Our fluffy little dogs bring so much love and joy into our lives that we can’t picture a time when we might have to say goodbye. Maltese lovers everywhere agree that even the longest living Maltese have left this earth far too soon.
So if you are a proud Maltese or Maltese mix owner and you are wanting to help your Maltese live a long full healthy life but are also wondering what to expect as your Maltese ages, you’ve come to the right place.
Maltese have an average life expectancy of 13–17 years. Some owners have reported their Maltese living up to 20 years old. In human years that’s a range of 65-100+. The leading cause of premature death in Maltese is cancer and heart problems.
Fun Fact: In general the smaller the dog the longer its lifespan. Studies have shown that small breeds tend to have longer lifespans than large breed dogs because large dogs age more quickly.
The aging process for dogs is quite interesting. It was thought in years past that dog’s age 7 human years for every year that they are alive. That has since proven to be false.
For the first year of life, a dog will age 15 human years. The second year, 9 years, then 4 or 5 years for every year after that.
According to the AKC dog age calculator because Maltese generally weigh on average between 6-9 lbs they would be considered a small-sized breed. Based on that information here is a look at the results of a survey of how old 109 Maltese lived to be.
Age when deceased
In Human Years
Number of dogs who lived to that age
Results are taken from a Maltese Facebook group.
Based on their weight and a survey we conducted of over 100 Maltese owners the average lifespan for a Maltese is 15.5 years old, with a range of 14-17 being the most common.
A few Maltese owners reported their dogs living up to 20 years old. One Maltese breeder even said they had a dog live to be 21!
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Life Span for Maltese Mixes
You may wonder how this changes for Maltese mixes. Generally, mixes are thought to live slightly longer. This is because they have a more diverse genetic pool to draw from which makes them less likely to get breed-specific diseases and ailments.
Most Maltese mixes will have a similar lifespan to Maltese which is 12-17 years. It may vary a year or two depending on the size of the dog that the Maltese was bred with, with large dogs having slightly shorter lifespans. The biggest determining factor is the reliability of the breeder.
There are not any conclusive studies to show that mixes live longer but vets and vet techs across the country have seen that mix-breed dogs tend to be healthier and more resilient. The exception to this is if you have a purebred Maltese from a very responsible breeder that does extensive health testing.
A good breeder will by trial and error learn what genetic characteristics her dogs have and will stop breeding any that may produce a negative outcome.
If you get your Maltese from a puppy mill this will not be the case. Puppy mills are only concerned with pumping out puppies as quickly as possible in order to increase their profit.
Here is a chart of the general lifespan for different Maltese Mixes by weight:
Weight in Lbs
Beagle Maltese (Malteagle)
Bichon Frise Maltese (Maltichon)
Chihuahua Maltese (Malchi)
Corgi Maltese (Cortese)
Dachshund Maltese (Mauxie)
Husky Maltese (Rare)
Jack Russell Maltese (Jacktese)
Pomeranian Maltese (Maltipom)
Poodle Maltese (Maltipoo)
Tea Cup Maltese
Terrier Maltese (Corrier)
Yorkshire Terrier Maltese (Morkie)
What is the Teacup or Mini Maltese Lifespan
The teacup or mini Maltese lifespan has a wide range of 12-18 years. The biggest determining factor is the genetics and the health of the parents of the mini Maltese which can be influenced by the experience and planning of the breeder. Mini Maltese that come from puppy mills will most likely have a much shorter lifespan.
Mini or teacup Maltese are not really much different from regular full-sized Maltese. The difference is that to create a mini the breeder will often choose to breed the runts or smallest dogs of litters in order to reduce the size to as small as possible.
This can be dangerous and often considered unethical as runts tend to be the smallest and weakest of litters and may develop more health problems.
In rare cases, mini Maltese may be the result of another dwarfism gene. This gene limits the skeletal and cartilage growth of the dog making it impossible for them to grow to their normal size. If this is the case the dog will most likely have a lot of health problems and a much shorter lifespan.
Puppy mills and unethical breeders may use this tactic to breed very small Maltese but the dogs will be very unhealthy. Please always try to do your research to make sure you are getting your puppy from an ethical breeder.
Mini Maltese Mixes
Mini Maltese Mixes like Malchis, Maltipoos, and Morkies may live well into old age. If the parents of the Maltese are healthy and free of any genetic abnormalities these Maltese have been known to live as long as 18 or 19 years old.
In my research, the longest living Maltese I found was 21. There were a few owners that had Maltese mixes that lived to be 19 years old as well.
Fun Fact: Did you know that today in Korea one of the most popular dogs breeds is the Maltese. What is a Korean Maltese you may wonder? Click to find out.
Factors that Can Influence How Long Your Maltese or Maltese Mix Lives
If you are like me and most owners we want to do all that we can to help our furry friends live the longest healthiest lives possible. There are some things that are in our control and some that are out of our control.
Here is a list of things that may influence the lifespan of your Maltese and what you can do to help them have a long healthy life!
Breeding and Genetics
Besides size, genetics and breeding may be the other most important factor. This isn’t something you can’t directly influence, but when you are choosing a Maltese Puppy you will have the opportunity to find a breeder that is experienced, ethical, and understands how to breed puppies that are healthy and free of genetic abnormalities and problems.
Nutrition & Proper Weight Management
Nutrition can play a big role in how healthy our dog is and how long they live. The ingredients in our dog’s food can have a significant impact on whether they develop chronic diseases or terminal illnesses like cancer.
Obesity in Maltese is very dangerous. It is often a risk factor for many diseases and ailments. Keeping your dog at a proper weight by feeding them on a schedule as well as avoiding table scraps and other empty calories or junk food will go a long way in helping your Maltese to be healthy.
An occasional treat is ok, but feeding your Maltese junk food or table scraps can also contribute to other unwanted problems such as turning your dog into a picky eater.
Exercise can help your dog live longer as it will increase flexibility and endurance, strengthen muscles around the joints, and can help stave off health problems caused by obesity. Exercise also aids bowel function, which is especially important in older dogs.
Maltese are generally easy-going lap dogs, but they still need plenty of exercise and stimulation. You should strive for a minimum of 1 hour of exercise a day.
Trying out a fun training program together like this widely popular program Brain Training for Dogs can help unlock your dog’s hidden potential and help them learn how to avoid problem behaviors.
Making sure your Maltese gets proper healthcare treatment can go a long way in preventing early death. Dogs who have been neglected tend to have an increased mortality rate.
Your adult Maltese should see a vet at least once a year, your Maltese puppy starting when you bring it home once every 3–4 weeks until they’re 16 weeks old, following a basic vaccine schedule.
Vaccinating your Maltese mix at the proper times will help to prevent diseases like Parvo and Kennel cough that if caught could drastically shorten your dog’s life.
Knowing what problems to watch out for and when to seek help from a vet is important too.
Keep their coat brushed and washed properly. Brushing them at least two or three times a week will help keep the mats away and it gives you an opportunity to keep an eye out for parasites such as fleas and ticks.
By the age of two 80% of dogs have some form of dental disease. As your dog gets older this can progress to lead them down an unhealthy path and could potentially cause a gum infection bad enough to cause organ failure which would decrease their lifespan.
Tips to keep your Maltese Teeth Healthy
- Brush their teeth (Ideally daily, but weekly is still better than nothing)
- Dental Chews
- High Quality Dry Kibble
You can work towards creating a healthy environment for your dog by:
- Keeping toxic chemicals out of reach
- Be aware of toxic foods and plants
- Don’t let them chew on or eat garmful things (If your Maltese eats things it shouldn’t, READ THIS!)
- Consider getting a friend for your Maltese
- Don’t yell at or scold your dog
- Spend time training your dog. You never know when having good recall could save their life!
- Microchip your Maltese
- Provide a comfortable and safe place for your dog to sleep and rest
If you are wondering how much sleep is normal for your Maltese be sure to read our article all about Maltese sleep.
Keeping them young and Healthy requires a fit and active brain as well. Providing your dog with adequate mental stimulation is important. Especially for Maltese since they are a working breed and have an instinctual desire to herd. They need to be kept busy with good things to do.
Lots of Love
This one is the coolest! Love and affection from an owner has the potential to counteract other negative effects on their dog.
There was an experiment done in the 1970s to study the effect of diet on heart health.
Over several months, they fed a control group of rabbits a high-fat diet and monitored their blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol.
As expected, many of the rabbits showed a buildup of fatty deposits on the inside of their arteries, but the curious thing was although all of the rabbits had a buildup, one group surprisingly had as much as 60 percent less than the others. It appeared as though they were looking at two different groups of rabbits.
After spending a lot of time trying to figure out why the results were different even though the rabbits had been fed the exact same diet they discovered that one of the research staff members had been in charge of the group that that was significantly healthier.
She had been giving them affection cuddles and lots of pets. She had been giving them love and this made the rabbits healthier despite their diet!
We already discussed how size can play a role in lifespan. Generally, the smaller the dog the longer its life expectancy will be unless there are genetic diseases or issues inherited because of poor breeding.
There’s not much we can do about the size of our pup. So this factor I would mark out of our control to influence.
Spaying and Neutering
Getting your Maltese spayed or neutered can influence your dog’s lifespan. According to this research, it may only make the difference of months, but a lot of owners that I talked with had very strong opinions that their Maltese were protected from cancer and other life-shortening diseases because of being spayed or neutered.
Male Maltese may be protected from prostate disease and female Maltese from uterine infection or mammary cancer.
In the research spaying, your female dog slightly benefitted them more than it did for males.
Maltese Health Problems and What They Die From
Talking to owners of Maltese about how long their Maltese lived was exciting but also sad! I was a little surprised at the number of Maltese that died much too young and the things they died of.
#1 Cause of Premature Death from My Survey Results
– Cancer –
Including Liver Cancer, Lung Cancer, Bladder Cancer, Prostate Cancer
Almost all of the dogs in my survey that died prematurely from cancer were younger than 10 years old.
Causes of Cancer in Dogs
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
- Ultraviolet exposure (Too much sunlight)
- Toxic chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides around your dog
- Not getting your dog spayed or neutered
- Internal factors of gene mutations
#2 Cause Of Premature Death from My Survey Results.
– Heart Failure –
As your Maltese begins to age heart failure is a real concern. 3/4 of heart disease in older Maltese is caused by valve deterioration. The valves that help with blood flow slowly becomes deformed so that it can’t close properly.
When this happens blood leaks back out and puts strain on the heart. This can be detected by a vet listening to see if the dog has a heart murmur. They will also do other diagnostic testing to confirm.
Taking care of your dog’s teeth and weight is the best way to prevent this type of heart failure.
Other Health Issues Maltese Face
– Hip and Elbow Dysplasia –
Another inherited disease, this one causes arthritis in the elbows and hips of our precious pooches. This disease will show up more as your dog matures and ages.
Watch for stiffness in your dog as he gets up and moves or walks. Obesity can cause this disease to be a lot worse and have an earlier onset.
This is another reason why it’s important to get your dog from a good breeder. A responsible breeder will check their dog for genetic conditions to make sure they don’t have them before they breed puppies.
What to do: Talk to your vet about getting medication to help alleviate the pain. They will take an x-ray to check for problems. Sometimes surgery will be recommended if it’s causing your dog severe limitations.
How to Prevent it: Again a good diet that keeps your dog at a healthy weight and appropriate exercise.
– White Dog Shaker Syndrome –
A serious condition that is commonly found in the Maltese breed. This is caused when the cerebellum (a part of the brain) becomes inflamed, causing the dog to shiver and shake.
Not only does shaker syndrome/tremor syndrome cause Maltese to shake, but this syndrome also causes unwanted effects to other systems in their bodies.
Once the brain is inflamed, issues within the sensory system of the dog (vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell), and the muscles and motor movements (balance, coordination, posture, etc.) can become affected.
We don’t know the causes for this syndrome, but there are theories that white dogs suffer more because they have less pigment in their skin, also smaller dogs are more susceptible to having this.
Some symptoms linked to shaker syndrome include:
- Repetitive tremors/shaking
- Head bobbing/tilting
- Uncontrolled eye movements (rapid eye movement)
- Mild to severe shaking
- Inability to walk or exaggerated leg movements caused by shaking
- Shaking of the body limited to one area (head, legs, etc.)
- Shaking increases in severity as time goes on
- Loss of appetite
- Shaking is worse with change (after travel, or being in a new environment), called “intention tremors”
- Shaking goes away when the dog is sleeping
What to do: Have your dog evaluated by a vet as soon as you suspect something may be off.
If your Maltese is shaking to a severe level or is very ill, your vet may decide to hospitalize them. There is no need to worry! Your vet will be able to do the necessary tasks to keep your pup happy and healthy.
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How to Prevent it: There isn’t a known way to prevent your dog from getting this disease so treatment is really the only path forward.
Shaker Syndrome is usually easily treatable by medication, specifically medicines that work very fast (corticosteroids). These medicines work to reduce inflammation in the brain which then eliminates the shaking and tremors.
You can read more about Maltese Shaking and Trembling from this article.
– Degenerative Myelopathy –
Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive neurologic condition, similar to ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease in people, that causes weakness and poor nerve function in the spinal cord and the hind legs.
It affects Pembrokes more frequently than other breeds. If your dog has this disease, he will start to become increasingly weak and disabled in the hind legs there is no pain but your dog will eventually not be able to walk or use the bathroom any longer.
What to do: There isn’t a cure for this, but there are a few things that can help. Your vet may recommend rehabilitation, exercise, acupuncture, and dietary supplements.
How to Prevent: Unfortunately this disease is not preventable. It is inherited and will likely start to show up as your dog ages. There is a genetic test you can give your dog to find out if it may be a potential problem for him.
Up Next: Curious what a Husky Maltese looks like? Click Here to find out!
While we strive to give the most accurate and helpful information about your pet’s health that we can, this article is meant to be informational only and not medical advice. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your veterinarian or other qualified veterinary health care provider regardless of what you have read on this site or elsewhere.