Little dogs are often overlooked in terms of providing them with quality nutrition. Malteses may be considered lap dogs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own set of nutritional needs! Even if a dog isn’t athletic or even particularly active, that doesn’t excuse giving them a poor quality food. In fact, you could say that these little guys need a high-quality diet because they aren’t doing much besides laying around on sofas. If you’ve decided to make a Maltese a member of your family, keep a few of these things in mind as you shop for the perfect food.
Nutritional Requirements for Malteses
If you think about it, a Maltese is small and doesn’t eat that much food. You can easily afford a good quality food for them when they aren’t going to be blowing through a 30 pound bag every month!
Maltese Protein Requirements
Even small dogs need protein! However, because they’re small and generally sedentary, you have to really be careful to avoid weight gain. Too much protein turns into fat, so you don’t want to fall into the trap of various websites recommending you feed your toy breed a high protein food.
Most commercial dog foods have between 21 and 25 percent protein. Unless your dog has special health concerns, whatever higher-end brand you choose will have a sufficient protein ratio. Remember that their bodies can only process so much protein, and there’s no way that a seven pound dog is going to need a food with 31 percent protein. It will only cause weight gain or lead to organ damage (especially for the kidneys).
Maltese Carbohydrates Requirements
This is the macronutrient that will most likely lead to weight gain. Cheaper dogs foods use simple carbs like corn and soy to fill their food. These aren’t necessarily unhealthy for dogs, but they do spike blood sugar and cause a glucose crash once the carbs are metabolized. Simple carbs are also devoid of most nutrition, so it’s just empty calories for a breed that’s already predisposed to being overweight.
Learn to read the labels on the dog food. The first ingredient should always be a protein, and shortly down the list should be some sort of complex carbohydrate like sweet potatoes or brown rice. These supply longer lasting energy and essential nutrients.
Maltese Fat Requirements
Essential fatty acids play a necessary role in the health of your Maltese’s skin and coat. Malteses are known for their long, silky coats, and the best way to maintain the health of their crown jewel is a diet rich in essential fatty acids. These come from oils like fish, flax, or even coconut.
High quality dog food brands are starting to put a sufficient amount of essential fatty acids into their recipes to support skin and coat health. This isn’t found in many brands of food, though, so talk to your vet about adding more fatty acids into your Maltese’s diet to keep their coat long and glossy.
Common Maltese Health Issues that Can Be Prevented With Diet
Good nutrition definitely supports good health, and a proactive approach to health (i.e. quality food, regular veterinary visits, regular exercise) certainly helps prevent some disorders, but it also helps slow the progression of certain diseases. What are some of the most common problems Malteses experience?
Luxating Patellas in Malteses
Luxating patellas are to small dogs as hip dysplasia is to Labradors. Dogs only have two knees (located in their hind legs; they don’t have knees on the front legs), and some dogs are born with wiggly patellas. Luxation means the patella pops out of it’s groove on the femur bone, and it may or may not pop back into place on its own.
Sometimes it’s manageable with anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, and maintaining a good weight on your dog, but some dogs’ luxations are so progressed that the only way to keep the dog comfortable is with surgery.
There’s no way to prevent luxating patellas. It’s genetic or occurs as an ACL tear from activity or small dogs jumping down from heights. You can certainly help support joint health to reduce their risks as much as possible. This means feeding a quality food with essential fatty acids, added joint supplements, and a quality source of protein. It’s extremely important to keep your Maltese at a healthy weight, too. The biggest stress on joints (healthy or not) is excess weight.
Dental Disease in Malteses
It’s rare to find a small breed dog that has naturally pearly whites and fresh smelling breath. Small breeds are notorious for bad oral health, and there’s really nothing you can do as an owner except be proactive in their dental care.
A lot of owners feed their Maltese wet food because they think it’s easier for their dog’s little mouth to chew. This may be true, but if you buy size-appropriate kibble, there’s no reason your dog can’t successfully and easily eat their dry food. Dry kibble is preferable because its natural abrasiveness helps dislodge any developing plaque on their teeth. Wet food encourages the growth of bacteria and plaque, leading to more frequent dental cleanings.
It isn’t uncommon for small breed dogs to need two dental cleanings per year. It doesn’t matter how well you take care of their teeth at home; they really need thorough scalings under general anesthesia to prevent gum disease and loose teeth.
Obesity in Malteses
Obesity is always prevented by diet unless your dog has a thyroid issue or some other underlying health condition. Malteses have low energy requirements, meaning they don’t need a lot of calories to be fully nourished. However, despite their low caloric needs, that doesn’t mean they aren’t happy to eat anything and everything you give them.
Ensure you aren’t overfeeding your Maltese. Once they’re neutered or spayed, their energy needs are going to go way down. Generally the feeding guide on the bag of dog food is a good starting point, but it’s only a guideline. If you think the suggested amount sounds like too much or too little, consult with your veterinarian. Since they know your dog’s health history, they can give you a better idea of what’s a good amount.
Malteses are fantastic little dogs. They’re sweet but counter their love of cuddles with plenty of sass and independence. Their diet won’t affect their personality, but why wouldn’t you want to provide a good quality diet for such an amazing breed?