Maltese Dog Health Problems

Pure breed dog health problems are common, which is why responsible breeders will test for common genetic problems and provide a health certificate for their dogs. Though generally considered to be a healthy breed, Maltese are not immune to this type of problem, so if you are interested in purchasing a Maltese, you should be aware of their common problems.

Eye Problems in Maltese Dogs

One of the most common ailments facing the Maltese is an eye problem called retinal atrophy, which limits their vision in low light. In severe cases, this can lead to blindness in one or both eyes. A dog that has difficulty seeing at night may bump into things, seem disoriented or act aggressive toward known people.

Maltese can also develop a condition called aberrant cilia, which causes them to grow an extra set of eye lashes on the inside of their eyes. Some dogs are unbothered by this, but others may have:

  • swelling or red eyes
  • difficulty closing eyes
  • excessive tears or squinting
  • pawing at the uncomfortable eye

Luxating Patella

Maltese are one of the small dog breeds that can suffer from a luxating patella, which causes the knee cap to move out of its socket. This can be a painful injury and usually requires surgery. Though it can be caused by an accident or injury, the luxating patella is often caused by a genetic defect that can be detected through a DNA test.

If your breeder is unwilling to provide a certificate showing this test has been done, you might think about looking for another breeder.

Internal Health

Maltese don't have a great deal of genetic internal health problems, but most small dogs can develop a liver shunt. This occurs when the circulatory system doesn't develop properly, thus harming the liver. Since this can cause serious problems for your dog, you should be aware of this in case symptoms develop.

Symptoms will usually appear in the first two years of your dog's life, causing him to be undersized and underweight.

Additional symptoms include:

  • vomiting
  • depression and other personality changes
  • pacing
  • unsteadiness
  • seizures

If left untreated, this can cause additional symptoms, such as blindness to develop.

Maltese can also develop colitis, a swollen colon or large intestine.

Symptoms include:

  • blood or mucous in the feces
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • pain when eliminating

Skin Allergies

White dogs are particularly susceptible to skin allergies and skin problems, so take care to keep him covered in times of high sunlight. This can be done with sunscreen, a shirt and visor or simply staying out of the sun during the times of day when its rays are brightest.

White dogs also seem more susceptible to skin allergies, which can be caused by fleas, food or environmental elements. If your Maltese starts scratching or biting its skin excessively, consult your veterinarian about possible causes. Help your dog maintain healthy skin by bathing with a soothing shampoo, such as oatmeal-based.

Maltese may also have reactions to vaccinations or topical flea preventative. If either of these cause a rash, consult your veterinarian about alternatives.