Why is my Maltese dog so skinny? Causes and Treatments

Maltese dogs are a very small breed and as an average do not tend to be overweight. Maltese dogs are also fussy eaters and will turn their nose up at food which does not meet their high standard unless they are really hungry. The first thing you need to do is assess whether or not your Maltese dog is actually underweight. A Maltese dog should weigh between 3 kgs (6.5 lbs) and 4 kgs (9 lbs) as an adult. Generally a female will be at the lower end of that weight and a male towards the upper end of the weight scale. If you have weighed your dog and it is below the 6.5 lbs average minimum weight for a fully grown Maltese dog then you should look at reasons why your dog might be underweight and what you can do about it. This article will help to answer those questions and provide you with some guidance on what to do next.

To address the underweight question there are really two questions which need to be answered for an underweight or skinny Maltese dog. The first question is whether or not your Maltese dog has always been underweight or if it was a sudden loss of weight which has prompted the questions. The second question to answer is what do you need to do for your Maltese dog to help it gain some weight or to address the underlying reason of the sudden weight loss. I have split this article based on those two questions so that you can read the section which will help you the most. If you are interested in sudden weight loss in your Maltese dog then skip ahead to the section on “Has your Maltese dog suddenly lost weight?”.

Has your dog always been underweight and small ?

If your Maltese puppy has always been underweight and skinny there are several reasons which could be the cause. It may just be genetics or it could be an underlying health issue. The main reasons a Maltese dog is underweight and smaller than other Maltese dogs are:

  • Genetics
  • Health Issues
  • Food Amount
  • Poor Quality food

Some Maltese dogs come from a long line of small Maltese and genetics can play a major role in the size of your Maltese dog. If your dog is healthy and alert then there is no reason you should be concerned that your Maltese dog is smaller than the average Maltese dog. If you are concerned that there is something more than genetics which are influencing the weight of your Maltese dog then you should consult your vet who can do a thorough checkup.

There are a variety of health issues which can cause your Maltese puppy to be underweight and skinny or smaller than average size. These issues can include thyroid and liver problems, worms, parasites diabetes, dental issues and even stress and anxiety. These are outlined below in the section on why a Maltese dog can lose sudden weight but it can also be a reason for long term weight loss or long term being unable to gain weight. If you are concerned that your Maltese puppy has an underlying health issue check with your vet and they can do a detailed examination and check up to ensure everything is OK.

The amount of food your Maltese dogs eats will influence their size and weight. Obviously the more food they eat, the more fat they will put on and they will grow. There are some health issues such as diabetes which can cause your dog to eat lots but not put on weight, but in general if your dog eats more they will be larger. You should check the recommended food size on the packet of food which you have as each food is different given the different ingredients. if your Maltese puppy is skinny and they are finishing all their food try giving them a bit more food. If you find they still do not put on weight then you should consult your vet to see if there are any underlying health issues.

The quality and nutrition in the food you feed your Maltese dog can have an impact on how healthy they are and how quickly they will grow as well as retain weight. Poor nutrition in food which are high in fillers will lead to undernourishment and can mean your Maltese puppy does not grow as quickly as it should. It is always a good investment to buy a high quality dog food which is not full of fillers such as oats and barley. It needs to have enough fats and proteins to provide the required vitamins, minerals and content which your Maltese dog requires to thrive and grow. If you suspect your food needs to be changed then give it a go for at least a week. Remember in the short term your dog may not like the new food but they will eventually eat it, generally though the better quality food is also a lot nicer to eat. Also a change in diet can result in stool changes such as diarrhea if this happens ensure that you have enough water available for your Maltese to re-hydrate Kibble is also a much better choice then soft dog food as it is higher in fiber and will fill your Maltese dog quicker. Maltese are notorious for being fussy eaters though so if they will not eat the kibble try adding some soft dog food to it and mix it together.

Check out some of the reasons below as well just in case you feel there could be an underlying health issue which is causing your Maltese to be underweight and skinny.

Young skinny Maltese puppy
Young skinny Maltese puppy

Has your Maltese dog suddenly lost weight?

Sudden weight loss in dogs can be a signal that something health wise is wrong with your dog. If your dog has lost a small amount of weight this may just be due to eating habits and weather. But if the amount of weight your dog is a lot (over 5% of their body weight) then you need to get a vet to assess your Maltese dog. Maltese dogs are small already and sudden weight loss can make them very susceptible to diseases and other health issues. Below is a list of health issues which can cause sudden weight loss in a Maltese dog:

  • Thyroid Issues
  • Diabetes
  • Worms and Parasites
  • Dental Issues
  • Liver Issues
  • Stress and Anxiety

Thyroid problems in Maltese dogs can cause hormone imbalances which can affect your dogs weight. Thyroid issues can make your Maltese either put on weight easily or lose weight easily depending on the imbalance. The only way to identify that the issue is a thyroid problem is to talk to your vet and get some tests done. Thyroid issues can be managed with medication for your Maltese dog once the imbalance is identified. Once you are on medication you should see your Skinny Maltese dog start to put on weight.

Diabetes in a Maltese dog can cause an increased appetite but at the same time weight loss. The reason this happens is because diabetes in your Maltese dog will stop the absorption of sugar from the blood. Diabetes in Maltese dogs is usually seen in older Maltese dogs and is usually the result of genetics. Your vet will be able to diagnose diabetes in your Maltese dog and provide a treatment plan. The treatment plan should help add some weight to your skinny Maltese puppy.

A Maltese dog which is infected with parasites and worms can lose weight dramatically This is because the parasites are depriving the nutrients to your Maltese dog. A common example is the tapeworm A tapeworm lives inside the dogs intestines and will consume the food being eaten by the Maltese puppy instead of it being absorbed by the Maltese’s body. Ensuring that you keep your vaccinations and worming up to date will ensure that most parasites and worms can not use your Maltese puppy as a host. Most parasites and worms can easily be identified by your vet and treated with medication.

Maltese dogs are known to have more dental issues as they grow older. As your Maltese dog ages if can get gum disease, rotten teeth and abscesses inside their mouth. This makes is uncomfortable and painful for your Maltese dog to eat. Your Maltese dog will then steer clear of any hard kibble and only want to eat soft dog food. The lack of eating can cause dramatic and sudden weight loss if your Maltese stops to eat. The only treatment for dental issues is an appointment at the vet where the rotten teeth can be removed. Prevention is the best cure here with dog toothbrushes being the best treatment to keep those teeth clean and free of plaque that cause the tooth decay.

Maltese dogs with Liver disease will have problems breaking down toxins and creating essential carbohydrates and sugars to the rest of the body resulting in them looking skinny and underweight. As the liver is unable to break down the carbs and sugars sufficiently the body will take the energy from the fat deposits causing weight loss, Liver disease is more likely to occur in older Maltese dogs. Your vet will run some tests if they suspect this is the cause and they will be able to prescribe the necessary treatment based on their examination.

Stress and Anxiety can cause sudden changes in a Maltese puppy. if they are scared, nervous or anxious they may not want to eat as they are not hungry, or they may feel too scared to be able to eat. If you suspect your dog is scared, anxious or stressed take them for a walk to try and reset their mind. Also give them a cuddle to them know you are there and its all OK Some dogs become very stressed in thunder storms and when there is fireworks and may not eat. If you are worried they are not eating take them to your vet to get a checkup and explain what is happening. if you take a video of them stressed this may help your vet diagnose the issue and help provide a solution.

Maltese White Shaker Syndrome
Maltese White Shaker Syndrome

How do you put weight on a skinny Maltese dog?

The following tips will help you add weight to your skinny Maltese dog. Each tip tries to fix an underlying reason on why they may be skinny and the effectiveness of the tips for adding weight to a skinny Maltese dog will only work if it addresses the underlying reason for your Maltese dog being underweight. The tips include:

  • Address Health Issues
  • Feed them more food
  • Feed them higher quality food
  • Check their teeth
  • Reduce their stress

The majority of reasons on why a Maltese is skinny will come down to a health concern or a food concern. If you can identify and treat any health concerns first then you are able to ensure that using the other tips will allow maximum effectiveness. Your vet will be able to identify any health reasons on your Maltese dog being underweight and skinny and will be able to provide medication or alternative treatments to help them gain weight. Once these health conditions are under control you can move onto the food tips.

There are two issues with food that can cause your Maltese dog to be skinny. This is the quantity and the quality of the dog food. Obviously if you are not feeding your Maltese dog enough food they will be skinny. Some dogs will not eat all there food which means it can be hard to help them add weight. If this is the case with your Maltese dog then you should try and find a food which they like, which is usually be chicken or a soft dog food and add it into each meal to help them add weight. If you find they only eat the food they like try feeding them there normal dinner first and then when they finish provide them with a desert of the food they like. Chicken is a well known and healthy addition that can help them put on weight. Another trick is to feed them multiple times a day so that they are continuously getting the nutrition If you can get them eating more and they have no underlying health concerns they should start to put on weight unless the food you feed them is poor quality. Some dog foods are lower in quality and full of fillers such as barley and oats which add little nutritional value for your Maltese puppy. look for higher quality foods which are recommended to have a higher concentration of protein and fats. This will help ensure that all of the required nutrients are provided to help your skinny Maltese puppy put on weight.

If your Maltese has a sore mouth it isn’t going eat so ensure that you check your Maltese dogs teeth for plaque and ensure they get a brushing to keep them in top tip health. There are special dog toothbrushes you can buy to clean their teeth. It you notice your Maltese dog has rotten teeth or gum problems contact the vet to get it fixed up as soon as possible.

The last tip is to try and reduce stress on your Maltese dog. If you dog has separation anxiety then feed them in the same room as you. if they are scared of a certain place in the house feed them in their crate or near their favorite spot. If you can reduce the stress it may help to calm them down and they will consume more food.

hairless maltese dog
hairless maltese dog

How did we go answering your questions on why your Maltese dog is skinny?

This article has tried to address as many of the causes of a skinny Maltese dog so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not you need to go see a vet. If you have any concerns though you should always talk to your vet and get them to do a checkup. Have you had a skinny Maltese dog? What was the cause ? Do you have any other suggestions on helping a skinny Maltese dog to put on weight. Let us know in the comments so it can help all our readers.