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The Teacup Maltese: Your Complete Guide To The Tiniest Royal Companion

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

teacup maltese

Teacup Maltese give Chihuahuas a run for their money as the most miniature dogs in the world. A standard Maltese dog is already remarkably tiny at 7 to 11 inches, so you can only imagine how tiny the bite-sized teacup or micro Maltese is. 

Who wouldn’t fall for the charms of this pocket-sized fluff ball? They are as adorable within as without, with their trusting and lively personalities in a limited-edition little body and silky white coat. However, it’s always vital to research before getting any dog, especially the teacup varieties.

This article explores what you need to know about Teacup Maltese, such as health, temperament, and maintenance. We also answer questions like how much a puppy costs and how big a Teacup Maltese gets. Tiny dog variations have been under scrutiny in recent decades because people question if the health risks are worth breeding for size. We cover this and more.

History and Origins of the Maltese 

Standard Maltese are ancient dogs, but their exact place of origin still takes a bit of guesswork. They may have originated from either Sicily, Egypt, or Southern Europe. However, most experts agree that Malta is their most probable origin, hence the name Maltese.

They are one of several “”bichon”” type dogs found in the Mediterranean for thousands of years, including others like Bichon Frise, Bolognese, and Havanese. Popular opinion suggests the ancient Phoenicians brought them to Malta around 1000 BC when they colonized the area. 

They were bred for companionship in Malta, especially among ladies of leisure as their comfort dogs and were often popular amongst royalty in Europe. This tiny, luxurious pup was also called “”Ye Ancient Dogge of Malta,” They maintained their status as luxury companions for centuries. Their popularity kept skyrocketing after their first exhibition in the U.S. in 1877. 

Where Did the Teacup Maltese Come From?

Teacup versions of many breeds, like the Teacup Pomsky, Teacup Havanese, Maltese, and Bichon Frises, are only a few decades old. Breeders put a premium on these pups because their tiny size makes the already toy breed even cuter by exaggerating their small size.

However, the ethics of teacup breeding has been questioned for as long as they’ve existed. There are three primary ways of getting teacup dogs: crossbreeding with an even smaller dog, dwarfism, and breeding the most miniature dogs together (usually runts) to breed even smaller dogs. 

To get the signature Maltese appearance and coloring, the breeders likely choose to only breed the most miniature dogs. If they prioritize breeding their dogs for extreme proportions, they may sacrifice health and good temperaments in the process. So it’s crucial to look for an ethical breeder before purchasing any teacup Maltese puppies.

What Does A Teacup Maltese Look Like?

  • Height: 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm)
  • Weight: 3 to 5 pounds (1 to 2 kg)
  • Lifespan: 12 to 15 years
  • Color: All white, white with cream or lemon markings on the ears
  • Coat: Long and silky single coat
  • Nose & eyes: Dark brown eyes and black nose 

How Big Is A Teacup Maltese?

Cute as a button, Teacup Maltese should only differ from a regular Maltese in size. A Teacup Maltese is only 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) tall and weighs only 3 to 5 pounds (1 to 2 kg). A normal Maltese already has a very slight frame at about 7 to 9 inches tall and less than 7 pounds.



The Maltese have a famous show-stopping floor-length coat that looks nothing short of royalty. However, many keep their coat clipped in a shorter “puppy cut, ” making them look like snow-white teddy bears. They can also have a medium-length cut to make them easier to groom.

Their small heads, tiny floppy ears, and tufted tails that curl over their backs make them look like mini stuffed animals. They are primarily white with silky, long hair, although they can have cream or lemon markings around the ears. 

General Care of a Teacup Maltese 

  • Shedding: Very little 
  • Exercise: 30 minutes of exercise 
  • Trainability: Easy to train because of their intelligence and willingness to please 
  • Temperament: Easy-going, affectionate, loyal, alert, playful, lively, intelligent 


Though delicate, Teacup Maltese have lots of energy for their size and enjoy playtime. However, their small size limits how much they can exercise.

Housing Needs

The Teacup Maltese live well in apartments because of their small size. A small yard would be a bonus to help them exercise more, but it is optional. 

Exercise Needs

Short walks for about 20 to 30 minutes are generally enough exercise for the teacup Maltese. Remember to invest in a quality no-pull harness to protect these dogs’ fragile throats and tracheas. Also, keep their exercise sessions short to avoid fatigue and low blood sugar. 

Food & Diet Requirements 

We advise consulting the vet when creating a meal plan for teacup dogs. They are prone to liver shunts, which means a low-protein diet (18 % maximum), or thyroid problems that could also affect their nutritional needs.

Heart conditions, especially mitral valve disease, are common in the Maltese. Be sure to feed your teacup Maltese a heart-friendly diet dog food that is high in taurine, carnitine, and omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA). You can also look at heart-friendly supplements like MCT oil for dogs. Always check your dog for heart, kidney, liver, or metabolic issues before deciding on a diet.

These tiny dogs are also susceptible to hypoglycemia when the blood sugar levels fall too low. The best way to avoid the condition is to feed them about 3 to 4 times daily, totaling almost half a cup of dry food or less. 

Besides that, a diet balanced in animal protein (18 %), vitamins, minerals, and carbs will keep them healthy. 

Grooming Needs

The Malteses’ luscious coats need regular brushing at least three times a week with a pin or slicker brush to avoid matting. Luckily, they have a single coat that barely sheds, so they’re quite hypoallergenic. They also need regular eye cleaning with dog eye wipes to prevent tear stains. Their round eyes lead to tears running down their face and leaving a trail of red-brown gunk that can lead to eye infections in the Maltese, so be sure to clean their eye area regularly.

As a small dog, teacup Maltese are susceptible to tooth problems like periodontitis, so daily brushing is essential for the floor-length show coat to prevent matting. Shorter cuts need brushing at least three times a week. A proper 5-in 1 dog wash can wash and condition their long coats, but you can opt for extra conditioner. They also need regular ear cleaning with dog solution and nail trimming. 

The Health of a Teacup Maltese

Unfortunately, there is a lot of controversy around teacup dogs. Breeders that use runts of Maltese litters for teacup versions and introduce dwarfism risk increasing medical issues in puppies. 

Most small breeds are sturdy, living well into their teens. However, teacup breeds have unique medical conditions that significantly reduce their lifespan and hardiness. 

For one, teacup breeds often have abnormal bone structures, particularly in the front legs, leading to problems like hip dysplasia and luxating patella (shifting kneecaps). They also tend to suffer from hydrocephalus, where liquid fills their brain, and liver shunts, where the liver fails to remove toxins as effectively.

Consequently, teacup Maltese suffer from health conditions typical in Maltese and those resulting from unethical breeding. Therefore, getting your teacup Maltese from reputable breeders will present necessary genetic tests on parent breeds is crucial. 

Some suggest getting the dog from standard Maltese breeders with smaller-than-usual pups instead of specialized teacup breeders. While the Malteses are healthy dogs, according to Dr. Alex Gough, DVM, they are prone to some genetic conditions.

Severe Medical Issues in the Teacup Maltese

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia;
  • Collapsing tracheas; 
  • Liver shunts; 
  • Hydrocephalus; 
  • Hypoglycemia; 
  • Encephalitis;
  • Fragile bones;
  • Traumatic injuries due to small size; 
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease;
  • Respiratory issues; 
  • Heart issues like patent ductus arteriosus and mitral valve disease;
  • Eye conditions like progressive retinal atrophy; 
  • White Dog Shaker Syndrome; and 
  • Bladder stones. 

Mild to Moderate Health Problems

  • Skin conditions like sebaceous adenitis;
  • Allergies; 
  • Stomach sensitivity; 
  • Dental issues like periodontitis; and 
  • Cataracts. 

Occasional Health Issues

  • Seizures; and 
  • Obesity. 

Temperament and Intelligence of a Teacup Maltese

Teacup Maltese behave just like their larger Maltese siblings. They’re lively, charming, happy-go-lucky dogs that are also gentle, affectionate, friendly, intelligent, and trusting. These dogs are vigorous and playful, only limited by their small, fragile size. 

They can get super-attached to the owner, developing separation anxiety when left alone. These dogs are easy to train with proper treats and praise. However, Dr. Stanley Coren says they are only the 111th most intelligent dog regarding working and obedience. However, they are exceptionally emotionally intelligent and highly empathetic. 

These dogs are made to keep you company and are sensitive to your emotions, so they make great therapy and emotional support animals. Early training and socialization improve relations with people and animals even though they’re naturally friendly to strangers. Occasionally, their small size can make them fearful and nervous, so building their confidence when young is essential.

Sociability with Children and Other Pets

Teacup Maltese can get along with just about anyone, so they do well around kids and other animals. However, these tiny dogs are very vulnerable to injury and have very fragile bones. So it’s best to avoid homes with small kids or big animals that may hurt them accidentally. Like any breed, they do best with early socialization and training, mainly to prevent anxiety issues.

Suitable Home for The Teacup Maltese

Suitable Home for The Teacup Maltese
  • Apartment life or small spaces are best for these dogs (make sure to puppy proof your home for such a small dog)
  • A home without small children or larger animals
  • People with mild pet allergies may be less allergic to a teacup Maltese
  • Owners working from home or retired individuals are best to avoid separation anxiety. Alternatively, a home where at least one adult is home for most of the day is a good choice.
  • Low-exercise households, as these are not dogs that keep up on long runs, hikes, or other activities
  • People are looking for a companion dog or an emotional support animal. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Much is a Teacup Maltese Puppy?

Standard Maltese range between $2000 to $3000, so expect to pay more for a Teacup puppy, about $3000 to $5000. The unique breeding that takes place to get an even smaller version of the already tiny Maltese accounts for the hike in price. These pups are incredibly pricey, with personalities like Paris Hilton paying $8000 for a teacup Chihuahua.

Is the Teacup Maltese Hypoallergenic?

The teacup Maltese and any other Maltese is considered hypoallergenic dogs. They shed very little and do not have a double coat like more allergenic dogs. However, no dog is entirely hypoallergenic, as you can be allergic to the protein in a dog’s saliva, urine, or skin cells.

Do Maltese teacup bark a lot?

The teacup Maltese should not bark excessively, but they do bark to warn off strangers. If they start to bark excessively, it’s because they develop anxiety issues or boredom. These dogs are prone to separation anxiety and may bark a lot when you’re gone, so check the dog barking laws in your area.

How Long Does A Teacup Maltese live?

A well-bred Teacup Maltese will live for about 12 to 15 years. However, teacup varieties often only live between 6 and 8 years because they tend to have more health problems than normal Maltese.

Final Thoughts 

Teacup Maltese are extremely tiny dogs weighing as little as four pounds. They are similar to normal Maltese in appearance and behavior, with only size as the difference. Still, teacup breeds are under criticism because contenders argue that breeding for exaggerated features like size is unethical. However, if you take special care, these dogs are lovable and excellent additions to your family.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.