The terms Miniature Maltese, Teacup Maltese, Toy Maltese and Tiny Teacup Maltese refer to a Maltese dog that is smaller than the set AKC breed standard.
Is this a marketing scheme or are there Malts that are tinier than the standard sets forth?
Well, the answer is not a simple yes or no.
You see, there is no such official breed as the Toy Maltese or any other name that implies a dog that is smaller than the standard.
With that being said, there are breeders out there who, against standard breeding practices, are purposely producing puppies who are smaller than nature intended.
There are also breeders who will label a dog to be a Toy or a Miniature...However those pups will grow to the size of a standard.
Why do breeders sell Toy Maltese dogs if the breed does not officially exist?
Sometimes, a Maltese breeder,
in an effort to please the many potential buyers who think that these
breeds actually exist, will sell healthy and normal Maltese puppies (who
are naturally small to begin with) and simply call them Miniature, Teacup or Toy Maltese dogs.
This is moderately acceptable, as long as that breeder is simply using the word and not
selling anything except a standard Maltese dog. In cases like this,
often times a small home based breeder needs to optimize their website
for certain keywords, in order to be found in the search engines....To
do this, they often use terms such as "toy" and others. If you read
through their "About Us" section, you will often see that they state
that they breed to the AKC standard for size...And that is a good sign.
This breed is naturally small...So beware of advertisements showing a Maltese dog inside of a teacup; these dogs may have been unethically bred and may be prone to serious health problems.
If someone states that they are truly producing dogs that are smaller than the standard, this is a red flag...If they show examples of 2 and 3 pound full grown adults, we strongly suggest looking elsewhere. (If you already have a Toy Maltese, read on with suggestions for optimal health). Undersized puppies will be severely prone to many health issues such as Collapsed Trachea, Luxating Patella, Hip Dysplasia, Hypoglycemia and others.
A Maltese is a very small dog to begin with....they reach a weight of only 4 to 7 pounds (1.81 - 3.18 kg) when fully grown. To purposefully produce litters of pups smaller than this is unethical. Not only will they be very prone to the above medical issues.....They also will have brittle bones and often times, a body that is simply too fragile to withstand the normal activities of a health pet.
How Does a Breeder Produce Teacup Maltese?
None of the breeding practices are ethical and none produce healthy dogs. As mentioned above, the normal weight of an adult is between 4 and 7 pounds (1.81 to 3.18 kg). To purposefully breed for Teacup Maltese, a breeder would need to pair up two dogs in a certain way.
To reach the goal of "smaller than natural" dogs, one would choose 2 runt dogs to mate. In any ethically produced litters, there will always be the occasional smaller dog...That one pup who is a bit tinier than the rest...The laymen term for this is the "runt of the litter".
These will be the pups who often struggle with health problems. When newborns, the others will be growing each day as they should be and having no problems nursing from the dam....The tiny one will struggle to gain weight...and may need to be fed via tube feeding or via a dropper as they may be too weak to nurse/fight for position with the other puppies.
As a 7-8 week old, when their normal sized littermates jump out of a basket and run around....the tiny one may develop a luxating pattella when trying to keep up (This means a slipped kneecap).
So, a breeder would obtain two of these runts for their breeding program. Its sad to even think that anyone would make this their goal.
Now, a pairing would be planned. The female should always be larger than the male. Therefore, an example of an unhealthy pairing would be a 3 pound female adult with a 2.5 pound male. Sadly, this would produce unhealthy, small puppies who would grow to be anywhere from 2 to 3.5 pounds as adults.
There is always a chance that they would grow larger...This is because when choosing 2 dogs to mate, genes most often go back 5 generations. Sometimes there can be a "throwback" which is a pup who carries genes from many previous generations....however in general, 5 is the guideline. If a breeder has been in business for 5-7 years, they would have Toy Maltese going at least 2 generations back.... 10 years in business and they would have 3-4 generations of these unhealthy dogs.
One very unfortunate result of this is that many newborns do not survive. To try and create tiny teacup Maltese equals that in a litter of 4, 1 or 2 will not live past the 6 week mark.
Of course potential buyers never hear of all of this. They only are shown the cute photos...they hear the seller talk about how sweet the pups are...how healthy they are....And this is extremely misleading. Again, there is no official breed other than the 4-7 pound standard, which is a very small size as it is.
Even the owner of a standard will need to practice methods to keep their Maltese healthy.... they must ensure that they do not jump from too high of heights, keep a close eye on pups for low blood sugar issues (hypoglycemia), walk him or her on a leash and harness (as opposed to a collar) and more. To try and protect a dog who is even more fragile can be heartbreaking.
How to Know if a Dog is a True Maltese or an Unethically Bred Mini?
In most areas, puppies must be at least 8 weeks old before they are taken from mom and sold. If an 8 week old Maltese is less than 1.5 pounds (.68 kg), do not purchase the dog. Yes, this dog may be the "runt" of the liter, but more than likely he or she is smaller than nature intended. If you are still hesitant, look at the entire liter. Are all of the 8 week old puppies less than this weight? If so, do not buy from that breeder.
An undernourished puppy may also show signs of :
Dull eyes or excessive watery discharge
If you have any doubts, always speak up and ask the breeder! It is perfectly expected and acceptable to know what you are purchasing. Ask the breeder if they are able to breed "smaller than average dogs". If the breeder goes on and on about how tiny the puppies are, shows you puppies that are smaller than 1.5 pounds (.68 kg), and/ or shows you adult dogs that are smaller than 4 pounds, this is not the breeder that you want!
What to Do if You Already Purchased a Miniature Maltese
If you already have a dog who is far under the normal weightthan the standard, you must be extra careful with its care. Your dog's veterinarian is most likely aware of the situation. What can you expect regarding the care of a Teacup Maltese?
These dogs will need more regular checkups. These dogs will also be prone to breaking bones much easier than a standard. It is recommended to add dog steps or a dog ramp to furniture, such as the couch, chairs and bed if your dog is used to laying on these. Teach him or her to use the steps or ramp and do not allow them to jump down.
Everyone in the home should be extra careful to look where they are walking; one accident of tripping over the dog can be devastating. Bone density will be very weak. Regular checkups will help both you and your dog's vet keep an eye out for lung problems, heart problems, organ failure issues and more.
While any puppy should be free-fed to the age of 3 months, with tiny teacups it would be recommended to always free-feed....This will make house training more difficult, as an owner will not be able to know when bowel movements are to be expected.
Teacup Maltese Prices
One of the objectives of those who sell these tiny pups is to generate money. It is not about the love of the breed...to them it is about how much money can be made. To this end, many will market and advertise that these "Toys", being "special" are priced higher than standards. Potential buyers should understand that there is nothing special about these puppies other than the fact that they do not have the bone structure needed to be healthy. Many times vital organs are not fully developed and there may be a long, frustrating road ahead filled with veterinarian visits.
It is perfectly alright to purchase a dog that is called a Miniature Maltese, Toy Maltese, Teacup Maltese or other. If: the dog is the correct weight for its age, shows signs of good health, the parents (dam and sire) are of the correct, standard size of 4-7 lbs. and other puppies in liters also appear to be of the correct weight.
This is a sign that the breeder is simply using the terms, to please the customers is and not actually breeding un-natural dogs.
Even More Advice
Owning a Maltese = giving daily, loving care. Owning a "smaller than average" Maltese = giving even more important care. This section is an overview, as a caring Malt owner needs a huge amount of information to properly care for their Maltese & make them happy. We have created a PetMaltese eBook for you, in order to bring to you hundreds of pages of much needed information. Have a look what is inside our Maltese Book.