Best Dog Food for Maltese in 2024

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maltese dog

Maltese dogs are extremely tiny — the average one only weighs 3 to 7 pounds! 

And this small size translates to very low food needs. These dogs simply don’t eat very much. 

However, being so small does come with some downsides. They’re prone to hypoglycemia, for instance — especially as smaller puppies — so they need to be fed a small amount of food multiple times a day. 

We recommend Merrick Classic Health Grains Small Breed Recipe as the best dog food for most Maltese. 

Keep reading below for our complete review, as well as suggestions for specialty diets. Whether you’re feeding a puppy or a pup with a sensitive stomach, we have a suggestion for you. 

Best Dog Food for Maltese

10 Best Dog Foods for Maltese Reviewed

Several commercial dog foods on the market may fit your Maltese’s needs. However, some foods are better than others. 

Below, you’ll find our recommended suggestions.

Merrick Classic Health Grains Small Breed Recipe

Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Small Breed
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Turkey Meal
  • Key feature: Packed full of meat and designed for small canines
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 27% Crude Protein, 16% Crude Fat, 3.5% Crude Fiber, 11% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 404 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: High Protein, Pea-Free, No Corn, Wheat, or Soy
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Overall

This Merrick dog food is designed specifically with small breeds in mind. It features small bites of kibble for easy-eating.

Real, deboned chicken is the first ingredient. This additive provides plenty of lean protein for your Maltese dog, supporting strong bones and muscles. 

Chicken meal follows as the second ingredient — another high-quality option that is rich in protein and fats. There are several other meat products included as well, such as turkey meal

Some grains are included, but these are higher-quality and whole grain. 

This dog food features high levels of omega fatty acids, which can help with your dog’s skin and coat. Maltese are prone to skin irritation, so this ingredient can be a lifesaver.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are both added to improve joint health. While Maltese dogs aren’t specifically prone to joint issues, you can never be too careful.

All necessary vitamins and minerals for adult canines are included. This formula is not suitable for puppies, though it may be a good option for senior canines. 

All Merrick products are made in their Texas-based facility. However, they do use ingredients from around the world.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Puppy

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Puppy Chicken
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Barley, Menhaden Fish Meal
  • Key feature: High-quality dog food for small breed puppies
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 29% Crude Protein, 17% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 415 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: No Corn, Wheat, or Soy
  • Life Stage: Puppy
  • Best for: Puppies

Blue Buffalo is well-known for crafting quality recipes, including their small breed puppy food. 

This formula is specifically made for both small breeds and puppies, and the kibble is extra-tiny to fit into Maltese puppies’ mouths. 

Deboned chicken starts the ingredient list off, followed by chicken meal. Both of these meats are high-quality and include plenty of lean protein, which is exactly what small Maltese puppies need to grow. 

Fish meal is also included. This ingredient is full of DHA and EPA, which are important for brain development. Just like humans, your Maltese puppy should consume DHA to promote proper growth.

There are some grains included in this food — mostly oatmeal and barley. However, whole grains do contain some nutrients that can help our puppies thrive, and these are higher quality than other options, making them a suitable choice for your Maltese puppy.

Calcium and phosphorus are added in specific amounts to support bone and teeth growth. Plus, all the minerals are chelated — a vital step to improve absorption. 

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are vital for Maltese puppies, as these fats impact coat and skin health, as well as brain development. 

There is no corn, wheat, or soy included anywhere in this ingredient list. Only high-quality ingredients are utilized to provide your Maltese puppy with the nutrients they need.

Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Senior

Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Senior Deboned Turkey Peas
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Ground Brown Rice, Peas, Rice
  • Key feature: Added nutrients for senior Maltese dogs
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 25% Crude Protein, 12% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 435 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: No Corn, Wheat, or Soy; Weight Control
  • Life Stage: Senior Dogs
  • Best for: Seniors

There are actually very few senior dog foods that are also suitable for smaller dogs. Wellness’s senior dog food is easily one of the best. 

It contains high-quality ingredients, including deboned turkey and chicken meal. These provide your senior dog with the lean protein they need to stay strong into their twilight years. 

Some grains are included, such as ground brown rice and white rice. These are generally decent quality, though — especially the whole brown rice. 

The only ingredient we frown upon is the peas. These may be associated with certain health conditions in dogs, according to the FDA. And you don’t want your senior dog to eat potentially dangerous ingredients.

This food recipe is designed to support a healthy weight as well, as many senior dogs gain excess weight due to a lack of exercise. 

Omega fatty acids and antioxidants are also included, providing extra nutrition as your dog enters their senior years. Antioxidants can prevent oxidation damage, which is associated with a slew of diseases.

As an added bonus, this formula is made in the United States, so they must adhere to their safety standards.

Wellness Small Breed Complete Health

Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Adult Turkey Oatmeal
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Salmon Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Brown Rice
  • Key feature: Free of wheat, corn, and soy for sensitive digestion
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 28% Crude Protein, 15% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 11% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 408 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: No Corn, Wheat, or Soy
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Sensitive Stomachs

Maltese are specifically prone to sensitive stomachs, and they can be a bit more sensitive to some specific ingredients — just like any other canine. 

The first ingredient is deboned turkey, followed by both chicken meal and salmon meal. All of these meat ingredients help provide your Maltese dog with plenty of nutrients through protein, which they need to stay healthy. 

Oatmeal and ground brown rice are both added as sources of carbohydrates and some vitamins. Whole grains add some nutrients to this dog food, though they are not necessary for complete nutrition. 

Omega fatty acids are provided for coat health, and probiotics are included to help improve your canine’s digestive health and immune system. Glucosamine is also added to improve your dog’s joint health. 

Because it is formulated specifically for smaller dogs, this formula is made with a tiny kibble. Your Maltese should have no problem eating these.

Natural Balance L.I.D. Lamb & Brown Rice Formula

Natural Balance LID Lamb Brown Rice Formula Small Breed
  • First 5 Ingredients: Lamb, Brown Rice, Lamb Meal, Brewers Rice, Rice Bran
  • Key feature: Limited-ingredient diet for dogs with allergies
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 23% Crude Protein, 14% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 370 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: No Corn, Wheat, or Soy; Limited Ingredient; Chicken-Free
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Allergies

With just lamb meat as the main ingredient, this dog food formula is suitable for allergies. It is completely chicken-free, making it suitable for those who have a sensitivity to chicken. 

It does include some grains, including brewer’s rice and brown rice. However, it is completely gluten-free. The fiber provided by these ingredients supports your dog’s digestive tract. 

All essential amino acids are included despite only having a few ingredients. 

This brand is designed for small breed dogs, meaning it has smaller kibble sizes. If you have a Maltese, it may be one of your best options. 

We highly recommend adult dogs who are struggling with allergies try this food, as it is specifically designed with this in mind.

Halo Chicken & Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Small Breed Canned Dog Food

Halo Chicken Salmon Grain Free Small Breed Canned Food
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Salmon, Carrots
  • Key feature: Wet food with high-quality ingredients
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 9.5% Crude Protein, 5% Crude Fat, 1.5% Crude Fiber, 78% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 184 kcal/can
  • Type of Product: Grain-free
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Wet Food

Some dogs thrive best off of wet foods, as these moisture-high dinners are perfect for dogs who are prone to dehydration or have problems eating. 

This food includes mostly chicken, with some sort of chicken being included as the first three ingredients. Salmon is also included, which raises the omega fatty acid content — essential for healthy skin and coat. 

This food appears to be mostly made of meat, though there are a few veggies, like carrots. All produce is non-GMO, and nothing is produced at factory farms. 

Designed to be highly digestible, this formula includes plenty of protein and fat for your canines. Because it is wet food, small breed dogs should have no issue consuming it. 

Antioxidants are also included. These prevent oxidative stress, which is associated with a wide variety of health problems. 

Many picky dogs prefer wet dog food, as it often smells and tastes better. If you have a picky eater, you may want to consider switching them to this dog food.

Nulo Freestyle Salmon & Red Lentils Small Breed Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Nulo Freestyle Salmon & Red Lentils Small Breed
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Turkey Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Lamb Meal, Red Lentils
  • Key feature: Meat-packed, premium formula
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 31% Crude Protein, 17% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 422 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Grain-free, Gluten-free, High-protein, Low Glycemic 
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Dog owners not on a budget

Nulo produces some of the best dry dog food around. But, they can be quite expensive. 

This grain-free dog food costs more than most competition, but you are getting quite a bit of bang for your buck. 

The first few ingredients are meat, including salmon, turkey, fish, and lamb. This variety of animal products ensures that your canine is getting a varied diet. 

It is specifically formulated for small dogs — with higher calories to account for their higher metabolism. And the kibble size is small, allowing your canine to eat it with ease. 

The recipe is also low glycemic, preventing spikes in blood sugar and potential hypoglycemia. 

There are some high-protein veggies, like lentils. However, 84% of the protein comes from a meat source. Your canine should have no trouble absorbing and using the included protein since most of it comes from meat.

Many dog owners found that this recipe is ideal for dogs with allergies and sensitivities. Its lack of low-quality ingredients and fillers sits in a dog’s stomach better than most.

Diamond Naturals Small Breed Adult Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food

Diamond Naturals Small Breed Adult Food Chicken
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Cracked Pearled Barley, Ground White Rice, Grain Sorghum
  • Key feature: Quality ingredients at a lower price
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 27% Crude Protein, 16% Crude Fat, 3% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 345 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: No corn, Wheat, or Soy
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Those looking to spend less money

Not everyone has the money to spend tons on their dog’s food. Luckily, Diamond Naturals has a line designed specifically for smaller dogs that is much less expensive than some other options on the market. 

The first ingredient is chicken, with the second being chicken meal. These provide the lean protein that your small canine needs to thrive. 

After the chicken ingredients, the formula switches over to grains. While these aren’t the most high-quality option out there, they do help keep the costs down. The ingredients included are also some of the better grain options. 

This formula is packed full of real fruits and veggies, and these provide your canine with plenty of nutrients and vitamins. Many of these fruits include antioxidants, which can protect from a variety of different diseases.

Flaxseed, chia seed, and coconut are all added to provide quality fats. These take longer to digest than carbohydrates and are important for skin and coat health. 

Probiotics are included to support their digestive health, and there are also a variety of tummy-supportive ingredients, like pumpkin.

All Diamond Naturals formulas are crafted in U.S. facilities.

Instinct Original Small Breed Grain-Free Recipe

Instinct Original Small Breed Grain Free Recipe Real Chicken Freeze Dried Raw Coated
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Chickpeas, Tapioca, Chicken Fat
  • Key Feature: High-quality diet may help with tear stains
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 35% Crude Protein, 19.5% Crude Fat, 3.5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 467 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: No Corn, Wheat, or Soy; Grain-free, High-protein
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Owners concerned with tear stains

When it comes to Maltese dogs, tear stains are often just a part of life — it’s a trait that comes with the breed. Usually, your best bet is to clean their face often, but there isn’t much you can do beyond that. 

Still, a good diet can sometimes be helpful. And that is just what Instinct Original helps provide.

This dog food contains chicken as the primary meat source, including whole chicken and chicken meal. Chicken fat is included lower on the ingredient list as one of the main fat sources. 

Chicken is a quality source of protein and fat for most canines. It provides your dog with exactly what they need to thrive — including a variety of amino acids. 

This Instinct Original formula utilizes a variety of omega fatty acids and antioxidants, both of which are vital for your dog’s health — protecting them from diseases and keeping their skin healthy. 

Probiotics are also present in this formula, and are an essential part of any dog’s diet. 

Because of the high-quality ingredients and high protein level, this formula may help with your Maltese’s tear stains.

Solid Gold Fit & Fabulous Weight Control Dog Food

Solid Gold Fit & Fabulous Weight Control Pollock
  • First 5 Ingredients: Pollock, Pollock Meal, Pea Fiber, Pearled Barley, Brown Rice
  • Key Feature: Low-calorie and low-fat to control weight
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 26% Crude Protein, 9.5% Crude Fat, 10% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 330 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: No Corn, Wheat, or Soy; Weight Control 
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Overweight Dogs

Obesity is a serious problem for dogs of all sizes — including the Maltese. Even an extra pound or two can adversely affect the lifespan and health of smaller dogs, as it puts more weight on their joints and backs, causing conditions like arthritis. 

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight should be one of your top priorities. This dog food by Solid Gold can help you do just that. 

It is specifically designed for dogs with higher weights, and is relatively low-calorie when compared to other dog foods. It is also quite low in fat, with as little as 6.5% per serving. 

The main meat ingredient is pollock, which appears twice. Fish are extremely high in omega fatty acids, which help support your canine’s coat and skin. 

This food is not grain-free, but the grains included are decently high-quality. Our only concern is the high amount of peas included in this food. They appear multiple times throughout the ingredient list. 

Peas may be associated with certain health conditions in dogs, according to the FDA.

This formula is high in fiber to help keep your dog full. Fiber is vital for dogs that are overweight, as it naturally encourages them to eat less. 

There are also probiotics in this formula. While these may not help your dog directly lose weight, they help to protect their digestive tract.

maltese dog happy

Guide to Buying Dog Food for Maltese

Purchasing dog food for your Maltese isn’t always straightforward. You need to keep several factors in mind when choosing the best dog food for your tiny companion.

Nutritional Needs for Maltese

Maltese dogs have specific nutritional needs. While these needs are similar to other dog breeds, these tiny dogs do have some specific dietary requirements that you shouldn’t overlook. 

Quality Protein

All dogs need plenty of protein, and are not obligate carnivores — meaning they can eat other substances beyond meat. However, according to scientific studies, protein should make up a substantial portion of their diet

With that in mind, you should avoid diets that are high in carbohydrates and low in protein.

Maltese dogs are very tiny, as far as dog breeds go. They are prone to hypoglycemia, which involves their blood sugar getting too low. 

The primary way to prevent this condition is to feed them often. If they always have food in their bellies, they will have an easier time keeping their blood sugar at a normal level. 

Proteins and fats typically digest slower than carbohydrates. Therefore, they don’t cause spikes (and the subsequent falls) in blood sugar, making these macronutrients a better option for many Maltese dogs. 

Healthy Fats

There are many healthy fats out there that your Maltese needs. 

Omega fatty acids are essential for coat and skin health, and Maltese have rather long coats that you want to keep shiny and healthy. Fatty acids help achieve this.

Usually, these fats are found in fish. Some dog food recipes include whole fish, while others may add fish oil or salmon oil. 

Also, keep in mind that dogs are designed to consume mostly fat — it should be their main source of calories. Therefore, look for foods that are high in healthy fats. 

Complex Carbs

Not all carbohydrates are bad. Maltese will benefit from complex carbohydrates, which mostly include legumes and whole grains.

These ingredients are often high in B vitamins and other nutrients that your canine needs. Plus, they provide a substantial source of energy. 

However, you shouldn’t choose a dog food that includes too many complex carbohydrates. The first ingredient of any dog food should be meat. 

Grain-free foods are typically not necessary unless your canine is sensitive to gluten.

Vitamins and Minerals

Maltese have similar vitamin needs to other canines. 

Because they are prone to eye problems, you may want to consider getting food high in vitamin A. However, most eye problems are the result of trauma — which vitamins aren’t going to prevent. 

Joint problems are also common, so we recommend a food high in omega fatty acids and other nutrients. Glucosamine is a common nutrient that may help with joint health. 

Caloric Requirements

Maltese are tiny dogs, so they don’t need many calories. They also tend to be rather laidbackr. 

Many Maltese are overweight because of this — they just don’t burn that many calories. Overfeeding them is easy. 

We highly recommend keeping a close eye on your dog’s weight and switching to a weight control food if necessary. 

Ingredients to Avoid in Dog Food


Not all by-products are bad. These ingredients are simply the leftovers from meat processing. 

Some of these leftovers are quite nutritious and include things our dogs would naturally eat in the wild — like organ meats. Humans may not commonly eat hearts, but our dogs sure will. 

However, it can also include nutritionless things, like feathers. These ingredients are only fillers and don’t add anything to our dog’s diet. 

The catch is that when you purchase food with meat by-products, you don’t know if you’re getting hearts or feathers. For this reason, by-products are not considered high-quality protein. You just don’t know what you’re getting!

However, we do know that by-products are often harder to digest than whole meats.

Artificial Additives

There is no reason for artificial ingredients to be in our Maltese’s food. Typically, only lower-quality brands add in artificial additives. 

For instance, artificial colors are absolutely unnecessary. Our dogs don’t care about the color of their food. 

Plus, some artificial ingredients may be linked to certain health problems, while the evidence for others is up in the air. 

In general, it is best to choose natural ingredients over anything artificial. 


There are both natural and unnatural preservatives. These have different levels of safety. 

For instance, ethoxyquin is a common artificial preservative that may be linked with health problems, according to various studies. However, some evidence is still being looked at, which is why it is still used in some dog foods.

However, some other preservatives are likely completely harmless. Vitamin C and vitamin E are common natural preservatives, for instance. 


What counts as a “filler” varies widely. Usually, what one company counts as a filler isn’t considered a filler by another. 

That being said, no company is going to agree that one of their ingredients is a filler. 

Generally, ingredients that are unhealthy are considered fillers. By-products are often put into this category, but they do provide some nutrition. 

Some people may also consider corn gluten meal to be a filler as it raises the overall protein content using plant-based protein. However, whether or not dogs can use this plant-based protein is debated. 

Based on the current evidence, you can argue either way. 

Specific Dietary Requirements for Maltese 

maltese puppy on grass

Maltese canines do have some specific dietary requirements. These requirements are based largely on the health conditions the Maltese breed is prone to. 

Picky Eaters

Maltese are well-known for being picky eaters. Therefore, you may have to work to get them to consume the food you set in front of them. 

Foods that are higher in fat tend to taste better, and they’re largely better for your canine anyway. 

Instead of adding toppings and other things to your dog’s food, we recommend choosing wet food instead. Many dogs prefer wet foods over dry foods, as they taste and smell better. 

Sensitive Stomachs

Some Maltese have sensitive stomachs. Often, dogs with these problems do best on limited-ingredient diets. 

With fewer things in their food, these canines are less likely to react to something.

Sometimes, sensitivities are a direct result of allergies — which need veterinary attention. 

Dental Problems

Maltese (and most small breeds) often have dental problems. 

What foods are best for dental problems isn’t well established. There is a common belief that dry foods are better, but the scientific evidence is unclear. For every study that shows dry food being helpful, there is another that shows little change. 

On the other hand, many dogs with dental problems thrive on wet foods, as it is easier for them to eat. 

The best way to avoid dental problems is to brush your dog’s teeth regularly. That and ensuring that their food contains enough vitamins and minerals — especially calcium. 


Maltese aren’t very active and tend to be very food-driven. Therefore, they often need extra help maintaining a healthy weight.

Knowing this, always follow your food’s feeding directions. Different foods have different caloric amounts, and, therefore, different recommendations. 

Choose foods high in fats and protein, as these keep your dog full. Fiber is also helpful. 

If necessary, get your canine on weight-control food. These formulas are specifically designed to keep your canine at a healthy weight. 

Joint Problems 

Despite being small dogs, the Maltese is prone to joint problems — particularly in their knees. 

Several nutrients can help prevent joint issues. Glucosamine is a good example of this, and is a rather common additive to dog foods. However, most small breed formulas leave out this key ingredient, as most small breeds don’t have joint issues.

If your Maltese has joint problems, you’ll likely need to seek out a food specifically designed for to help. 

Our Verdict

Several quality dog food brands on the market may work for your Maltese. 

The best food for your canine will likely depend on their particular needs. For example, if your dog has food allergies, you’ll need to take this into account. 

We recommend Merrick Classic Health Grains Small Breed Recipe for most maltese dogs. This recipe includes high-quality protein and a variety of added vitamins and minerals. 

The main goal of your dog’s food is to provide complete and balanced nutrition — and the foods on this list do just that. Pick one that works best for you and your canine! 

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Kristin Hitchcock
Kristin has been writing about dogs and their nutrition for the last four years. She enjoys educating pet parents on the best things to feed their beloved furry friends using the latest scientific research.

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