptoms may include stunted growth, disorientation, and gastrointestinal problems. Diagnosis is through blood tests and imaging, with treatment options including dietary management and potentially surgery.

Heart Conditions

Maltese dogs can be prone to various heart conditions, such as mitral valve disease, which affects the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively. Early detection through regular veterinary check-ups and treatment, including medication and lifestyle changes, can manage these conditions.

White Shaker Syndrome

White Shaker Syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes tremors, lack of coordination, and rapid eye movements. It’s more commonly seen in small, white breeds, including the Maltese. Treatment typically involves corticosteroids, which can significantly improve symptoms.

By understanding these common health challenges, Maltese owners can take proactive steps to monitor and maintain their pet’s health, potentially extending their lifespan. Regular veterinary care, a balanced diet, and attentive care at home are crucial components of a long and healthy life for Maltese.


How Can I Extend the Lifespan of My Maltese?

The Maltese are a breed known for their luxurious white coat, expressive eyes, and gentle demeanour. Esteemed companions of royalty and commoners alike for over two millennia, these dogs bring joy and affection into the lives of their owners. Despite their small size, Maltese are vivacious, spirited, and surprisingly resilient. However, their longevity is not merely a product of genetics; it is also the result of attentive, informed care by their owners. Understanding the specific health challenges faced by the Maltese and adopting a comprehensive approach to their care can significantly enhance their lifespan. This guide aims to equip Maltese owners with practical strategies to maximize their pet’s health and well-being, ensuring a long, joyful life together.

Regular Veterinary Check-ups

Regular veterinary check-ups are pivotal in extending the lifespan of your Maltese. These appointments allow for the early detection and management of potential health issues, such as dental problems, heart conditions, and any signs of congenital diseases common in the breed. Yearly check-ups should include a thorough physical examination, dental assessment, and any necessary vaccinations. Blood tests, heart monitoring, and other diagnostics may be recommended based on your dog’s age and health status. Establishing a routine of preventive care and maintaining an open line of communication with your veterinarian can significantly impact your Maltese’s health and longevity.

Optimal Nutrition

Feeding your Maltese a balanced, high-quality diet is crucial for their overall health and longevity. Choose a dog food that meets the nutritional needs of small breeds and is appropriate for their life stage (puppy, adult, senior). Maltese can be prone to obesity, so it’s essential to monitor portion sizes and limit treats. Consider incorporating fresh, whole foods approved for canine consumption to provide variety and additional nutrients. Always ensure fresh water is available, and discuss any dietary changes or supplements with your veterinarian to address specific health concerns, such as maintaining a healthy coat or supporting joint health.

Adequate Exercise

Despite their petite size, Maltese require regular exercise to maintain their physical health and mental well-being. Daily walks, play sessions, and opportunities for safe, off-leash exploration in secure areas can help keep them fit and prevent obesity. Tailor activities to your Maltese’s age, health, and energy level, avoiding overexertion. Regular exercise also provides mental stimulation, reduces the risk of behavioural problems, and strengthens the bond between you and your pet. Implementing a consistent exercise routine that includes both physical and mental challenges can significantly contribute to your Maltese’s quality of life and longevity.

Preventive Health Measures

Adopting preventive health measures is key to avoiding common health problems that can affect Maltese. Stay up-to-date with vaccinations and parasite control to protect against infectious diseases and infestations. Regular dental care is crucial for preventing periodontal disease, which can lead to systemic health issues. Consider breed-specific health screenings to detect conditions like luxating patella or heart anomalies early. Spaying or neutering not only helps prevent unwanted litter but can also reduce the risk of certain cancers and health issues. Proactive, preventive care supports a longer, healthier life for your Maltese.

Mental Stimulation and Socialization

Mental stimulation and socialization play a significant role in the well-being of your Maltese. Engage them in interactive play, training sessions, and social activities to keep their minds active and prevent boredom. Exposure to various environments, people, and other animals under positive circumstances can enhance their adaptability and reduce anxiety. Toys that challenge their problem-solving skills and training games that reinforce obedience and tricks can provide valuable mental exercise. A well-socialized, mentally stimulated Maltese is likely to be happier, healthier, and more responsive, contributing to a longer and more fulfilling life.

Dental Health

Dental health is a critical aspect of caring for Maltese. Due to their small mouths, Maltese are prone to dental issues such as tartar buildup, gum disease, and tooth loss. These dental problems can lead to more serious health issues if bacteria from the mouth spread to other parts of the body. To prevent these issues, brush your Maltese’s teeth daily using canine toothpaste and schedule regular dental check-ups and cleanings with your veterinarian. Providing dental chews and toys designed to clean teeth can also help maintain oral health. Prioritizing dental care can prevent painful dental diseases and contribute to your Maltese’s overall health and longevity.

Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for the longevity of Maltese. Obesity can lead to a host of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and joint issues, which can significantly shorten their lifespan. To manage your Maltese’s weight, feed them a balanced diet in appropriate portions and avoid overindulging them with treats. Regular exercise is also crucial for burning calories and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Monitor your Maltese’s weight regularly and consult with your veterinarian to adjust their diet and exercise regimen as needed to keep them at an ideal weight.

Grooming and Skin Care

Regular grooming is not only important for keeping a Maltese’s coat beautiful but also for their overall health. Regular brushing helps prevent mats and tangles, which can cause skin irritation and infections. Bathing your Maltese with a gentle dog shampoo can keep their skin healthy and free from parasites. Pay attention to their eyes and ears, which should be cleaned regularly to prevent infections. Proper grooming also provides an opportunity to check for any unusual signs on their skin, such as lumps, bumps, or areas of sensitivity that may require veterinary attention. Consistent grooming and skin care practices can help identify health issues early and keep your Maltese comfortable and healthy.

Regular Health Screenings

Regular health screenings are vital for early detection and management of conditions that could affect a Maltese’s lifespan. In addition to routine veterinary check-ups, specific screenings for genetic conditions known to affect the breed, such as heart anomalies and liver shunt, can be beneficial. Blood tests, X-rays, and ultrasounds can help identify health issues before they become serious. Discuss with your veterinarian the most appropriate screening tests for your Maltese based on their age, family history, and any signs of health concerns. Early detection through regular health screenings can greatly improve the management of potential health issues, enhancing your Maltese’s quality of life and lifespan.

By incorporating these care strategies into your routine, you can significantly enhance the well-being and extend the lifespan of your Maltese. A comprehensive approach to health care, nutrition, exercise, dental care, and mental stimulation will ensure your Maltese enjoys a long, happy, and healthy life as a cherished member of your family.


Frequently Asked Questions About The Lifespans of Maltese

1. What is the average lifespan of a Maltese?

The average lifespan of a Maltese dog typically ranges from 12 to 15 years. This breed is known for its longevity, which can be attributed to its small size and generally robust health. However, the lifespan of a Maltese can be significantly influenced by various factors, including genetics, the quality of care it receives, its diet, and exercise habits. To maximize their lifespan, Maltese owners must provide regular veterinary care, a balanced diet, adequate exercise, and preventive health measures against common breed-specific issues such as dental problems and luxating patella. Early detection and management of these health issues through routine check-ups can help prevent complications that may shorten their life. Additionally, maintaining a stress-free environment and providing plenty of love and attention can also contribute to a longer, healthier life for Maltese.

2. What are common health issues that affect Maltese?

Maltese dogs, while generally healthy, are predisposed to certain health issues that can impact their lifespan. Dental problems are highly prevalent due to their small mouths, making regular dental care essential to prevent periodontal disease. Luxating patella, a condition where the kneecap dislocates, is also common and can lead to lameness or arthritis if untreated. Maltese may suffer from heart issues, such as mitral valve disease, which requires early detection and management to prevent serious complications. Additionally, they are at risk for eye problems, including progressive retinal atrophy, and liver shunt, a congenital condition affecting the liver’s ability to detoxify the blood. Obesity can further exacerbate these health issues, making weight management through diet and exercise crucial. Providing proactive veterinary care, including regular check-ups and screenings for these conditions, can help manage their impact and extend the life of a Maltese.

3. How can I extend the lifespan of my Maltese?

Extending the lifespan of your Maltese involves comprehensive care, focusing on their health, diet, exercise, and mental well-being. Regular veterinary visits are essential for early detection and management of breed-specific health issues. A balanced diet tailored to their needs helps prevent obesity and supports overall health; avoid overfeeding and provide meals rich in nutrients. Adequate daily exercise tailored to their size and energy levels can maintain physical health and prevent weight gain. Mental stimulation through play, training, and socialization keeps them engaged and helps prevent boredom and stress. Good dental hygiene practices, including regular brushing and veterinary cleanings, are crucial to prevent dental diseases that can affect their overall health. Protecting them from extreme temperatures and creating a safe living environment can also contribute to their well-being. Attentive, loving care and meeting their specific needs can significantly enhance the quality and length of life for your Maltese.

4. How important is dental care for a Maltese’s lifespan?

Dental care is extremely important for Maltese’s overall health and lifespan. Due to their small mouths and teeth that are close together, Maltese are particularly prone to dental issues such as tartar buildup, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. These dental problems can lead to more serious health issues, including infections that can spread to the heart, liver, and kidneys, potentially shortening their lifespan. Regular dental care, including daily brushing and professional cleanings by a veterinarian, can help prevent these issues. Providing dental chews and toys designed to clean teeth can also support dental health. Owners should start dental hygiene practices early in their Maltese life to establish good habits and prevent dental disease, contributing to a longer, healthier life.

5. Can regular grooming affect the lifespan of a Maltese?

Yes, regular grooming can positively affect the lifespan of Maltese by maintaining their coat and skin health and preventing infections. Maltese have a long, luxurious coat that requires daily brushing to prevent matting and tangling, which if neglected, can lead to skin infections and discomfort. Regular baths with a gentle dog shampoo can keep their coat clean and reduce the risk of skin problems. Grooming also provides an opportunity to check for signs of skin conditions, parasites, or unusual lumps that may require veterinary attention. In addition to coat care, grooming routines should include ear cleaning to prevent infections and nail trimming to avoid overgrowth that can lead to pain and mobility issues. A well-groomed Maltese is likely to be healthier and more comfortable, which can contribute to a longer lifespan.

6. What role does exercise play in the health and lifespan of a Maltese?

Exercise plays a crucial role in maintaining the health and extending the lifespan of Maltese. Despite their small size, Maltese are active dogs that require daily physical activity to maintain a healthy weight, support cardiovascular health, and prevent behavioural issues related to boredom and excess energy. Adequate exercise can include walks, play sessions, and indoor games that keep them physically and mentally stimulated. However, it’s important to tailor the intensity and duration of exercise to the individual dog’s age, health status, and energy level, avoiding overexertion. Regular, appropriate exercise can help prevent obesity and its associated health risks, improve mood and behaviour, and strengthen the bond between the dog and owner, all of which contribute to a longer, happier life for Maltese.

7. How does socialization impact the well-being of a Maltese?

Socialization has a significant impact on the well-being and lifespan of Maltese. Early and positive exposure to a variety of people, animals, environments, and situations helps build confidence, reduce fearfulness, and prevent aggression. Well-socialized Maltese are generally more adaptable, happier, and less stressed, which contributes to their overall health. Socialization opportunities can include puppy classes, visits to dog-friendly parks and businesses, and playdates with well-behaved dogs. Ongoing socialization throughout their life helps maintain their social skills and mental health. A socially well-adjusted Maltese is likely to have fewer stress-related health issues and enjoy a more engaged, active lifestyle, positively influencing their lifespan.

8. What are the signs of ageing in Maltese, and how should I adjust their care?

Signs of ageing in Maltese include a decrease in energy and activity levels, increased sleep, greying of the coat, especially around the muzzle and face, and potential weight gain or loss. Ageing Maltese may also develop more pronounced health issues, such as arthritis, leading to reduced mobility, or dental problems that can affect their ability to eat. Adjusting care for an ageing Maltese involves adapting their diet to meet senior nutritional needs, modifying their exercise routine to be gentler and accommodate any physical limitations, and increasing veterinary care to monitor and manage age-related health conditions. Providing a comfortable living environment with easy access to food, water, and their favourite resting places can help maintain their quality of life as they age.

9. Can a Maltese live happily in an apartment?

Maltese are well-suited to apartment living due to their small size and moderate exercise needs. They can live happily in an apartment as long as they receive adequate daily exercise, mental stimulation, and attention from their owners. It’s important to provide regular walks, playtime, and interactive activities to keep them engaged and prevent boredom. Training to manage barking and establishing a routine for bathroom breaks are also key to successful apartment living with Maltese. With the right care and attention, Maltese can thrive in apartment settings, enjoying a close, loving relationship with their owners.

10. How do I manage my Maltese coat to keep them comfortable and healthy?

Managing your Maltese’s coat is crucial for their comfort and health. Their luxurious, long white fur requires regular grooming to prevent mats and tangles, which can cause skin irritation and discomfort. Daily brushing with a soft-bristle brush or a comb is recommended to keep their coat smooth and free of debris. Regular baths, approximately every 4 to 6 weeks with a gentle dog shampoo, will keep their coat clean and looking their best. When bathing, be sure to rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residue, which can cause skin irritation. Some owners choose to keep their Maltese in a “puppy cut” or shorter hairstyle, which is easier to maintain and can be more comfortable for the dog, especially in warmer climates. Regardless of the coat length, regular grooming sessions are also an opportunity to check for any skin issues, parasites, or abnormalities that may require veterinary attention.

11. What preventive health measures should I take for my Maltese?

Preventive health measures are key to ensuring a long and healthy life for your Maltese. Regular veterinary check-ups, at least once a year, are essential for monitoring their overall health and catching any issues early. Stay up-to-date with vaccinations and parasite control (fleas, ticks, heartworms, and intestinal worms) to protect them from common diseases and infestations. Dental care is particularly important for Maltese; establish a routine of daily tooth brushing and regular dental check-ups to prevent periodontal disease. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and regular exercise is crucial for preventing obesity-related health issues. Consider pet health insurance to help cover the cost of preventive care and any unexpected health issues that may arise.

12. How can I ensure my Maltese stays mentally stimulated?

Ensuring your Maltese stays mentally stimulated is important for their overall well-being. Maltese are intelligent dogs that enjoy learning and playing. Provide a variety of toys that encourage them to think and solve problems, such as puzzle feeders and interactive toys. Regular training sessions, teaching new tricks or reinforcing old ones, can keep their mind active and strengthen your bond. Social interactions with people and other friendly dogs can also provide mental stimulation and help prevent feelings of loneliness or boredom. Setting aside time each day for play and engagement will help keep your Maltese mentally sharp and happy.

13. How do I handle separation anxiety in my Maltese?

Handling separation anxiety in your Maltese requires patience and consistent training. Start by creating a safe and comfortable space for them when you’re not home, such as a cosy crate or a designated area with their bed and favourite toys. Gradually accustom them to being alone for short periods, slowly increasing the time as they become more comfortable. Leave a piece of clothing with your scent to comfort them, and consider background noise like a radio or TV. Provide plenty of exercise and mental stimulation before leaving to help them relax. If separation anxiety persists, consult a professional dog trainer or a veterinarian for advice on behaviour modification techniques or possible medical interventions.

14. Are Maltese suitable for families with children?

Maltese can be suitable for families with children, provided the children are taught how to interact with them gently and respectfully. Due to their small size, Maltese are vulnerable to accidental injury from rough play, so it’s crucial to supervise interactions between your Maltese and young children. Teach children the importance of being gentle, and introduce rules for safe engagement, such as not picking up the dog without adult supervision. Maltese are affectionate and can form strong bonds with all family members, enjoying playtime and cuddles when treated with care.

15. What should I know about adopting an older Maltese?

Adopting an older Maltese can be a rewarding experience, offering a loving home to a dog in need. Older Maltese may already be house-trained and have a well-established temperament, making the transition into your home smoother. However, senior dogs may also face more health challenges, including dental issues, heart conditions, or arthritis. Before adopting, inquire about the dog’s health history and any existing conditions. Be prepared for potential veterinary visits and modifications to your home to accommodate their needs, such as ramps for easier access to furniture or a comfortable bed for joint support. Offering a calm, loving environment and appropriate care can make the golden years of an older Maltese fulfilling and joyful for both of you.

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