How Old is the Oldest Maltese Ever?

Written by Kristen Holder
Updated: January 27, 2023
© Plernz/
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Maltese dogs are small and cute, which makes them a popular pet choice. But did you know they also live for a very long time? How old is the oldest Maltese ever? Let’s discuss below.

The oldest Maltese is rumored to have been 20 years old! Although this age is not substantiated, nor is one singular dog crowned the oldest Maltese ever, pet owners have claimed that their dogs reached over 20 years of age.

What is the Oldest Known Pet Maltese Ever?

The Yasmina dog is the oldest known pet Maltese dog. While researchers haven’t determined with 100 percent certainty whether the dog is a Maltese, it has many of the characteristics of one.

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The skeleton of the oldest known Yasmina dog was found in a Roman tomb in Carthage, Tunisia, dating from around 300 CE, along with an older child. The dog was most likely elderly based on skeletal analysis.

The analysis also showed the dog suffered from tooth decay, which would have required special attention when fed. This indicates that a human was closely caring for this animal to keep it alive.

Maltese dogs are mentioned in various Ancient Greek and Roman literature. They originate from the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, which was part of both empires. They have existed for 8,000 years, and there are even texts from before 300 BCE describing them.

Prettiest / Cutest Dogs - Maltese puppy running on grass
Maltese is a toy dog breed. They have unusually long lifespans for canines.


Why Do Maltese Dogs Have a Long Lifespan?

Maltese dogs have a longer lifespan than other dogs because they contract fewer genetic diseases and are tiny dogs. At an average of only seven pounds, Maltese is classified as a toy breed and is one of the most miniature breeds of dogs.

Smaller dogs tend to live longer than larger dogs, but no one is exactly sure why. One theory is that smaller animals die before larger ones due to increased oxidative stress caused by quicker metabolisms. This oxidative stress may be connected to aging, and it has been shown that large dogs age faster than small dogs. This is also why larger dogs succumb to diseases like heart failure or cancer at younger ages than smaller dogs.

Some research has also shown that the DNA of larger dog breeds does not appear as healthy as that of smaller dog breeds. This may be due to how larger dogs have been bred. Larger dogs also seem far more prone to developmental orthopedic diseases that diminish their lifespan.

It’s still a puzzle why small dogs like Maltese live longer than breeds like Great Danes because this is the opposite with several other species. For example, blue whales live much longer than mice, and cats don’t live as long as their humans.

How Old Do Maltese Dogs Get?

The average lifespan for a Maltese is around 15 years old. Females have been known to live about a year longer than their male counterparts. Maltese dogs are considered elderly when they reach 12 years of age, though they may start slowing down around eight years of age.

To give Maltese dogs a better chance of reaching old age, dog owners should take their pets for geriatric checkups twice per year after their dog’s eighth birthday. Since illnesses can arise quickly, a checkup once per year isn’t enough to catch diseases related to old age.

Around 80 percent of Maltese over the age of eight have arthritis. This breed of dog needs to get enough exercise and have a comfortable place to sleep. They may also need help getting up and down the stairs or other furniture if their joints are incredibly stiff.

When a Maltese is 11 years old, it has a 50 percent chance of developing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). Symptoms of CCD include confusion, withdrawal, lethargy, forgetting commands, and sleep disturbances. Dog owners can help alleviate these symptoms by not changing furniture layouts and maintaining a quiet home for their furry friend.

Maltese running through fall leaves
Maltese dogs have silky, elegant fur and on average, they live up to 15 years.

© Dulinskas

Why Maltese are Great for Older Dog Owners

Maltese dogs are one of the best dog breeds for the elderly. While their long white coats need to be brushed daily, Maltese dogs are relatively low-energy breeds and don’t require long walks.

Since they like to hang out and are under a foot in length, they’re great lap dogs. But they are also known to be noisy and reactive, which must be considered. Since they can be excitable dogs, Maltese may not be a good match for someone that trips easily. Maltese are also known to nip at children or other people when overstimulated, so care must be taken if kids visit.

As a toy breed that doesn’t need much space, Maltese is an excellent breed for smaller apartments. They are also a hypoallergenic breed, which means they’re relatively unlikely to cause an allergic reaction in those who are sensitive to dogs. Their coats also do not shed much.

Adopting a mature or elderly dog is a great pet idea for a senior. Many Maltese rescues will readily pair dogs with eligible elders. This relieves the pressure of them having to train a hyperactive puppy that they may not be able to control. Small dogs are easier to manage, which is better for seniors who may not be as strong as they once were.

Maltese dogs easily fit into dog carriers and don’t need to be pulled and directed on a leash. They make great travel companions and can stay at almost all hotels that accept animals under a specific size.

What Dog is the Oldest in the Country of Malta?

The oldest dog in Malta was a fox terrier named Brownie. While Brownie’s age cannot be verified, his owner, Denise Fenech, says he reached 23 in 2020. Sadly, Brownie is no longer with us. He received steroid shots for a time because he wasn’t standing correctly, but he wasn’t in pain. He stopped going on daily walks and spent his last days leisurely enjoying his family home.       

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Teacup Maltese
The teacup Maltese is a cute and cuddly dog; it is an excellent choice for apartment living!
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About the Author

I'm a fact-driven creative with a love of history and an eye for detail. I graduated from the University of California, Riverside in 2009 with a BA in Art History after a STEM-focused high school career. Telling a complex story with real information in a manner that's easy to digest is my talent. When I'm not writing for A-Z Animals, I'm doting on my 3 cats while I watch documentaries and listen to music in Romance languages.

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