The Maltese dog rarely weighs more than seven pounds when fully grown. For such a small dog breed to get pregnant and have a natural birth can seem more like a miracle than a medical fact.
Yet these dogs are far hardier than their appearance gives them credit for. They can get pregnant naturally and give birth naturally in the vast majority of cases. One thing that helps is that Maltese typically have small litters.
In this article, learn everything you need to know about how many puppies a Maltese mama dog typically has and what to expect after the puppies are born.
How Many Puppies Do Maltese Have in a Litter?
While Maltese mama dogs can potentially have up to five puppies in a litter, the more typical litter size is one to three puppies. Because the Maltese dog is such a small dog in adulthood, it is safer to have smaller litters.
Watch a Maltese Dog Give Birth to Puppies
While it can be hard to visualize how such a small dog like the Maltese could possibly carry puppies, actually these dogs have been doing so successfully for thousands of years.
Unlike some toy-sized dog breeds, Maltese dogs are perfectly capable of carrying a litter of puppies to term and having a natural birth, as this short video showcases.
The Unique Maltese Heat Cycle
While adult female dogs from many dog breeds will go into heat as often as every six weeks starting as early as four months of age, this is definitely not the case for the Maltese dog breed.
The Maltese typically only goes into heat (is receptive to becoming pregnant) about once every six months.
A Maltese female may have her first heat cycle as early as four months but usually, this doesn’t happen until she is about eight months old.
It is important to wait until a Maltese female has had at least one full heat cycle before making an attempt to breed her. However, because Maltese dogs are so tiny, many breeders feel it is safer to wait until the dog is at least two years old.
What Factors Influence How Many Puppies a Maltese Female Will Deliver?
A number of different factors can come into play in determining how many puppies a mother dog might deliver.
According to Oakland Veterinary Referral Services, the single biggest influencing factor in terms of how many puppies a female dog will have is that dog’s breed.
For general purposes, larger dog breeds tend to have larger litters of puppies.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest litter of puppies ever on record was a whopping 24 puppies. The mother was a giant breed Neapolitan Mastiff.
Compare that with the average size of a litter of Maltese dogs, which is one to three puppies.
Use of in vitro fertilization
But dog breed is not the only factor that can influence how many puppies a female dog of any breed might have.
For people, artificial (in vitro) fertilization in humans is often more likely to produce multiple births.
However, in dogs, the opposite tends to be the case. Veterinarians and breeders believe this is because there is more risk of sperm being less viable when there is a delay in insemination.
Age of the female dog
Yet another factor that can cause the number of puppies in a litter to go up or down is the age of the mother dog. There are two times when a mother dog tends to have smaller litters.
The first time is when the mother dog gets pregnant the first one or two times. The second time is as a mother dog gets older.
However, the litters in between – typically those that are delivered between age two and age five – will be larger than the other litters, if any.
Age of the male (stud) dog
Even another consideration that can influence the size of a litter of Maltese puppies is the age of the male dog.
Older male dogs tend to have less viable sperm. A male dog that breeds between two and five years of age will have the greatest chance of producing a larger littler of puppies for the dam.
Timing of delivery
For some reason that veterinarians and breeders do not fully understand, many dog breeds tend to have larger litters when they give birth in the spring season than in the fall season.
Parent dog health and nutrition
The diet and overall lifestyle of both parent dogs can also influence the size of the litter and the health of the puppies.
When the dam (mother dog) and sire (father dog) are fed a healthy complete and balanced diet and get enough exercise, they are more likely to produce a larger litter of healthy Maltese puppies.
When the mother dog is overweight or obese and does not have a healthy diet and exercise regimen, it is likely the litter will be smaller.
Finally, there is no doubt that genetics can play a part in the size of a Maltese litter. Some dogs simply seem to deliver more puppies even when everything else seems to be equal.
What Happens Once a Maltese Female Dog Gets Pregnant?
The typical gestation period (pregnancy) is around 63 days for female dogs. The average range is from 58 days to 65 days.
A female Maltese that has been bred may start to “show” by as early as two weeks after breeding. Her belly will start to swell a bit as the puppies begin to grow.
She may also start to feel a bit nauseated – morning sickness happens between weeks two and three of pregnancy.
During the third week of pregnancy, the mother dog’s nipples will enlarge, change color, and may start to look longer and fuller. This is due to the start of milk production.
Often the mother dog will start doing her “nesting” behaviors as early as week three. This typically takes place between weeks three and four.
By week four, you will start to see definite behavior changes in your pregnant Maltese. She will be nesting and may start to have mood swings ranging from wanting to be alone to wanting to be everywhere you go.
You will see a visibly distended belly by week four and your Maltese will be starting to gain weight as the puppies grow. It will be important to monitor her food and fluid intake since she may still be feeling nauseated from morning sickness.
You may need to switch her food – always ask your veterinarian for guidance on this.
Five to seven weeks
By weeks five to seven, your Maltese will have a very round tummy and noticeable weight gain. She may be spending more time in her bed or nest and you should be getting the whelping box and whelping supplies prepared.
The best way to know that delivery is imminent is by taking your dog’s temperature. A sudden plunge in body temperature is regarded as a reliable sign that your dog is ready to give birth.
Until that occurs, be sure to keep your Maltese from jumping for her safety and the safety of the puppies. Sequester her away from other pets if they bother her.
You may also want to rearrange your work schedule to be available around the time you expect your Maltese to give birth.
Can You Spay a Maltese Dog In Heat?
One question many new Maltese owners do not even know to ask is whether it is safe to have a female Maltese dog fixed (spayed) while she is having a heat cycle.
The heat cycle in female dogs is much like the menstrual cycle in female humans. There is bleeding internally as the uterus sheds its inner pre-pregnancy lining.
One of the key signs that a female Maltese is starting her first heat cycle is some amount of vaginal bleeding. For many first-time Maltese owners, this can be scary to see.
It is smart to take your dog to the veterinarian just to confirm it is in fact the first heat cycle and not a health issue in the making.
As Whole Dog Journal explains, even if you don’t plan to breed your female Maltese, you don’t want to spay her until the heat cycle has passed because the risk of internal bleeding is much higher.
Breeding your Maltese can be exciting and rewarding. It can also be scary and heart-breaking. What you want to avoid at all costs is an unplanned pregnancy, which can be expensive, dangerous, and stressful for both you and your dog.
Understanding the special challenges of breeding Maltese can help you make the best choice for both you and your female Maltese.