If you decide the Maltese is the dog for you, prepare for a long, happy life together with your new friend. Typically, a healthy Maltese will live between 13 and 15 years, giving you ample time to forge a strong bond with your pup. He has some potential health risks to be aware of, but with proper nutrition and care, your Maltese will have many years with you.
Healthy Despite the Risks
In the American Kennel Club's toy group, the tiny Maltese weighs between 4 and 7 pounds and reaches anywhere from 8 to 10 inches tall at the shoulder. As a tiny puppy, he runs the risk of low blood sugar, while as an adult he's prone to weakened tracheal cartilage. Other potential medical problems include luxating patella, periodontal disease and the congenital liver defect known as portosystemic shunt. Choosing a reputable breeder who can certify that your puppy's parents have been tested and cleared for genetic defects will minimize the risk your puppy develops inherited health issues.
Beware of the Teacup
If you are captivated with the idea of a "teacup" Maltese, understand that there is no such recognized breed or category of dog. Unethical breeders will breed the smallest dogs in an effort to produce even smaller dogs. The smallest dogs of the litter -- often referred to as "runts" -- are more prone to health issues than their larger, healthier litter mates. Using these small pups for breeding stock increases the likelihood a puppy will not be healthy. Purchasing a tiny Maltese that will not meet the minimum 4 pound standard for the Maltese increases the possibility of health problems and minimizes the chance the dog will enjoy the same life expectancy of a healthy dog.