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Life Span

Maltese Life Span


The Maltese has a good life span in comparison to many other breeds. This is due in part to his size; toy breeds often live longer than their larger counterparts. In addition, life span is also affected by health issues that a breed is prone to. For the Maltese, many of the more commonly seen health conditions are not fatal.

Here, we will go over:
  • How long Maltese live
  • Leading causes of death for this breed
  • Steps you can take to help increase life span

How Long Maltese Dogs Live

For the Maltese dog breed, 12 to 15 years is the normal range for life expectancy, with 13.5 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 unheard of 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).

Since the average canine lives approximately 12 years, the Maltese breed tends to live a bit longer than dogs on average. 

Leading Causes of Death for the Maltese Breed

A 20 year-long 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 a large majority of purebreds. 

The following are the leading causes of death for the Maltese:


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. This includes being dropped, stepped on, hit by cars, and other fatal injuries.
  • Infection. This includes viral disease that can strike young puppies when the immunity passed to them by the dam has waned but vaccinations are not yet complete such as parvovirus, distemper, and leptospirosis. This also includes bacterial infections and parasitic diseases.
  • Congenital disease. This includes conditions where are present at birth. With the Maltese breed, and some other toy breed dogs, a top concern is liver shunts
For adult Maltese dogs:
  • Cardiovascular Disease.  This is the #1 cause of death for Maltese dogs (21.1%). Of all heart conditions, it is mitral valve disease that is a top concern for this breed.
This cause of death is very high with the Maltese breed and only seen more often with one breed, the Newfoundland, at a rate of 23.8%.
  • 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)
  • 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. 
Also, while this is the third leading cause of death, it is actually one of the lowest rates when compared to other breeds. The reason that is ranks in 3rd place is due to the high percentage of Maltese dogs that pass away from cardiovascular disease.
Ahead: We will talk about some steps you can take to help your Maltese live a long life. 

How to Help Increase Life Span for a Maltese

There are many things that you can do to help your Maltese live a long life.

1. Take steps to prevent fatal injury. Since trauma is a leading cause of death for puppies, and always a top concern for adult toy breed dogs, take steps to help prevent injury. 

This includes:
  • Always having your Maltese buckled up in a certified canine car seat when driving him. A booster seat is best, and be sure to connect the inner buckle to your Maltese's harness, not his collar. 
  • Teaching children proper handling techniques.
  • Having all family members very aware that this is an 'under the foot' dog that can easily be accidentally stepped on or tripped over.
  • Always keeping your Maltese on leash when outside of the house.
2. Keep your Maltese up-to-date with vaccinations. Be sure that:
  • Your Maltese puppy receives all of his puppy shots.
  • Do not take him out in public until it is 2 weeks past his last round of inoculations.
  • If you live in an area in which wildlife may enter onto property that your Maltese walks upon, ask your vet to access his need for the leptospirosis vaccine (this is often voluntary).
  • Speak to your vet regarding booster shots. Your vet can run a titer test to check for antibodies levels to determine if your adult Maltese is in need for a booster. 
3. Bring your Maltese to the vet for wellness checks. Dogs should be seen once per year, and senior twice per year, for a full examination and for testing to check for issues common to the breed. With cardiovascular disease being a concern, the vet should be checking for heart murmurs. More thorough testing should be run if anything is found.  
4. Choose wisely in regard to food, for both meals and snacks. Opt for wholesome, all-natural, premium foods for your Maltese, to steer clear of chemical additives, some of which are known to cause cancer. 

5. Filter your Maltese's water. In many parts of the country, tap water contains carcinogenic agents and toxins. Connect a filter to your kitchen sink, or opt for a filtered water pitcher. 

6. Exercise your Maltese on a regular basis. Two walks per day can help prevent a wide range of health issues, as well as help keep the heart strong and aid in a balanced metabolism. 
Maltese dog, red background
It's not easy having to leave the house when you know that your Maltese is going to feel stress and be unhappy while you are away. Strong feelings of loneliness and isolation can be very hard for a puppy or dog to endure.

Fortunately, there are some changes you can make that will lead to much better coping skills.
two Maltese dogs

The top tips and advice for optimum health, happiness, safety, and comfort. For both puppies and adults. 
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Since the Maltese breed has a single-layer solid white coat, you'll want to be extra careful in choosing coat care products. 
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