Maltese puppies make ideal pets for people in search of a small, friendly dog. Their long, luxurious white coats require frequent grooming. Their small size -- they typically weigh less than 7 pounds, according to the American Kennel Club -- may prove problematic if you're used to bigger dogs. They often have plucky personalities that belie their stature, making them prone to barking. In addition to these issues, you should be aware of common medical conditions that affect the Maltese breed.
Hepatic Microvascular Dysplasia
Hepatic microvascular dysplasia is a liver-related disorder that affects the Maltese breed. It occurs when blood vessels within the liver become abnormal. Because the liver can't filter toxins from the body as it should, the toxins stunt the dog's brain activity. This results in a quiet, seemingly unintelligent animal. The dog may also be a runt, or smaller in size than normal. Signs of this disorder include diarrhea, bladder stones, seizures and vomiting. Liver failure can occur.
In a healthy Maltese, the liver processes blood from the intestines to remove toxins; in a Maltese with a portosystemic shunt, a shunt diverts the unfiltered blood to the circulatory system, bypassing the liver. A Maltese dog typically inherits this condition.
Small breeds, including the Maltese, are prone to patellar luxation, or dislocated kneecaps. With this congenital condition, the bone that protects the dog's knee joint shifts out of place. A Maltese that suffers from a luxating patella may limp or become completely lame. Surgery is typically required to repair the problem.
Legg-Calve-Perthes syndrome occurs when the head of a Maltese dog's femur bone degenerates. This leads to problems with the dog's hips and hindquarters, which can lead to limping. Onset typically begins when the Maltese is around 6 months old. Treatment involves surgically removing the femoral head and creating a new joint.
Maltese puppies are prone to a genetic condition in which their trachea collapses or flattens. This leads to labored breathing, coughing and lack of energy. Treatment consists of keeping the dog on a strict diet, restricting its activity and administering antibiotics and other medications to open the trachea.