"Teacup" Maltese Puppies

    One of the most common things I get phone calls and emails for are “Tea Cup Maltese”.  When I get these calls I have several things go through my head.

    First of all, the person saying that is not aware of the AKC Maltese Breed Standard.  The AKC Maltese standard states that the “Maltese is to be under 7 pounds 4-6 pounds preferred but overall quality to be favored over size.”  The Maltese is a toy breed in the Toy breed class of AKC registered breeds. 

 There is not three sizes as there is in the Poodle. 
Secondly, I realize that these people has been surfing the internet and have gotten their information from puppy mill breeder sites and puppy mill brokers who use this term to sell tiny Maltese puppies and have created this name for the small Maltese.
            Thirdly, I realize that people do not realize that what they may end up with is a VERY sick little Maltese puppy.

     The Maltese breed like any other breed does have things that arise and can endanger the health of a Maltese puppy.  A Maltese puppy can be small and be healthy but a good reputable breeder will not sell or advertise “teacup puppies”.  Also if the puppy is very small a good breeder will explain to you why the puppy is small and will offer a health guarantee in writing on that puppy.  If you do find a small healthy Maltese puppy be sure to ask your breeder about Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).  It is a very severe to small puppies that can kill them.  The Maltese puppies blood sugar can drop when a puppy is stressed and non eating well. Be sure they are eating several times a day and/or give them Nutri-Cal  a couple of times a day to keep the blood sugar up.

  Below are some things that can effect the size of a Maltese puppy, and make the puppy stay small, one or more of these illnesses could cause the Maltese puppy  to stay small and possibly die after the puppy goes to a new home, the  person who desired a “teacup Maltese puppy” may have an incredible heartache to face.

  • Toxocara canis (roundworm) - very common in dogs and cats and are often acquired from the mother before birth while unborn pups and kittens are still in the uterus. They can cause diarrhea, stunted growth, a poor, scruffy coat and ‘pot bellies’ in puppies and kittens.

  •  Liver Shunts- During gestation the placenta delivers blood with food and oxygen from the mother through the umbilical vein. This means that in the fetus, circulation is the reverse of circulation after birth, because the fetus' veins have the oxygenated blood and arteries return unoxygentated blood to the heart. In order to make this work, there is a shunt from the liver venous circulation to the arterial circulation. At birth, the pressure within the circulatory system changes as respiration occurs and this shuts the shunt, which eventually disappears. If this reverse in circulation doesn't happen for some reason, the liver is deprived of a blood supply and doesn't develop properly after birth. Many puppies can live with the small functioning portion of the liver for some time but eventually have problems and usually die if the situation is uncorrected. It is possible to surgically close the shunt and the surgery works well. I can remember hearing of one sheltie that was 6 years of age (or possibly older) before a congenital liver shunt was recognized, so some dogs can live a long time with this problem.

           Michael Richards, DVM

  • Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)- The ductus arteriosus is a blood vessel that connects the two main arteries of the body — the aorta and the pulmonary artery. This blood vessel is normal in the fetus, but shortly after birth, it should close. When the ductus arteriosus remains open or patent after birth, this abnormal communication between the aorta and pulmonary artery passes extra volumes of blood into the lungs.

    Patent ductus arteriosis (PDA) is a birth defect representing the second most common congenital heart defect of dogs. Approximately seven out of 1000 live birth puppies are affected.

    Generally, there are no serious symptoms of PDA unless congestive heart failure has caused fluid buildup in the lungs. The condition is typically identified in puppies during a routine veterinary visit for vaccinations. Continual blood flow through the PDA into the lungs produces a continuous (machinery) heart murmur.

    Even when the veterinarian identifies a PDA, most people believe their dog is normal. In some cases, the dog can be smaller than littermates or play less vigorously. However, the situation can be very misleading as symptoms usually occur within a year of diagnosis. If untreated, about 60 percent of affected dogs die within a year of diagnosis.

·  Hydrocephalus -"water on the brain," occurs when excessive fluid accumulates within the skull or the fluid passages within the brain. This fluid accumulation produces increased pressure on the brain. Signs of hydrocephalus may include an enlarged head, prominent forehead, lack of coordination, impaired vision, mental dullness and convulsions. Animals with mild cases may not show all these signs and may only appear abnormal in times of stress, excitement or head trauma. Hydrocephalus is usually present at or before birth (congenital) and may be inherited (passed from one generation to another). The disease is most common in small breeds with dome- or apple-shaped heads, such as Chihuahuas. Mild cases of hydrocephalus can be treated with medication and careful supervision to prevent stress and head injury. Some severe cases are treated surgically. The doctor will discuss the advisability and outlook for surgery with you.

        The Maltese breed is a pretty hardy happy little dog when bred with care and raised with love.  No Maltese puppy should go to a new home before 12 weeks old.  Ask the breeder about a written health guarantee and also if you could verify the puppies health with the breeders vet.  It is better to ask these things to be sure you are dealing with a reputable breeder.  A good breeder with provide the vets clinic name and  phone number to contact.  If the breeder is rude or touchy then don't walk but run the other way, they are more than likely hiding something! 

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