Even though they greet most people as friends they’ve yet to meet, Maltese are fantastically loyal companions who instantly endear themselves to their owners.
While their luxurious locks can make them look a bit prissy, they are surprisingly spunky pups, who are even beloved by those who typically prefer large breeds.
But to ensure they stay easy-going and energetic, you have to take very good care of them. This not only means providing proper training, exercise and grooming, but giving them a food that will keep them healthy and happy for years to come.
Best Dog Food For Maltese: Quick Picks
- Blue Buffalo’s Small Breed Life Protection [Best Overall] Chicken and brown rice small breed recipe from a popular brand, with chicken and chicken meal as first 2 ingredients.
- Wellness Core Grain-Free Small Breed [Best Grain-Free] Includes turkey, turkey meal, and chicken meal as first 3 ingredients for tons of animal protein your Maltese adores. Made in the USA with no corn, wheat, soy, or by-products. Also no artificial flavors or colors.
- Merrick Lil’ Plates Small Breed [Best Chicken-Free Recipe] Features beef and lamb meal as first two ingredients. Grain-free with no gluten ingredients, and completely poultry-free for dogs with chicken allergies.
Elements to Avoid in Any Dog Food (Maltese or Otherwise)
Whether you are trying to feed a Maltese or a Mastiff, there are a few basic characteristics you should demand of any food for your pooch.
While there are rare occasions in which you may need to be a little flexible, you’ll usually want to steer clear of foods that exhibit any of the following traits:
Avoid foods lacking a whole protein at the beginning of the ingredient list.
Dogs may be omnivores, but they have a serious need for protein, which is best provided in the form of a whole protein.
Because of this, you’ll want to look for foods that feature chicken, beef, lamb, salmon, duck or some similar ingredient as the first listed item.
Avoid foods that contain artificial colors, artificial flavors or artificial preservatives.
These types of artificial additives are often identified as allergens in dogs who suffer from food allergies, and should be avoided whenever possible. Fortunately, artificial additives are largely unnecessary and premium manufacturers now tend to avoid them.
Foods that are made with high-quality meats, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and fats tend to taste good on their own – there’s no reason to add artificial flavors. Artificial colors can also be left out, as they are used to make a food appear more appetizing to you – not your dog.
Similarly, naturally occurring tocopherols can be used to preserve products, so artificial preservatives are also unnecessary.
Avoid foods that are made in countries that lack proper food-safety protocols.
Food-safety and quality-control regulations vary widely from one country to the next, so it is always wise to stick to foods that are made in countries with strict, rather than lax, procedures and protocols in place. This will not eliminate the possibility of obtaining a bag of contaminated or otherwise unsuitable food, but it significantly reduces the chances of this occurring.
By and large, this means choosing foods made in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, New Zealand or Australia.
Avoid foods with unidentified or poorly identified meat meals or meat byproducts.
There is nothing inherently wrong with meat meals or meat byproducts. In fact, these can be valuable ingredients: Meat meals have much more protein per unit of weight than whole proteins do, and byproducts often serve as important sources of things like glucosamine. Many fish meals are also great sources of omega fatty acids.
However, some rendering plants (places where these types of products are often made) are thought to add a variety of different animals to these mixes, which may ruin the value of a food or even make it dangerous in some cases.
One way to avoid this is by only purchasing foods that contain specifically identified meat meals and byproducts. In other words, chicken byproducts are fine; poultry byproducts are not. Beef meal is fine; meat meal is not.
Maltese-Specific Dietary Guidelines
Now that you understand the things you’ll want to avoid in any dog food, it is important to recognize the breed-specific requirements for Maltese.
Some Maltese have sensitive stomachs.
Maltese can have sensitive tummies, which means that you’ll want to vigilantly observe your pet’s elimination habits and general health, and be mindful of ingredients that give her tummy trouble. Foods that are fortified with probiotics often help eliminate digestive problems.
Many Maltese are picky eaters.
Unlike many large breeds and a handful of other toy breeds, who will eat anything that smells like it was alive at one point, Maltese dogs will not hesitate to refuse a food they find unpalatable.
Fortunately, most individuals exhibit definitive preferences, which, once identified, can help you select foods your pup is sure to like.
Maltese are prone to obesity.
Maltese are very small dogs, who should weigh between about 4 and 6 pounds. It doesn’t take a lot of calories to support such a small body, so even a few additional calories per week can add up.
Some Maltese suffer from joint problems.
Since Maltese tend to suffer from canine arthritis (likely due in part to their susceptibility to obesity) it makes sense to select foods fortified with chondroitin and glucosamine, which may help prevent such problems from developing, and help repair any damage that occurs.
Maltese often suffer from dental problems.
Generally speaking, dry kibble will keep your pup’s teeth cleaner than wet foods will, so it is generally preferable (and more affordable) to avoid wet foods when tooth decay and gum disease are concerns. Additionally, some premium kibbles also include special teeth-cleaning characteristics.
6 Best Foods for Maltese Dogs
Although there are a number of foods on the market that will keep your Maltese healthy and well-fed, the following six are clearly among the best options. Look over the following reviews, and try to select the one that best suits your individual pet and situation.
Some owners prefer to feed their dogs grain-free formulas, while others prefer to avoid this additional expense (grain-free foods are almost always pricier than comparable formulas made with grains).
To help answer different needs, we’ve compiled three different options for each: The first three products contain grains, while the last three do not.
1. Blue Buffalo Small Breed Life Protection Formula
Blue Buffalo Small Breed Life Protection Formulla
Affordable grain-inclusive small-breed kibble
Meat is #1 ingredient, along with several omega-rich ingredients for healthy skin and muscles.
About: Blue Buffalo’s Small Breed Life Protection Formula is a great option for most Maltese. While it possesses an impressive ingredient list and most dogs find it delicious, it has a very competitive price point for such a premium product.
- Deboned chicken is the first listed ingredient
- Made with several omega-fatty-acid-rich ingredients to keep your pup’s skin and coat healthy
- Fortified with an array of vitamins, minerals and probiotics
- Unique, “small-bite” kibble is easy for small breeds to chew
- Made in the USA
Most owners who tried this recipe raved about their experience. Owners love the stellar ingredient list (as well as the skin- and coat-improving effects of the food), while dogs find it very tasty. Blue Buffalo Small Breed is also a great value, thanks to its low price point.
Very few owners who tried Blue Buffalo Small Breed complained about the product. However, some customers were concerned about the inclusion of garlic in the recipe. However, the amount of garlic present in this food is not likely to cause health concerns for most pups.
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Ground Barley, Whole Ground Brown Rice, Oatmeal...,
Chicken Fat (naturally preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Tomato Pomace (natural source of Lycopene), Natural Chicken Flavor, Whole Potatoes, Peas, Menhaden Fish Meal (natural source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Whole Carrots, Whole Sweet Potatoes, Blueberries, Cranberries, Flaxseed (natural source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Barley Grass, Dried Parsley, Garlic, Alfalfa Meal, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, L-Carnitine, L-Lysine, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Turmeric, Sunflower Oil (natural source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Dried Chicory Root, Oil of Rosemary, Beta Carotene, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), d-Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Biotin (Vitamin B7), Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Ascorbate (source of Vitamin C), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Choline Chloride, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Salt, Caramel, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bacillus subtilis, Enterococcus faecium.
2. Wellness CORE Grain-Free Small Breed Recipe
Wellness CORE Grain-Free Small Breed Recipe
Grain-free recipe featuring meat as first 3 ingredients
Formulated with nutritious, lean protein and fortified with probiotics to ensure proper digestion
About: Wellness CORE products – including their Small Breed Recipe – are essentially grain-free versions of the company’s Complete Health line.
The Small Breed Recipe is specifically formulated to provide the proper caloric intake to satisfy the higher energy needs of small breeds.
- Deboned turkey – a nutritious, lean protein – is the first listed ingredient
- Contains no soy, wheat or corn
- Full of ingredients rich in omega fatty acids and antioxidants
- Fortified with probiotics to help ensure proper digestion
- Made in the USA
Most owners love Wellness CORE Grain-Free after trying it. Dogs love the taste, while owners love the food’s ability to improve skin and coat health. It features all of the things you’d want in a premium dog food, including whole proteins, nutritious fruits and vegetables, non-grain-based carbohydrates and excellent supplements.
This is one of the most highly rated foods on the market, so customer complaints are very rare, and typically related to shipping or packaging problem.
Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Potatoes, Peas...,
Dried Ground Potatoes, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Tomato Pomace, Natural Chicken Flavor, Ground Flaxseed, Salmon Oil, Yucca schidigera Extract, Choline Chloride, Spinach, Vitamin E Supplement, Broccoli, Carrots, Parsley, Apples, Blueberries, Kale, Sweet Potatoes, Taurine, Spearmint, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Beta-Carotene, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Chicory Root Extract, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract.
3. Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Small Breed Recipe
Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Small Breed Recipe
Quality small-breed kibble for all ages
Premium grain-free dog food with no Chinese-sourced ingredients.
About: Merrick Lil’ Plates Small Breed Recipe is a premium, grain-free beef dog food that will provide your pup with a litany of impressive ingredients. Formulated for small breeds in all life stages, you can feed this recipe to your adult, lactating female, or pup as a small breed puppy diet. Since it contains no chicken, it’s also a great recipe for those who are looking for a chicken-free dog food.
- Features one of the highest protein contents (38%) of any mainstream dog food
- Higher fatty acid content than most other dog foods
- Made in the USA with no Chinese-sourced ingredients
- Grain- and gluten-free
- Contains ingredients that are rich in chondroitin and glucosamine to support joint health
Most dogs find the food very tasty, and owners love the nutritional value of the food. Many owners noted that it improved their dog’s skin and coat condition, as well as improved their energy level. A few owners even stated that it helped reduce their dog’s problems with tear staining.
The only real problem or downside to Merrick Lil’ Plates Small Breed Recipe is its high cost. However, you have to expect a higher than normal price when you are purchasing a better than average food, made with an incredible assortment of ingredients.
Deboned Beef, Lamb Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Potatoes...,
Natural Flavor, Potato Protein, Salmon Meal, Pork Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Pea Protein, Salmon, Inulin (from chicory root), Flaxseed Oil, Apples, Blueberries, Organic Alfalfa, Gelatin, Salmon Oil (source of Omega-3 fatty acids), Salt, Minerals (Zinc Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Amino Acid Complex, Sodium Selenite), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate), Choline Chloride, Yucca schidigera Extract, Dried Bacillus coagulans Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract.
4. NUTRO Ultra Small Breed Recipe
About: NUTRO Ultra Small Breed Recipe is a pretty good option for most Maltese, although it does lack a few of the bells-and-whistles that some others possess. However, it is made without genetically modified organisms, which is an important feature for some owners.
- Contains 12 different “superfoods,” including kale, chia and coconut
- Chicken is the first listed ingredient
- Small kibble size is perfectly tailored for your pup’s little mouth
- Made without corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors or artificial preservatives
NUTRO is a nutritious food that most dogs love. Although it isn’t a limited-ingredient-diet, it may help solve your dog’s food allergies, as it is made without a lot of common allergens. Additionally, if it is important to provide your dog with a non-GMO dog food, this is one of the few reasonably priced options available.
There weren’t many critical reviews of NUTRO Ultra Small Breed Recipe. A few owners reported problems with the packaging or delivery of the food, but this can happen with virtually any dog food. Additionally, a very small number of owners reported that their dog didn’t like the taste.
Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Brown Rice, Brewers Rice, Rice Bran...,
Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Lamb Meal, Salmon Meal, Natural Flavor, Pea Protein, Sunflower Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Whole Flaxseed, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Whole Grain Oatmeal, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid (preservatives), Dried Coconut, Whole Chia Seed, Dried Egg Product, Tomato Pomace, Dried Kale, Dried Pumpkin, Dried Spinach, Dried Blueberries, Dried Apples, Dried Carrots, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Selenium Yeast, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.
5. Blue Wilderness Small Breed Chicken Recipe
Blue Wilderness Small Breed Chicken Recipe
USA-made dog food with real meat as first 3 ingredients
Made of real chicken with no artificial colors and preservatives added.
About: Like virtually every other food made by Blue Buffalo, their Blue Wilderness Small Breed Chicken recipe is a fantastic option for owners who want to give their pup the best nutrition possible. Additionally, this is a grain-free formula, which derives its carbohydrate content from things like peas, tapioca starch and potatoes, rather than wheat or corn.
As a top-notch small breed formula, this would serve as a great dog food for Yorkies too!
- Deboned chicken is the first listed ingredient
- Fortified with glucosamine to help protect your pup’s joints
- Small kibble is perfectly suited for small and toy breeds
- Formulated without any artificial flavors, artificial colors or artificial preservatives
- Made in the USA
Most reviews of Blue Wilderness Small Breed Recipe were very positive. Several owners were very happy that their dog began exhibiting fewer skin and coat problems, and many also began experiencing fewer digestive problems after switching to the product. Additionally, most dogs appear to love the taste of the recipe.
A handful of owners were frustrated by their dog’s refusal to eat the food, but these types of complaints were rather limited.
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Peas, Tapioca Starch...,
Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Dried Egg, Natural Chicken Flavor, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Tomato Pomace (source of Lycopene), Potatoes, Alfalfa Meal, Potato Starch, Whole Carrots, Whole Sweet Potatoes, Blueberries, Cranberries, Apples, Blackberries, Pomegranate, Spinach, Pumpkin, Barley Grass, Dried Parsley, Dried Kelp, Taurine, Yucca Schidigera Extract, L-Carnitine, L-Lysine, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Turmeric, Oil of Rosemary, Beta Carotene, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), d-Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Biotin (Vitamin B7), Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Ascorbate (source of Vitamin C), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Choline Chloride, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Salt, Caramel, Potassium Chloride, Dried Yeast (source of Saccharomyces cerevisiae), Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product.
6. Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Healthy Weight
Wellness Small Breed Healthy Weight
Designed to help small dogs maintain a healthy weight
Packed with lean meats and brown rice, this recipe is formulated to keep small breeds at a healthy body weight.
About: Wellness Small Breed Healthy Weight recipe is a nutritious, high-quality dog food that is specifically designed to help keep small breeds (like your Maltese) at a healthy body weight. Unlike many other weight-control formulas, Wellness Small Breed still has a taste most dogs love.
- Real turkey is the first listed ingredient
- Made with several antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, including blueberries, pumpkin and spinach
- Made in the USA
- Backed by the manufacturer’s “Wellness Guarantee”
- Small kibble size to suit your pet’s small mouth and teeth
Wellness Small Breed received glowing feedback by most small-dog owners who tried it. Most reported that their dog loved the taste and the small kibble size, and that their dog’s coat and skin condition improved after switching to this recipe. Additionally, this recipe (like most other Wellness Complete Health recipes) features a wealth of high-value and nutritious ingredients.
There were very few complaints about this product, aside from the occasional pup who didn’t like the flavor.
Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Ground Brown Rice, Salmon Meal, Rye Flour...,
Ground Rice, Oatmeal, Ground Barley, Tomato Pomace, Pea Fiber, Natural Chicken Flavor, Menhaden Fish Meal, Tomatoes, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Ground Flaxseed, Carrots, Spinach, Potassium Chloride, Sweet Potatoes, Apples, Blueberries, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Beta-Carotene, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Biotin, Folic Acid], Minerals [Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate], Salmon Oil, Choline Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Taurine, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (a source of Vitamin C), L-Carnitine, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca schidigera Extract, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract.
A Quick Word About Breed-Specific Dog Foods
Some manufacturers produce recipes aimed at various breeds – including Maltese. While these often attract the attention of well-meaning owners, you need to dig deeper before assuming that such foods are ideal for your pup.
Often, the only differences between these products are the labels and packaging – the recipes are frequently identical, or nearly so. Additionally, breed-specific marketing doesn’t necessarily indicate that the food would even satisfy the most basic requirements you’d want in any food.
One popular brand that makes breed-specific formulas doesn’t even contain a whole protein and uses confusing language to obscure the fact that it is a corn-based recipe.
On the flip side, there is nothing wrong with a breed-specific formula; but the differences need to make sense for the breed in question and go beyond the packaging.
We’d love to hear about your experiences with feeding your Maltese. Let us know about your experiences – both good and bad — with various brands and products (particularly if you’ve used one of those we recommend above)!