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Maltese Life Span
Because canines have much shorter life spans than humans, a top concern for Maltese owners is to wonder (and worry) about how long a Maltese will live. In typical households, humans will outlive their pet.  For all dogs in general, the average life expectancy is a bit under 13 years, 12.8 to be exact.

For various reasons, most being due to size, toy and small breeds live longer lives than their larger counterparts.

For the Maltese dog breed, 12 to 14 years is the normal range for life expectancy, with 13.1 years old being the average age for a Maltese to live if his or her passing is due to “natural causes”.  This term refers to any fatal illness or bodily malfunction that develops due to the aging process.

While this is the average age, some Maltese dogs live much longer lives. It is not uncommon for a Maltese to reach 15, 16 and even 17 years old.  Females tend to live a bit longer than males (1 year longer, on average).

Top Causes of Death for Maltese Dogs

A 20 yearlong study conducted by the University of Georgia, involving over 74,000 dogs of all breeds, has given researchers the answers to the leading cause of death for all purebreds.  There are some interesting included in this:

Puppies –

The premature passing of a puppy (a dog under the age of 1 year old) was due from different reasons than those that passed from illness related to old age.  For Maltese puppies, the leading causes of death are: Trauma, infection and congenital disease.

For Adult Maltese dogs –

Cardiovascular Disease– This is the #1 cause of death for Maltese dogs (21.1%) This includes heart diseases that involved the heart itself and also the blood vessels of the heart.

Congenial Disease – This is the 2nd leading cause of death with Maltese dogs (9.7%) This includes all diseases or disorders that are inherited genetically with the Maltese dog breed (Colitis, hydrocephalus, liver shunts, White Shaker Dog Syndrome)  

Cancer – This is the 3rd leading cause of death for this breed (9.2%).  It should be noted that for senior dogs, the likelihood of developing fatal cancer decreases significantly after the age of 10 years old.

Changes that Occur with Aging Maltese Dogs

As a Maltese ages, the body gradual slows down. These changes affect the organs, bone structure and sensory processing.  The following are not diseases themselves but rather changes naturally occurring over the dog’s lifetime as he or she becomes a senior, and when combined, affects the dog’s life span.

  • Eyesight - This is often a decreased ability to properly judge depth and a gradual loss of peripheral vision (what is seen to the side when looking straight ahead)
  • Hearing- Older dogs can lose the ability to distinguish sounds, particularly when there are background noises.
  • Taste – There is a decrease in both taste buds and saliva.
  • Smell - Aging dogs often lose some of their ability to detect scent.
  • Bladder & Bowels – Bladder and bowel muscle weaken leading to difficulty in holding bathroom needs.
  • Body fat to Muscle ratio – There is a decrease in muscle. Body fat increases and actually gradually moves from just beneath the surface of the skin to deeper inside the dog’s body, surrounding internal organs.
  • Arteries – There is a hardening of the arteries which affects the heart.  
  • Bone Density – Beginning at the age of 8 years old, bones begin to lose minerals, leading to a thinner, more fragile skeletal system for a Maltese.
  • Lungs – Beginning approximately at 8 years old, lungs begin to lose their elasticity. Every year thereafter, breathing capability decreases.
  • Brain – It is not uncommon for an older dog to have some cognitive impairment due to the breakdown of structures between nerve cells and a weakening of the cell function.
  • Heart – The heart is a muscle and it grows thicker as a dog ages.  Over time, the ability to properly extract oxygen diminishes.
  • Kidneys -  Kidneys, which remove waste and release important hormones, become smaller and do not work as well.

Steps to Increase Maltese Life Expectancy

There are some things that owners will have no control over, however there are many steps that an owner can take to help extend the Maltese life span. 

  • Spaying / Neutering – Cancer is the 3rd leading cause of death for Maltese dogs and these procedures can reduce the odds of developing SOME forms of this terrible disease.

  • Spaying decrease the chances for a female dog developing mammary cancer and eliminates the possibly of developing ovarian and uterine cancer.  In regard to the male Maltese life span, neutering decreases the odds of developing prostate disease and it completely eliminates the chances of developing testicular cancer.
  • Eliminating Inhalation of 2nd Hand Smoke – Inhaling 2nd hand smoke puts a dog at risk. This can lead to heart issues and lung cancer.   In any household that includes both smokers and pets, owners are encouraged to limit smoking to outdoor areas.
  • Diet and Exercise – Just as with humans, these 2 elements go hand in hand.  To help your Maltese reach his or her expected life span, offering healthy meals (and snacks) along with daily exercise can make a huge difference.   With poor food choices comes fillers, additives and a lack of proper nutritional elements that otherwise would function to keep the body in good health.  Exercise is beneficial to the entire body, particularly for the lungs, heart and muscles.  In addition, for a toy breed such as the Maltese, a regular schedule of exercise often creates a much better behaved dog.
  • Dental Care – Sadly, this relatively easy grooming element is overlooked by some owners.  A lack of proper dental care can lead to tooth loss and infection (which can spread to the body and bloodstream) which often shortens life span.  Owners are encouraged to provide at-home dental care and once a year professional cleanings.
  • Check-Ups –  With mounting bills and the stress of daily living expenses,  many owners do not bring their dog for regular veterinarian visits.  44% of owners admit to limiting visits once all puppy shots have been given.   Routine checkups are vital for maintaining good health and catching conditions and illness in the early stages which allows a dog the best chance for a successful recovery. 
Stages Throughout the Maltese Life Span

Newborn – From birth to 4 weeks old, a Maltese is considered a newborn.  This is a phase of rapid growth and change.   A 1 day old newborn Maltese weighs between 1 and 7 ounces ( .02 to .19 kg) and increases in weight each day.  Born with eyes closes, unable to hear and unable to walk, a 1 month old puppy will see well, hear well and will have learned to walk (and run) very well.

Puppy – Most owners will obtain their Maltese puppy between the ages of 8 and 12 weeks old.  Technically, the newborn phase is included in the puppy phase and will last 1 year.  This is a time for many things: the majority of growth, teething and training.

1 Year Old – A Maltese is now declared to be an adult.  Some will be full size at this time; however it is not uncommon for a bit of growing to still occur.  Most Maltese dogs will reach their height before their weight, often filling out a bit particularly in the chest area.

7 to 8 Years Old – There is no exact day that a dog is considered to be a senior; most often this will be decided by the Maltese’s veterinarian.  Sometime around the age of 7 or 8 years old a slowing down of the body along with possible health concerns will prompt the veterinarian to recommend geriatric screenings.

10 Years Old – The older (and wiser) Maltese dog will have become such an integral part of the family that even thinking about expected life span is disheartening.  However, a senior will need to live life at a slower pace.  There are some things that owners can do to make life easier:  offering an orthopedic dog bed, adjusting exercise to fit the needs of an older dog that may have more limited abilities, providing ramps for those that have trouble going up stairs or reaching the sofa, possible dietary changes and an understanding in regard for the need for increased naps and possible decreased tolerance for change and for noise. 


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