The Essential Maltese


Owning a Maltese is rewarding and fun! Get all you need to know about feeding, training and caring for your dog's health in The Essential Maltese. Special features include professional color photos and expert tips on how to make your dog a wonderful addition to the family. Learn how to have a great relationship with your pet with The Essential Maltese.
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Owning a Maltese is rewarding and fun! Get all you need to know about feeding, training and caring for your dog's health in The Essential Maltese. Special features include professional color photos and expert tips on how to make your dog a wonderful addition to the family. Learn how to have a great relationship with your pet with The Essential Maltese.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582450841
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 4/28/1999
  • Series: Essential Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.22 (d)

Meet the Author

Consulting Editor Ian Dunbar, Ph.D., MRCVS, is the founder and an ongoing member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. Consulting Editor Pamela Leis Higdon, an aviculturist of long standing, was an associate editor for Bird Talk magazine and the first managing editor of Birds USA.

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Table of Contents

Chapter One: Getting to Know Your Maltese.

Chapter Two: Homecoming.

Chapter Three: To Good Health.

Chapter Four: Positively Nutritious.

Chapter Five: Putting on the Dog.

Chapter Six: Measuring Up.

Chapter Seven: A Matter of Fact.

Chapter Eight: On Good Behavior.

Chapter Nine: Resources.


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First Chapter

[Figures are not included in this sample chapter]

The Essential Maltese

- 3 -

To Good Health


The Maltese is basically a very healthy breed with few medical problems. However,it is important that Maltese owners are aware of a few inherited disorders specificto the breed.

Portosystemic Shunt

Portosystemic shunt is a congenital problem that can be seen in some Maltese.During gestation, the placenta delivers blood with food and oxygen from the motherthrough the umbilical vein. In order to make this work, there is a shunt from theliver venous circulation to the arterial circulation. At birth, the pressure withinthe circulatory system changes as respiration occurs and this closes the shunt, whicheventually disappears. If this reverse in circulation does not occur, the liver isdeprived of a blood supply and does not develop properly after birth. Many puppiescan live with the small functioning portion of the liver for some time but eventuallyhave problems and usually die if the situation is uncorrected.

Most shunts cause recognizable clinical signs by the time a dog is a young adult.Signs of protosystemic shunts include poor weight gain, sensitivity to sedativesespecially diazepam, depression, head pressing pushing the head against a s olidobject, seizures, weakness, salivation, vomiting, poor appetite, increased drinkingand urinating, balance problems and frequent urinary tract disease or early onsetof bladder stones. If the signs of problems increase dramatically after eating, thisis a strong supportive sign of a portosystemic shunt.

This malady can be diagnosed by a veterinarian. If portosystemic shunt is found,a low protein diet, which decreases the amount of ammonia produced by the dog, willbe recommended. In almost all cases, surgery is necessary. A Maltese owner facedwith portosystemic shunt should see a board- certified veterinary surgeon to discussthe procedure at length.

Luxated Patella

Patellar luxation is a dislocation of the kneecap patella. It may result frominjury or congenital present at birth deformities.

Luxated patellas or "slipped stifles" are a common orthopedic problemin small dogs. Female dogs are 1.5 times more likely to be affected than males.

The crippling effects of patellar luxation are related to the severity and durationof the luxation. The milder forms, especially in small breeds, show little or nosigns, and only minimal treatment is required. Severe cases cause more intense pain,with limping.

Treatment ranges from rest decreasing your pet's activity for one to two weeksto surgical reconstruction of the knee joint. Treatment is based upon the severityof signs and your pet's age, breed and weight obesity complicates surgery and convalescence.Satisfactory results are usually obtained if the joint degeneration has not progressedtoo far. Once the condition is repaired, most affected Maltese will make a satisfactoryrecovery.

Collapsing Trachea

When the trachea collapses, air can no longer move freely through it. Then theanimal breathes with difficulty and exhibits a honking cough.

Causes include trauma to the windpipe, nerve damage, inherited tracheal weakness,degeneration of cartilage and abnormal airflow in and out of the lungs. This conditionis commonly found in small breeds of dogs, including Maltese, and closely resembleskennel cough.

If your Maltese has any of the symptoms of collapsing trachea, you should visityour veterinarian. He should perform a complete physical examination. X-rays areoften necessary to confirm a diagnosis of tracheal collapse. Depending on the severityof the condition, treatment may include surgery and/or medical therapy. In mild cases,a change in lifestyle of your Maltese may be all that is necessary. Some cases ofcollapsing trachea cannot be cured, and treatment is directed at decreasing the severityand frequency of breathing difficulties.

White Dog Shaker Syndrome

Small white dogs such as Maltese can develop severe tremors for unexplained reasons.These dogs usually have bizarre eye movements that get much worse when excited orstressed. The usual treatment for this is to give diazepam to control the tremorsand predisone to control the symptoms. Veterinarians do not yet know the cause ofthis syndrome.

The Maltese is basically a very sound breed with few health problems.


There are many aspects of preventive care with which Maltese owners should befamiliar: Vaccinations, regular vet visits and tooth care are just some. The advantageof preventive care is that it prevents problems.

The earlier that illness is detected in the Maltese, the easier it is for theveterinarian to treat the problem. Owners can help ensure their dogs' health by beingon the lookout for medical problems. All this requires is an eye for detail and awillingness to observe. Pay close attention to your Maltese, how he looks, how heacts. What is normal behavior? How does his coat usually look? What are his eatingand sleeping patterns? Subtle changes can indicate a problem. Keep close tabs onwhat is normal for your Maltese, and if anything out of the ordinary develops, callthe veterinarian.


Using common sense, paying attention to your dog and working with your veterinarian, you can minimize health risks and problems. Use vet-recommended flea, tick and heartworm preventive medications; feed a nutritious diet appropriate for your dog's size, age and activity level; give your dog sufficient exercise and regular grooming; train and socialize your dog; keep current on your dog's shots; and enjoy all the years you have with your friend.

Maintaining your Maltese's health means exercising them regularly.

Spaying and Neutering

Spaying or neutering--surgically altering the Maltese so she or he cannot reproduce--shouldbe at the top of every owner's "To Do" list. Why?

First, every day thousands of puppies are born in the United States as a resultof uncontrolled breeding. For every pet living in a happy home today, there are fourpets on the street or in abusive homes suffering from starvation, exposure, neglector mistreatment. In six y ears, a single female dog and her offspring can be the sourceof 67,000 new dogs.

A second reason to spay or neuter your Maltese is to create a healthier, morewell-adjusted pet that, in most cases, will live longer than an intact animal. Aspayed female is no longer susceptible to pyrometra infection of the uterus, andis less prone to mammary cancers. The procedure eliminates the behavior that accompaniesthe female's heat cycle. A neutered male is less likely to develop prostate or analcancer and is less apt to roam. Marking behavior is also reduced by altering.

When should your Maltese be spayed or neutered? Recommendations vary among vets,but 6 months of age is commonly suggested. Ask your vet what age is best for yourMaltese.


The greatest advantage of spaying for females or neutering for males your dog is that you are guaranteed that your dog will not produce puppies. There are too many puppies already available for too few homes. There are other advantages as well.

Advantages of Spaying

No messy heats.

No "suitors" howling at your windows or waiting in your yard.

No risk of pyometra disease of the uterus and decreased incidences of mammary cancer.

Advantages of Neutering

Decreased incidences of fighting, but does not affect the dog's personality.

Decreased roaming in search of bitches in season.

Decreased incidences of many urogenital diseases.


Another priority on a Maltese owner's list of preventive care is vaccinations.Vaccinations protect the dog against a host of infectious diseases, preventing anillness itself and the misery that accompanies it.

Vaccines should be a part of every young puppy's health care, since youngstersare so susceptible to disease. To remain effective, vaccinations must be kept current.

Good Nutrition

Dogs that receive the appropriate nutrients daily will be healthier and strongerthan those that do not. The proper balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins,minerals and sufficient water enables the dog to remain healthy by fighting off illness.

Take good care of your Maltese today and he will be healthy tomorrow.

Routine Checkups

Regular visits to the veterinary clinic should begin when your Maltese is a youngpup and continue throughout his life. Make this a habit and it will certainly contributeto your Maltese's good health. Even if your Maltese seems perfectly healthy, a checkuponce or twice a year is in order. Even if your dog seems fine to you, he could havean ongoing problem. Your veterinarian is trained to notice subtle changes or hintsof illness.

You can help your dog maintain good health by practicing the art of preventive care.


Aside from the dog's physical needs--a proper and safe shelter, nutritious diet,health care and regular exercise--the Maltese needs plenty of plain, old-fashionedlove. The dog is happiest when he is part of a family, enjoying the social interactions,nurturing and play. Bringing the Maltese into the family provides him with a senseof security.

Maltese are happy just sitting by your side or in your lap.


Unfortunately, even with the best preventive care, the Maltese can fall ill. Infectiousdiseases, which are commonly spread from dog to dog via infected urine, feces orother body secretions, can wreak havoc. Following are a few of the diseases thatcan affect your pet.


Probably one of the most well-known diseases that can affect dogs, rabies canstrike any warm-blooded animal including humans--and is fatal. The rabies virus,which is present in an affected animal's saliva, is usually spread through a biteor open wound. The signs of the disease can be subtle at first. Normally friendlypets can become irritable and withdrawn. Shy pets may become overly friendly. Eventually,the dog becomes withdrawn and avoids light, which hurts the eyes of a rabid dog.Fever, vomiting and diarrhea are common.

Once these symptoms develop, the animal will die; there is no treatment or cure.

Since rabid animals may have a tendency to be aggressive and bite, animals suspectedof having rabies should only be handled by animal control handlers or veterinarians.

Rabies is preventable with routine vaccines, and such vaccinations are requiredby law for domestic animals in all states in this country.


Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious and devastating illness. The hardy virusis usually transmitted through contaminated feces, but it can be carried on an infecteddog's feet or skin. It strikes dogs of all ages and is most serious in young puppies.

There are two main types of parvovirus. The first signs of the diarrhea-syndrometype are usually depression and lack of appetite, followed by vomiting and the characteristicbloody diarrhea. The dog appears to be in great pain, and he usually has a high fever.

The cardiac-syndrome type affects the heart muscle and is most common in youngpuppies. Puppies with this condition will stop nursing, whine and gasp for air. Deathmay occur suddenly or in a few days. Youngsters that recover can have lingering heartfailure that eventually takes their life.

Veterinarians can treat dogs with parvovirus, but the outcome varies. It dependson the age of the animal and severity of the disease. Treat-ment may include fluidtherapy, medication to stop the severe diarrhea and antibiotics to prevent or stopsecondary infection.

Young puppies receive some antibody protection against the disease from theirmother, but they lose it quickly and must be vaccinated to prevent the disease. Inmost cases, vaccinated puppies are protected against the disease.


Canine coronavirus is especially devastating to young puppies, causing depression,lack of appetite, vomiting that may contain blood and characteristically yellow-orangediarrhea. The virus is transmitted through feces, urine and saliva, and the onsetof symptoms is usually rapid.

Dogs suffering from coronavirus are treated similarly to those suffering fromparvovirus: fluid therapy, medication to stop diarrhea and vomiting and antibioticsif necessary.

Vaccinations are available to protect puppies and dogs against the virus and arerecommended especially for those dogs in frequent contact with other dogs.


Caused by a virus, distemper is highly contagious and is most common in unvaccinatedpuppies aged 3 to 8 mo nths, but older dogs are susceptible as well. Fortunately,due to modern-day vaccines, distemper is no longer the killer it was fifty yearsago.

It is especially important to vaccinate bitches before breeding to ensure maternalantibodies in the pups.


Infectious canine hepatitis can affect dogs of every age, but it is most severein puppies. It primarily affects the dog's liver, kidneys and lining of the bloodvessels. Highly contagious, it is transmitted through urine, feces and saliva.

This disease has several forms. In the fatal fulminating form, the dog becomesill very suddenly, develops bloody diarrhea and dies. In the acute form, the dogdevelops a fever, has bloody diarrhea, vomits blood and refuses to eat. Jaundicemay be present; the whites of the dog's eyes appear yellow. Dogs with a mild caseare lethargic or depressed and often refuse to eat.

Infectious canine hepatitis must be diagnosed and confirmed with a blood test.Ill dogs require hospitalization. Hepatitis is preventable in dogs by keeping vaccinationscurrent.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease has received a lot of press recently, with its increased incidencethroughout the United States. The illness, caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi,is carried by ticks. It is passed along when the tick bites a victim, canine or human.The dog cannot pass the disease to people, though. It is only transmitted via thetick. It is most common during the tick season in May through August.

In dogs, the disease manifests itself in sudden lameness, caused by swollen joints,similar to arthritis. The dog is weak and may run a fever. The lameness can lasta few days or several months, and so me dogs have recurring difficulties.

Antibiotics are very effective in treating Lyme disease, and the sooner it isdiagnosed and treated, the better. A vaccine is available; ask your veterinarianif your dog would benefit from it.

Kennel Cough

"Kennel cough," or the more politically correct "canine cough,"shows itself as a harsh, dry cough. This contagious disease has been termed "kennelcough," much to the dismay of kennel owners, because of its often rapid spreadthrough kennels. The cough may persist for weeks and is often followed by a boutof chronic bronchitis.

Many kennels require proof of bordatella vaccination before boarding. If yourdog is in and out of kennels frequently, vaccination certainly is not a bad idea.


Vaccines are given to prevent your dog from getting infectious diseases like canine distemper or rabies. Vaccines are the ultimate preventive medicine: They're given before your dog ever gets the disease so as to protect him from the disease. That's why it is necessary for your dog to be vaccinated routinely. Puppy vaccines start at 8 weeks of age for the five-in-one DHLPP vaccine and are given every three to four weeks until the puppy is 16 months old. Your veterinarian will put your puppy on a proper schedule and will remind you when to bring in your dog for shots.


First aid is not a substitute for professional care, though it can help save adog's life.

To Stop Bleeding

Bleeding from a severe cut or wound must be stopped right away. There are twobas ic techniques--direct pressure and the tourniquet.

Try to control bleeding first by using direct pressure. Ask an assistant to holdthe injured Maltese and place several pads of sterile gauze over the wound. Press.Do not wipe the wound or apply any cleansers or ointments. Apply firm, even pressure.If blood soaks through the pad, do not remove it as this could disrupt clotting.Simply place another pad on top and continue to apply pressure.

If bleeding on a leg or the tail does not stop by applying pressure, try usinga tourniquet. Use this only as a last resort. A tourniquet that is left on too longcan result in limb loss.

If the dog is bleeding from his mouth or anus, or vomits or defecates blood, hemay be suffering from internal injuries. Do not attempt to stop bleeding. Call theveterinarian right away for emergency treatment.


Whenever a dog is injured or is seriously ill, the odds are good that he willgo into a state of shock. A decreased supply of oxygen to the tissues usually resultsin unconsciousness; pale gums; weak, rapid pulse; and labored, rapid breathing. Ifnot treated, a dog will die from shock. The conditions of the dog should continueto be treated, but the dog should be as comfortable as possible. A blanket can helpkeep a dog warm. A dog in shock needs immediate veterinary care.


A dog's curiosity will often lead him to eat or lick things he shouldn't. Unfortunately,many substances are poisonous to dogs, including household products, plants or chemicals.Owners must learn to act quickly if poisoning is suspected because the results canbe deadly.

If your dog appears to be poisoned:

  • Call your veterinari an and follow his or her directions.

  • Try to identify the poison source--this is really important. Take the container or plant to the clinic.


If your dog has ingested a potentially poisonous substance, waste no time. Call the National Animal Poison Control Center hot line:

800 548-2423 $30 per case or

900 680-0000 $20 first five minutes; $2.95 each additional minute


Heatstroke can be deadly and must be treated immediately to save the dog. Signsinclude rapid panting, darker-than-usual gums and tongue, salivating, exhaustionor vomiting. The dog's body temperature is elevated, sometimes as high as 106°F.If the dog is not treated, coma and death can follow.

If heatstroke is suspected, cool down your overheated dog as quickly as possibleand call your veterinarian. Mildly affected dogs can be moved to a cooler environment,into an air-conditioned home, for example, or wrapped in moistened towels.

Insect Bites/Stings

Just like people, dogs can suffer bee stings and insect bites. Bees, wasps andyellow jackets leave a nasty, painful sting, and if your dog is stung repeatedly,shock can occur.

If an insect bite is suspected, try to identify the culprit. Remove the stingerif it is a bee sting, and apply a mixture of baking soda and water to the sting.It is also a good idea to apply ice packs to reduce inflammation and ease pain. Callyour veterinarian, especially if your dog seems ill or goes into shock.

Maltese are curious and inquisitive; it is important to k now the first-aid basics--just in case.

What's Wrong with My Dog?

We've listed some common symptoms of health problems and their possible causes.If any of the following conditions appear serious immediately or persist for morethan 24 hours, make an appointment to see your veterinarian immediately.


DIARRHEA   Intestinal upset, typically caused by eating something bador overeating. Can also be a viral infection, a bad case of nerves or anxiety ora parasite infection. If you see blood in the feces, get to the vet right away.

VOMITING/RETCHING   Dogs regurgitate fairly regularly bitches for theiryoung, whenever something upsets their stomach, or even out of excitement or anxiety.Often dogs eat grass, which, because it's indigestible in its pure form, irritatestheir stomachs and causes them to vomit. Getting a good look at what yourdog vomited can better indicate what's causing it.

COUGHING   Obstruction in the throat; virus kennel cough; roundworminfestation; congestive heart failure.

RUNNY NOSE   Because dogs don't catch colds like people, a runny noseis a sign of congestion or irritation.

LOSS OF APPETITE   Because most dogs are hearty and regular eaters,a loss of appetite can be your first and most accurate sign of a serious problem.

LOSS OF ENERGY LETHARGY   Any number of things could be slowing downyour dog, from an infection to internal tumors to overexercise--even overeating.

STINKY BREATH   Imagine if you never brushed your teeth! Foul-smellingbreath indicates plaque and tartar buildup that could pos sibly have caused infection.Start brushing your dog's teeth.

LIMPING   This could be caused by something as simple as a hurt or bruisedpad, to something as complicated as hip dysplasia, torn ligaments or broken bones.

CONSTANT ITCHING   Probably due to fleas, mites or an allergic reactionto food or environment your vet will need to help you determine what your dog'sallergic to.

RED, INFLAMED, ITCHY SPOTS   Often referred to as "hot spots,"these are particularly common on coated breeds. They're caused by a bacterial infectionthat gets aggravated as the dog licks and bites at the spot.

BALD SPOTS   These are the result of excessive itching or biting atthe skin so that the hair follicles are damaged; excessively dry skin; mange; calluses;and even infections. You need to determine what the underlying cause is.

STINKY EARS/HEAD SHAKING   Take a look under your dog's ear flap.Do you see brown, waxy buildup? Clean the ears with something soft and a specialcleaner, and don't use cotton swabs or go too deep into the ear canal.

UNUSUAL LUMPS   Could be fatty tissue, could be something serious infection,trauma, tumor. Don't wait to find out.


In any emergency situation, you should call your veterinarian immediately. Try to stay calm when you call, and give the vet or the assistant as much information as possible be-fore you leave for the clinic. That way, the staff will be able to take immediate, specific action when you arrive. Emergencies include:
Bleeding or deep wounds

Hyperthermia overheating



Abdominal Pain




Broken bones


Call your veterinarian if you suspect any health troubles.


Dogs are susceptible to several internal parasites. Keeping your Maltese freeof internal parasites is another important aspect of health care.

Watch for general signs of poor condition: a dull coat, weight loss, lethargy,coughing, weakness and diarrhea.

For proper diagnosis and treatment of internal parasites, consult a veterinarian.


Roundworms, or ascarids, are probably the most common worms that affect dogs.Most puppies are born with these organisms in their intestines, which is why youngstersare treated for these parasites as soon as it is safe to do so.

Animals contract roundworms by ingesting infected soil and feces. A roundworminfestation can rob vital nutrients from young puppies and cause diarrhea, vomitingand digestive upset. Roundworms can also harm a young animal's liver and lungs, sotreatment is imperative.


Tapeworms are commonly transmitted by fleas to dogs. Tapeworm eggs enter the bodyof a canine host when the animal accidentally ingests a carrier flea. The parasitesettles in the intestines, where it sinks its head into the intestinal wall and feedsoff material the host is digesting. The worm grows a body of egg packets, which breakoff periodically and are expelled from the body in the feces. Fleas then ingest theeggs from the feces and the parasite's life cycle begins all over ag ain.


Hookworms are so named because they hook onto an animal's small intestine andsuck the host's blood. Like roundworms, hookworms are contracted when a dog ingestscontaminated soil or feces.

Hookworms can be especially devastating to dogs. They will become thin and sick;puppies can die. An affected dog will suffer from bloody diarrhea and, if the parasitesmigrate to the lungs, the dog may contract bronchitis or pneumonia.

Hookworms commonly strike puppies 2 to 8 weeks of age and are less common in adultdogs.


Known for their thread-like appearance, whipworms attach into the wall of thelarge intestine to feed. Thick-shelled eggs are passed in the feces and in abouttwo to four weeks are mature and able to reinfect a host that ingests the eggs.

Mild whipworm infestation is often without signs, but as the worms grow, weightloss, bloody diarrhea and anemia follow. In areas where the soil is heavily contaminated,frequent checks are advised to prevent severe infestation.


Heartworms larvae are transmitted by the ordinary mosquito, but the effects arefar from ordinary. In three to four months, the larvae microfilaria become smallworms and make their way to a vein, where they are transported to the heart, wherethey grow and reproduce.

At first, a dog with heartworms is free of symptoms. The signs vary, but the mostcommon is a deep cough and shortness of breath. The dog tires easily, is weak andloses weight. Eventually, the dog may suffer from congestive heart failure.


Fleas--Besides carrying tapeworm larvae, fleas bite and suck the host'sblood. Their bites itc h and are extremely annoying to dogs, especially if the dogis hypersensitive to the bite. Fleas must be eliminated on the dog with special shampoosand dips. Fleas also infest the dog's bedding and the owner's home and yard.

Ticks--Several varieties of ticks attach themselves to dogs, where theyburrow into the skin and suck blood. Ticks can be carriers of several diseases, includingLyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Three types of ticks l-r: the wood tick, brown dog tick and deer tick.


There are so many safe, effective products available now to combat fleas and ticks that--thankfully--they are less of a problem. Prevention is key, however. Ask your veterinarian about starting your puppy on a flea/tick repellant right away. With this, regular grooming and environmental controls, your dog and your home should stay pest-free. Without this attention, you risk infesting your dog and your home, and you're in for an ugly and costly battle to clear up the problem.

Lice--Lice are not common in dogs, but when they are present they causeintense irritation and itching. There are two types: biting and sucking. Biting licefeed on skin scales, and sucking lice feed on blood.

Mites--There are several types of mites that cause several kinds of mange,including sarcoptic, demodectic and cheyletiella. These microscopic mites cause intenseitching and misery to the dog.

External parasites, intense heat and insect bites and stings can threaten your Maltese.
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