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Maltese dog breed

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Maltese dog breed information and advice

Maltese dogs make great pets. They’re lively, enjoy learning new tricks and they’re ever so cute. Their long white coat may set them apart from other dogs, but you’ll be surprised that underneath that sophisticated exterior, they’re very playful.

This dog breed guide covers all you need to know about Maltese dogs, including information on their behaviour, personality and potential health problems.

Maltese facts

Lifespan 12 - 15 years
How much £800 - £3500
Size 20 - 25 cm
Weight 3 - 4 kg
Colours pure white, sometimes with slight lemon ear markings
Grooming regular, weekly grooming needed
Temperament gentle and affectionate
Exercise short walks every day

Maltese insurance

Accidents can happen to any dog and health problems are always a concern. Having Maltese insurance can protect you from the unexpected cost of vet bills for treatment, medication and even surgery. It’s not uncommon for this dog breed to suffer health problems, so having Maltese dog insurance can put your mind at ease.

Sainsbury’s Bank Pet Insurance

Sainsbury’s Bank pet insurance covers your Maltese’s health care needs from as young as 8 weeks old. A new policy can be taken out anytime from 8 weeks up until your dog’s 8th birthday. And once you have cover in place, we’ll insure your Maltese for their entire life - as long as you renew your policy year after year. Giving you one less thing to think about.

How to care for a Maltese

Your Maltese is going to need the correct diet, exercise, grooming and training. But most importantly, they’re going to need lots of love and attention.

Feeding and nutrition

If you have a puppy, you’ll need to feed them between 3 and 4 times a day. They have small tummies so shouldn’t be fed a big meal at once. As your Maltese puppy grows, slowly decrease the number of meals to 2 a day.

You should continue feeding your puppy the same food as the breeder. If you decide to change their diet, you need to do it slowly. Start by adding a small amount of new food to the old food and increase this gradually over time. Remember to reduce the amount of old food as you increase the new food though.

Maltese dogs can be fussy eaters and generally prefer wet food to dry. Either type of food is fine, but make sure your dog is getting the correct nutrition in their diet. Speak to your vet if you’re unsure what to feed your pet.


Maltese dogs have a very long and heavy coat that easily tangles and becomes matted. To stop this from happening, you’ll have to brush your dog daily. Regular haircuts will also be needed – and you can keep their fur short if you want. If you’re unsure how to trim your dog’s coat, you can take them to a professional dog groomer.

Their adult coat will start growing from 8 months old. So try to get your dog used to being brushed and washed from a young age. Reward them with treats so that they learn that being groomed is a good thing.


The Maltese is a small, lively breed but they’re not particularly active. This means they don’t need much exercise. A 30 minute walk every day will keep your dog fit and happy. You should also give your dog toys to play with to keep them entertained.

Small dogs that don’t get much exercise can become overweight easily. So, it’s important to make sure your dog has the chance to run around and play outside. If you notice your dog is putting on weight, increase the number of daily walks or slightly reduce the amount of food you give them.


Maltese puppies are easier to housetrain than most toy breeds. If you start with puppy toilet training your dog will learn to listen to you. This will make other commands easier to teach. The number one training tip is to reward your dog for positive behaviour.

Maltese dogs are alert and will bark at any unfamiliar noise. This makes them great watchdogs, but the barking should be controlled. Train your dog to stop barking on command. Distract your dog from the cause of the bark, using a toy or treat and reward them when they’re quiet.

Your dog will enjoy learning tricks and being rewarded for good behaviour. It’s a great way to exercise your dog and to have fun together.

Temperament and behaviour

Maltese dogs are gentle and affectionate. They love to be around people and other animals. They have a playful temperament that can lead to mischief if they get bored.

Your pet needs to spend time with other dogs – socialising them will teach them not to fear other dogs. Despite having a gentle temperament, they can be snappy with other dogs and loud children. They’re better suited to quiet homes.

Maltese dogs can be yappy if they’re left alone for too long. They’ll let you know if they want your attention. But the good news is you can train them to stop barking on command with some simple positive training.

Common health problems

It’s common for Maltese dogs to suffer from teeth problems. But there are also other health issues that you should keep an eye out for. And if your dog does suffer from a medical condition, having pet insurance for your Maltese can help cover the cost of surgery.


Gingivitis is a gum disease caused by a build-up of plaque. This can cause pain and discomfort and your pet may struggle to eat and have bad breath.

To remove the plaque, your dog will need to go to the vet for a dental scale and polish. Some teeth may have to be removed if they're in poor condition, which will mean your dog will need a general anaesthetic. To prevent gum disease, you should brush your dog’s teeth every day. Speak to your vet about dog toothbrushes and toothpaste. Do not use human toothpaste as this is poisonous to dogs.

Luxating patella

Your dog is likely to need surgery to correct the alignment of the kneecap. Physiotherapy will help your dog recover, but normal exercise will be restricted for 8 weeks. They’ll be able to use their leg fully within a few months.


Deafness is common in dogs with white fur. It can be hereditary or caused by ear infections or growths. Some dogs are born deaf, while others become deaf as they get older.

If your dog is suffering from hearing loss, you’ll notice their lack of response to noises. This includes speaking to them, opening doors and loud bangs such as fireworks. Deaf dogs do sleep well though - as noises won't wake them.

Deaf dogs can still live long, happy lives and you can train your pet using hand signals. You just need to be careful when you take them for a walk. If you let them off the lead and they run off, they won’t be able to hear you calling them.

Do Maltese dogs shed?

Despite having a long coat that requires regular brushing, Maltese dogs hardly shed any fur.

Are Maltese dogs hypoallergenic?

While no dog is completely hypoallergenic, the Maltese is considered one of more hypoallergenic breeds as it doesn’t shed much fur.

However, if you suffer from dog allergies, you may find that having a Maltese dog still affects you. Allergies are related to the dog’s saliva and skin that is shed, not their fur. It’s possible for any dog breed to cause allergic reactions.

What’s a Maltese dog’s lifespan?

You can expect your dog to live between 12 and 15 years. But their life expectancy can be affected by health issues and a poor diet. An overweight Maltese is more prone to health problems and a shortened lifespan. So, make sure you aren’t overfeeding your dog.

What’s a teacup Maltese dog?

A teacup Maltese is a miniature Maltese. They only weigh about 2 kg and are 4 inches tall. You’ll only ever see a white teacup Maltese dog. Other colours will have been crossed with another breed. Teacup breeds are more prone to health conditions — particularly heart defects and respiratory problems.

So, is a Maltese right for you?

Your Maltese dog will be your best friend forever. Brushing their smooth, glossy coat will help you relax on an evening - and during the day they’ll keep you entertained with their big personality.

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Vetstream ltd (online) Maltese. In: Vetlexicon Canis. Vetstream Ltd, UK. Website: opens in new window

Penman S, Thompson M & Oxford M (online) Periodontal disease. In: Vetlexicon Canis. Vetstream Ltd, UK. Website: opens in new window

Harari J & Arthurs G (online) Patella: lateral luxation. In: Vetlexicon Canis. Vetstream Ltd, UK. Website: opens in new window

Braund K & Delauche A (online) Deafness: hereditary. In: Vetlexicon Canis. Vetstream Ltd, UK. Website: opens in new window

Vetstream Ltd (online) Luxating patella Owner Factsheet. In: Vetlexicon Canis. Vetstream Ltd, UK. Website: opens in new window

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