It seems fitting that a dog as beautiful as the Maltese would take the name of its equally beautiful homeland, the island of Malta. These cheerful little dogs have captured the hearts of people across the world. However, the breed does have a number of common health concerns, which is why you should be sure to feed them the best dog food for Maltese dogs.
These dogs look like little teddy bears, and it’s no wonder that they continue to top the charts in popularity. While they are tiny, their nutritional needs can be quite specific. Due to their small size and varying activity level, it can be challenging to find the right diet for them.
The Maltese is a toy breed that weighs less than 7 pounds. It is most recognizable by its long, flowing, silky white hair. Their hair is the breed’s hallmark and it feels like human hair. The Maltese is a very loyal lap-dog, better with older children and excellent urban apartment companions.
Their activity level can vary wildly, but they are typically active enough for a brisk morning stroll and tug-of-war with a rope toy. Many Malteses are reported to live up to 15 years.
Because this is such a popular dog breed, I work with many Maltese owners in my veterinary practice. Over the years, I've found a number of commercial dog food products that work very well for this breed. These are the brands I'll be recommending in this article:
|Maltese Dog Food Brands||Price||Value||Rating|
|Hill’s Prescription Diet Digestive Care i/d||$$$$$||$0.55/oz||3.8/5|
|Nutro Limited Ingredient Fish and Potato Premium||$$$||$0.19/oz||4.3/5|
|Hill’s Ideal Balance Chicken & Zucchini Stew Adult||$$$||$0.20/oz||4.6/5|
|Natural Balance Whole Body Health||$$$||$0.17/oz||4.2/5|
|Royal Canin X-Small Puppy Dry Food||$$$$||$4.81/lb||4.6/5|
|Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition Maltese Adult||$$$$$||$14.33/lb||3.9/5|
|Nutro Hearty Stews Lamb and Rice Adult Canned||$$$||$0.16/oz||4.0/5|
|Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ Chicken||$$$||$0.15/oz||4.1/5|
|Purina Pro Plan Additions Chicken and Berries Puree||$$$$$||$1.28/oz||4.1/5|
* Click on the best Maltese dog food for more information and prices or scroll down below for more details
When choosing the best dog food for Maltese dogs, you also need to take the breed's common health concerns into consideration. The Maltese is generally a healthy breed, but may have a few specific health issues or concerns. Some of these conditions may be managed with a specific diet.
If you are interested in food therapy for your Maltese’s condition, please talk to your veterinarian. It is imperative that you consult an expert, like your vet or a trained canine nutritionist, before trying to treat any health conditions via diet. If not done properly, a change in nutrition could actually do damage to your dog's overall health and well-being.
Best Dog Food for Maltese
10 vet recommended brands
How to Feed a Maltese
Before switching your dog to any new diet, always consult with a veterinarian. Remember that no article on the internet, including this one, can replace a consultation with a vet.
Common health conditions in Maltese Dogs
Despite being a generally healthy, long-lived breed, the Maltese can suffer from breed-associated medical problems. Some of these can be helped, treated or even prevented by the help of appropriate nutrition. If your Maltese suffers from these issues, talk to your veterinarian for additional guidance.
It is important to have your Maltese evaluated if vomiting or diarrhea are common occurrences. Some Maltese dogs that experience tummy troubles are diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), while others are not.
IBD is a catch-all term that describes a complex interaction between the dog’s intestinal microflora, their genetic makeup, the immune system, and possible environmental triggers. About 50% of dogs with chronic digestive issues and IBD experience improvement after changing to a special diet.
Talk to our veterinarian about what diet might be best for your Maltese. IBD patients typically undergo food trials to determine if a food sensitivity or intolerance is a piece of the puzzle. Sometimes biopsy results will help guide your veterinarian to the right diet.
Often, if this is not done, veterinarians start with a low-fat, highly digestible diet first. In this case, I would recommend Hill’s Prescription Diet Digestive Care i/d Rice, Vegetable and Chicken Stew as the best dog food for Maltese dogs.
Many dogs with IBD improve when they make the switch to i/d. It is highly digestible and enriched with prebiotics, ginger and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Maltese dogs have a very small mouth and are predisposed to dental disease, making this hearty, tasty stew a good choice.
Novel protein diets such as Royal Canin Veterinary Diets Venison and Potato Recipe are often selected, as they are the least likely to provoke an immune response. If your veterinarian suspects a food intolerance as a cause of IBD, it is important to select a trusted veterinary prescription diet that only contains one novel protein (such as venison) and one novel carbohydrate (such as potato).
While other pet food companies sell limited ingredient diets, these are not as appropriate as prescription diets for IBD dietary therapy. Many over-the-counter brands are not able to dedicate manufacturing solely for that particular line – so cross-contamination of allergens is possible.
Royal Canin also manufactures its hypoallergenic and novel protein diets in separate facilities from other lines that may contain allergens. Maltese dogs have very small mouths and often have dental issues, making the Venison and Potato canned diet a tasty, easy to eat option.
If your Maltese has occasional bouts of tummy troubles and has not been diagnosed with IBD or similar digestive issues, it is a good idea to provide proper digestive support through diet. A good option for otherwise healthy Maltese dogs is Nutro Limited Ingredient Fish and Potato Premium Loaf.
Nutro has a fantasticly tasty canned loaf diet that can improve digestion in certain dogs. While this is a step down from a prescription novel protein/carbohydarte diet, it is a good place to start. The fish in the diet provide easily digested protein and omega-3 essential fatty acids for a healthy, luxurious coat.
Floating Kneecaps – Medially Luxating Patella
Toy breeds like the Maltese are prone to developing floating kneecaps. Medially luxating patellas (floating kneecaps) happen when the kneecap pops out of place, often causing pain and eroding the protective cartilage of the knee.
Toy breeds often have very short legs, and their legs are very straight. The straightness of their legs can cause a “conformational abnormality” where their bones meet at the knee. This can make it difficult for the knee cap to sit in the grooves of the tibia where it belongs.
It can pop out of place very easily in some cases, causing limping or hopping when walking, pain and early-onset of osteoarthritis. MPL is graded – with Grade 1 being least severe to Grade 4 being most severe and likely requiring surgical repair.
Over a lifetime, this knee problem can cause significant cartilage degradation and early arthritis. Keeping your dog in top, lean condition will help prevent excess strain on their knees.
For adult Malteses with mild (Grade 1-2) luxating patellas, a joint-protecting diet can help protect their joints. I recommend Hill’s Ideal Balance Chicken & Zucchini Stew Adult as the best dog food for Maltese dogs in this situation.
This food looks as good as it sounds. It contains age-appropriate nutrition in an easily chewed and digested format. It also contains antioxidants (cranberries), chondroitin sulfate for joint health and flaxseed for an omega-3 boost.
Maltese puppies look like tiny, adorable polar bears. They stay super tiny, so it is important to provide them with adequately timed and formulated meals. It is best if you can adopt a Maltese puppy once they are 10 weeks old.
If you happen to get one that has been weaned younger, it is important to know about Toy Breed Hypoglycemia. Until your Maltese puppy is 8-10 weeks old, he will require frequent meals. If your puppy goes too many hours between meals, he could suffer from potentially life-threatening low blood sugar.
The best way to prevent this is to feed a tasty, canned puppy food every 2-4 hours until your pup is 8-10 weeks old. Maltese puppies have a hard time eating dry food, since even small-bites formulas seem to be too big for them to handle.
It is perfectly fine to feed your puppy canned food until they reach 3-4 pounds body weight, then start introducing a dry puppy or adult food. As the best dog food for Maltese dogs that weigh less than 4 pounds, I recommend Natural Balance Whole Body Health Chicken, Duck and Brown Rice Puppy Canned Formula.
Natural Balance has made a tasty canned diet that is easily fed to tiny puppies. It is fortified with vitamin-rich colostrum, high-quality protein from real duck and chicken, and essential fatty acid DHA for puppy brain development.
If your older puppy prefers a crunchy kibble, it is fine to switch them to dry-food only or do a mixture of canned and dry. A favorite small bites food of mine is Royal Canin X-Small Puppy Dry Food.
Royal Canin’s X-Small puppy dry food is formulated with your tiny Maltese in mind. Their kibble shape and size is made to ensure that your puppy has an easier time picking it up, chewing and swallowing. As these dogs are prone to digestive issues as they get older, the addition of prebiotics in this best dog food for Maltese will help promote healthy GI tract function.
Malteses become adults around 10-12 months of age. At this time, it is best to switch them to an adult food. Malteses, like other toy breeds, are prone to developing dental disease at an early age. It is a myth that normal dry dog food will help keep their teeth healthy.
If your dog likes dry food, certainly continue feeding a high quality dog food. If they prefer canned, this is okay too. Talk to your veterinarian about how you can keep your Maltese’s dental care up-to-date.
If your Maltese is eating Royal Canin X-Small, it is a good idea to transition them to Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition Maltese Adult Dry Formula. Royal Canin’s Maltese dry food is very similar to their X-Small line of adult dog foods. The primary difference is in the kibble shape and composition.
The kibble itself can deter certain dogs from eating dry food – if it is too big for their mouth, too firm or an awkward shape. The kibble shape promotes proper digestion where digestion begins – with proper chewing.
If your Maltese prefers canned or wet food, or if they are a picky eater– don’t despair! For dogs in this category, I recommend Nutro Hearty Stews Lamb and Rice Adult Canned as the best dog food for Maltese dogs.
Nutro’s Hearty Stews line does not disappoint when it comes to nutrition and taste. This canned formula is available in several different meats, including lamb, chicken and turkey. It also contains a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for joint health.
As your Maltese grows older, it will be necessary to provide them with a tasty, consistent diet rich in high-quality protein and antioxidants. As mentioned before, many dogs will suffer with dental disease in their lifetime and some may not have many teeth as they approach their Golden Years.
With this in mind, I recommend canned food such as Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ Chicken and Barley Entrée as the best dog food for Maltese in their senior years. The inclusion of barley into this formula is fantastic for seniors over the age of 7. Many Malteses become overweight into their senior years and ingredients can help them to maintain a healthy weight.
Barley is an ingredient that has been clinically shown to help pets maintain consistent, adequate blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy weight. Obviously, it's a great ingredient to add to the best dog food for Maltese. This diet is complete and tasty on its own or can be mixed with dry food.
Around the age of 6, it is a good idea to start supplementing your Maltese’s diet with natural, whole-foods sources of antioxidants. As your pup gets older, these antioxidants will help to support cellular function and they may age a little more gracefully.
A good line to consider are meal enhancements from Purina, like Purina Pro Plan Additions Chicken and Berries Puree. There a variety of additions that you can squeeze onto the best dog food for Maltese dogs in their senior years. Some contain high levels of naturally-derived antioxidants from fresh foods like blueberries and pumpkin.
Others provide digestive support with fiber and prebiotics. If your senior is recovering from an illness or a picky eater, these additions can help keep them well-nourished and satisfied.
The Doggy Bag – Take Home Message
All dogs live the longest, healthiest lives when they are kept in a leaner body condition, receive life-stage-appropriate balanced nutrition and routine veterinary care.
Regardless of which dog food you choose for your furry family member, it is important to follow feeding instructions carefully and consult with your veterinarian if you are concerned about your dog’s health or nutrition.