Maltese Pregnancy: Gestation Period, Weekly Milestones, and Care Guide

Written by Kaleigh Moore
Updated: July 25, 2023
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Maltese dogs are highly favored by numerous dog owners. At first glance, this adorable bundle of fur is an absolute joy to behold. Moreover, their playful demeanor makes them exceptional companions, even in households with older children.

The hypoallergenic Maltese are what some people would refer to as toy dog breeds. Some trace their heritage to the spitz-type dogs, but their origin remains a mystery. Historians have found traces of the Maltese breed in different places, including Egypt, Sicily, and Southern Europe. However, extensive research has pinpointed Malta as one of the earliest locations where the breed was developed. 

One of the most distinct characteristics of a Maltese dog is the cost of owning one. If you’re fortunate, you can find one that is within the range of $600. Yet, it’s common to find some selling for as high as $10,000. So, this lovely family puppy can be a fantastic money source if you plan on selling the pups. And the best way to ensure a healthy litter is by understanding the Maltese pregnancy journey. 

We have prepared a comprehensive guide with valuable information on gestation, important weekly milestones to monitor, and a helpful care guide to assist you throughout the process.

Maltese Pregnancy 

A female Maltese can become pregnant immediately after she enters puberty. In this dog breed, that’s anywhere from 4 to 8 months of age. Watch out for signs that she is entering the first heat or estrus cycle. You’ll notice the following:

The first stage of the heat cycle is the proestrus, characterized by:

  • Swollen vulva: in the initial heat cycle stages, there’ll be a slight swelling on the vulva. As the Maltese go deeper into the cycle, the vulva can become two or three times larger than usual. 
  • A light pink or dark red discharge on her beddings or where she rests. Investing in some doggie diapers is a good idea because the discharge amount can be significant over time within the heat cycle.  

However, at this stage, the female Maltese is not quite ready to mate. 

The second stage is the estrus, signaling the female’s receptiveness to mating. You’ll notice:

  • Behavioral changes where the Maltese female aggressively looks for mates. Keep the doors locked because she can dash out of the house when the hormones are raging within her system. 
  • Increased attention from male dogs who can smell a female going through the heat cycle. 
  • Lightning of the discharge to sometimes almost no color at all. Now’s the time to introduce the intended mate to her. Raising her tail is just another indicator that she’s ready. 

The heat cycle typically lasts for about 21 days or three weeks. But, the female is most fertile in about week two. Thus, the pregnancy window should be around 7 to 10 days within the active discharge period.  

It will be good to consult your veterinarian if you want a successful mating. They’ll run specific tests, such as progesterone level checks, to better understand the ovulation stage.  

The third stage is the metestrus and anestrus stage

  • A look at the female Maltese’s reproductive and sexual organs shows they’re returning to normal. 
  • Metestrus shows a decline in corpus luteum functions in medical terms due to a lack of conception. 
  • Anestrus is a non-breeding period characterized by reproductive organs in a quiescent state. 

At this point, your loving pup returns to her old self and no longer displays any interest in mating.  

A Maltese dog.

Females are able to conceive as soon as they hit puberty. Keep an eye out for the telltale signs of her first heat cycle!

©iStock.com/Laures

Should you breed at the first heat cycle?

You should hold off breeding your female Maltese at her first heat cycle. Remember, some go into estrus as early as four months of age. Currently, her body is not yet at adult size, which includes the full pelvic width. Pregnancy can be overwhelming for her body. Her eggs are also unlikely to have reached the proper maturity for a successful pregnancy. 

For higher chances of successful pregnancies, allow the Maltese to reach at least two years of age, translating to her third heat cycle. 

Maltese Gestation Period and Weekly Milestones 

A Maltese pregnancy lasts about 63 to 65 days, translating to 9 weeks. Yet, like humans, the little ones can decide to exit before the gestation period ends. That means premature births are common, even at eight weeks. There isn’t much difference in pregnancy with all the other dog breeds. The weekly milestones are as follows. 

Week 1

Egg fertilization signifying successful mating occurs in week 1. Nothing noticeably significant. Your lovable pooch will remain the same fun animal you have always known. 

Week 2

The fertilized embryos make their way to the uterus and start developing. On the outside, your Maltese still shows no signs of pregnancy.  

A Maltese dog lying on the grass.

During the second week, a Maltese dog shows no signs of pregnancy.

©Carnivorka/Shutterstock.com

Week 3

Your ball of fur is developing a noticeable appetite. If you think she’s pregnant but are not sure, a blood test will let you know the answer. 

If confirmed, now’s a good time to start providing a nutritious and balanced diet that is critical to supporting the growth and development of the fetuses. Internally, the fetus is beginning to develop, but there won’t be any noticeable changes to her tummy.  

Week 4

If you have some experience with dog pregnancy, you may feel the fetus with a simple tummy palpation. An ultrasound can also provide further confirmation. 

A look at the nipples will show some signs of swelling. There’s also a slight discharge, which is not easy to detect as it’s a clear discharge.  

Week 5

There’s no more hiding the pregnancy. The tummy is noticeably more prominent, and the litter is growing well. A scan would show some whiskers, feet, and claws. And yes, you can get to know the sexes as well. What an exciting time for human-dog parents!  

A Maltese dog with its tongue waging out.

The tummy is noticeably more prominent during week 5.

©Dora Zett/Shutterstock.com

Week 6

The mommy-to-be is eating right now, so stock up on plenty of dog food. Indications that the puppies’ arrival is imminent include the presence of larger and darker nipples compared to their usual appearance. 

The female Maltese will also display nesting behavior. The nesting habit characterizes in different ways. For example, the pregnant Maltese will start to arrange blankets and pillows in specific places and ways. 

Also, she may dig particular areas and create a nest-like structure with these materials. During this time, the Maltese will be secretive and seek seclusion away from people. That’s a form of preparation for the babies you should not interfere with. It is an instinct, like you would when preparing the baby’s room for its arrival. 

Week 7

The pups are now quite big, and their skeletons are hardening. The mother’s tummy shows advanced signs of pregnancy like the fur falling off the tummy area in readiness for birthing. Keep up with feeding; the pregnant mom needs the energy. 

Week 8

Remember, we said some pups might arrive as early as week 8. At this point, you should be on high alert for labor. You can bet she’s also ready to give birth and is always searching for a suitable place to deliver.   

We can also hazard that the pups have had enough of being inside the tummy, as they seem pretty active in her tummy.  

Maltese dog

During week 8, some pups may arrive early. It helps to be on high alert for labor.

©reery / flickr – License

Week 9

D-Week has arrived. The mom-to-be will eat less, but the nesting will increase. It doesn’t hurt to have the vet on standby, but she should be able to deliver naturally. Labor in dogs can last anywhere from 13 to 48 hours. And the puppies tend to take their time to enter the world because they can come 30 minutes to two hours apart.  

Signs of Labor

Signs that the Maltese mom-to-be is in labor include the following:-

  • Restless behavior
  • Refusal to eat
  • Nesting or hiding 
  • Increase in or excessive panting
  • Vomiting

Signs of distress necessitating the calling in of the vet include:-

  • Labor that extends to over 24 hours
  • More than 2 hours between the deliveries of each pup
  • Extreme straining, without delivering within 30 minutes
  • When the puppy is stuck and unable to come out 

Taking Care of the Pregnant Maltese

Anyone who owns a Maltese will tell you these dogs can be high-maintenance. You have to keep up with brushing their coats to avoid matting. Regular bathing and nail trimming are also critical. 

And, in pregnancy, you need to step things up a notch. Your pregnant Maltese is in a delicate stage, and taking extra good care of her is essential. So, take note of the following care guide tips. 

Nutrition

Good nutrition is a must for a suitable litter of healthy puppies. Focus on high-quality and well-balanced diets. During the pregnancy, there will be fluctuations in appetite. Stick to appropriate food amounts because overfeeding can lead to problems such as:-

  • Obesity or significant weight gain for both mother and pups, leading to complications during delivery.
  • Whelping difficulties that make the delivery process incredibly challenging for the mother. The inability to give birth naturally can result in a cesarean section with its after-delivery complications.
  • Gestational diabetes affects the mother’s blood sugar levels resulting in pregnancy and delivery complications.
  • Huge puppies that’ll not come out naturally, thus needing veterinary intervention. Avoid giving the pregnant mother too much calcium, which may result in eclampsia and labor difficulties. The newborns may also have joint abnormalities due to calcium deposits. 
A Maltese puppy on the floor with oranges nearby.

Focus on high-quality and well-balanced diets during pregnancy for a healthy litter.

©iStock.com/Foto-front

Exercise

Sufficient exercise is critical to maintaining the muscle structure and endurance that’ll be critical during labor. But, like in the case of humans, it should be manageable. Keep up with regular walks and slot in plenty of rest time. 

Vet Care

Regular check-ups are critical for monitoring the mother’s health and the puppy’s development. The vet will advise on any treatments and dietary needs for the mom-to-be. They may also recommend the introduction of calcium-rich foods from about week 6. But don’t make this decision on your own for the reason we shared above.  

Finally, avoid chemical treatments like tick or flea solutions without the go-ahead from the vet. 

Nesting

By nature, the Maltese will go through the nesting process instinctually. But you can also help by ensuring she has a comfortable bed in a warm, clean, and safe environment. From about week 5, keep the pregnant Maltese away from other dogs, especially males, to avoid stressing her. You want to do the same post-delivery until the pups are about four weeks old. 

Maltese Pregnancy: Signs to Watch Out For

In the worst-case scenario, the Maltese pregnancy will not go as smoothly as you’d hoped. That’s why it’s essential to always watch her closely. Please seek immediate help from your veterinarian if you notice any of the following:

Vaginal Bleeding

A bit of vaginal bleeding may not be anything to worry about. However, if it’s significant or quite persistent, this is a cause for serious concern. It may be indicative of uterine infections or placental problems requiring intervention from the vet.

A white Maltese standing .

Significant or persistent vaginal bleeding during pregnancy is cause for serious concern.

©Tomsickova Tatyana/Shutterstock.com

Loss of Appetite

As the pregnancy progresses, you notice a significant improvement in the Maltese’s appetite. But a loss or decrease in appetite may signify an illness or complication. 

Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

Slightly bloody or clear discharge is common, especially in the early Maltese pregnancy stages. However, excessive discharge accompanied by a foul smell or weird color like green requires immediate evaluation by the vet.

Weakness or Lethargy

Lethargy or signs of weakness may indicate pregnancy distress or other complications such as pregnancy toxemia or infections. 

Abdominal Pain

Excessive restlessness, loss of appetite, abnormal posture, and bowel movement changes may signify abdominal pain. Seek immediate attention for the pregnant Maltese. 

Prolonged Labor

The Maltese may suffer from dystocia or birthing difficulty. You can tell this if the mother experiences extended labor without producing a pup. 

Stillborn or Distressed Puppies

Distressed puppies present as unresponsive and unable to breathe on their own. Multiple stillbirths are a sign of serious complications requiring immediate intervention by the vet.   

Post-Delivery Care

After successful delivery, the new mom and pups will need postnatal care, including:

  • A clean, calm environment for the mom and pups. The mother needs to bond with the litter and can only do so without external interference. So, yes, everyone wants to see and touch the young’uns but minimize such interactions until they are about four weeks old. 
  • Proper nutrition for the lactating Maltese to aid in milk production and recovery. 
  • Constant monitoring for signs of distress, pain, or abnormal behavior in the female. Also, watch the puppies to check their health and development. Are they, for instance, latching on properly, ensuring they are getting enough food?  
  • Vet checks for routine postnatal check-ups and treatments like deworming and vaccinations.   
A cute white Maltese dog .

After delivery, the new mom and pups require postnatal care.

©Plernz/Shutterstock.com

The Exciting Maltese Pregnancy Journey to a Healthy Litter of Pups

It is exciting to see your beloved Maltese become a mom to a healthy litter of pups. And the best way to see this come to fruition is to offer all the help you can give without interfering with the natural birthing process. 

The female Maltese is ready to give birth about four months after entering the first heat cycle. But please allow her to reach a maturity age of about two years for an uncomplicated pregnancy and healthy pups.  Learn how to read the heat cycle signs, as highlighted above. If there’s a successful mating, do all you can to support the Maltese pregnancy. 

In addition to ensuring a nutritious diet, it is crucial to include regular veterinary check-ups in the care of your Maltese. Providing a safe environment for your furry companion is imperative, both during pregnancy and after delivery, as postnatal care is equally significant.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Arthur Lookyanov/Shutterstock.com

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