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Maltese Breathing Problems
Question:  What is happening when it sounds like my Maltese can't breath? Sometimes I think that maybe she is having an asthma attack.  Can you tell me what are some common Maltese breathing problems? Thanks!


When a dog is having trouble breathing, the medical term for this is called Dyspnea.  This term covers all reasons of why this may be happening.


Your dog may have all or some of these signs:
  • Increased effort to breathe - the dog is physically showing that they must put effort into  their breathing
  • Noisy breathing- rasping noises or other
  • Cyanosis = a bluish tinge to the lips and mucous membranes which shows that the Maltese is not receiving enough oxygen

There are many reasons why a Maltese may have trouble breathing.  Our Member wrote in, stating that her dog sounded as if she was having an asthma attack...this could actually be happening.

The most common reasons for a dog having problems breathing are:
  • Heart failure
  • Severe asthma
  • Allergic reactions
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Paralysis or obstruction of the dog's trachea
  • Poisoning... and many other conditions.

It is very important to bring your Maltese to the veterinarian right away to have the cause determined. 


Your dog's veterinarian will run a battery of tests to determine the cause.  Each different diagnosis, will of course, have its own course of treatment.  Asthma can be controlled with medication.  Allergies can be controlled by a combination of eliminating the trigger and possibly medication.  You may wish to read more in our Allergy Section.  Pneumonia will be treated with antibiotics. And other causes will be treated as needed.

Information on Maltese Asthma

Asthma is a disease that can affect any dog, including the Maltese.  It happens when there is an obstruction of the airways when the bronchi (the air passages in the lungs) fill up with mucous and go into spasms (bronchoconstriction).

Symptoms of Asthma in Maltese Dogs
Dogs of any age can get asthma, but it occurs more frequently in younger puppies or middle aged dogs.  the main sign of canine asthma is coughing and/or wheezing.

In rare cases, it may also cause:
  • Gums and tongue of the dog turning blue because of lack of oxygen
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite resulting in marked weight loss
Symptoms may come and go. They may only occur when a trigger is in the dog's environment, such as 2nd hand smoke or excess dust.


The most common causes of canine asthma are:
  • 2nd hand smoke
  • Dust, often from a litter box
  • Air pollution
  • Strong fragrances, such as overpowering air freshener or heavy perfume
Treatment for the Maltese with Asthma

An X-ray of the chest must be done
Tests to rule out other causes will be done, such as Heartworm tests, blood count and bronchial lavage.

Once diagnosed as canine asthma, the dog may be given 1 or several of these medications:
  • Steroids
  • Antihistamines
  • Bronchodilator
  • Antibiotics or a combination of these drugs
  • In severe attacks, oxygen therapy may be necessary

This often is "controlled" as opposed to being "treated".  However, prognosis is very good as long as an owner continues to give medication.  Most dogs with asthma can live very normal and happy lives.

Note:  Maltese breathing problems can be very serious.  It is very important to have an experience, reputable veterinarian determine the cause, as soon as possible.
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