Why Does My Maltese Keep Coughing?

By John Martin - February 15, 2024

Maltese in grass

Maltese are one of the cutest dog breeds out there. They are full of love and can shower their owner with a lot of affection, making them feel loved and desired. This dog breed is adorable and can light up your day no matter how bad it is.

Maltese are a sensitive breed that love to cuddle. But there are several other traits that they inhabit that you must be aware of if you are planning to get one home.

Maltese and Coughing: A Brief Note

Maltese are prone to coughing. It may come as a surprise to few people who may find it hard to believe that such a delicate dog can be prone to coughing, but this is true. This is partly due to the presence of a sensitive trachea in Maltese that can go into a spasm after vigorous exercise, after eating and when they get too excited.

The trachea, which is also called a windpipe in common parlance, is a key part of a dog’s anatomy. It promotes healthy breathing in a dog by ensuring its lungs remain healthy at all times. It is a delicate organ and is composed of soft cartilage rings that provide support to your dog’s neck and throat.

As Maltese are small dogs that can get excited on small occasions such as seeing their owner after a long time, or at times of play and activity, they inhale air rapidly, leading to stress on the trachea and subsequent collapse.

This collapse can lead to several breathing issues in the Maltese and they express this displeasure through coughing or honking sounds. This is because the collapse or discomfort flattens the soft rings of the cartilage, choking its throat and making the Maltese uneasy.

Reasons That May Lead to Coughing in Maltese

There could be a host of reasons that may cause discomfort to your delicate Maltese and trigger coughing. Any untoward sign should be treated immediately.

Here are a few reasons that may induce coughing in the Maltese:

Choking on Objects

Maltese are playful dogs and have this tendency of putting anything and everything in their mouth. Unfortunately, their delicate neck is not adept at taking its playfulness very well.

It can choke on things such as toys and food items, blocking its airways and leading to choking and coughing. If unchecked for prolonged durations, this can be catastrophic and potentially life threatening.


Middle-aged or old Maltese can develop asthma that can lead to breathing issues and choking. If you live in an environment where there is a lot of smoke or pollen, you should watch out for signs of coughing, especially if you have an aging Maltese.

Also Read: 9 Common Maltese Health Issues to Watch For


Allergies are directly linked to breathing issues and coughing in Maltese and several other toy breeds. It could be a food allergy, plant allergy, or pollen allergy. You should watch out for signs and try to eliminate them as much as possible.

Heart Diseases

Just like humans, Maltese can also be affected by heart diseases. If your dog has a heart condition, it can affect breathing and coughing may be a sign for you to take notice.

Sometimes, interventions have to be made in the form of surgery because if the heart condition is left untreated, it can be life threatening.


Maltese dogs are playful and love to run around. This makes them prone to certain injuries in the chest that can be a cause of concern. If your dog has an injury in that region, s/he will intimate you by coughing.

Chest injuries need to be taken seriously and need to be checked by a vet immediately. An X-ray intervention may be needed.


Bacterial and viral infections can lead to coughing issues in the Maltese. This could either be transmitted from fellow dogs in parks while walking or it could be picked up in a training session.

These infections may lead to the generation of excess mucus in the airways of the Maltese thereby causing breathing issues and subsequent wheezing and coughing.

Sometimes, infections are accompanied by other symptoms such as loss of appetite, lethargy and lack of playfulness. You should watch out for these signs and intervene at the earliest possible instance to tackle things in good time.

Also Read: Do Maltese Have Dental Problems?

What Should You Do If Your Maltese Is Coughing Persistently?

If it is a momentary cough, there is nothing to worry about. It could be a momentary problem that should subside in a couple of minutes.

You should try to calm the Maltese down by gently stroking their back and throat area to restore the trachea rings to their original position. This could give your Maltese some respite and momentary comfort.

However, if your Maltese is in trouble for a long period of time, you should see a vet immediately. Sometimes, this needs proper diagnosis via an X-ray or endoscopy but you must never take matters into your hand—always consult a vet.

Tips for Avoiding Persistent Coughing in Maltese

Several things need to be done to ensure that the Maltese is hale and hearty and doesn’t have any breathing issues.

For instance, if your Maltese is habitually pulling on their leash while you take them out for a walk, make sure to switch to a harness which could provide a better form of control and also ensure that the Maltese doesn’t choke.

The biggest benefit of going for a harness is that it doesn’t stick to a dog’s neck and will not aggravate the trachea in any case. Therefore, even if the Maltese pulls on the leash, there will be no discomfort.

Here are some other tips that may be useful:

  • You should be extremely vigilant and watch out for signs, if there are any, that lead to coughing. Sometimes there are clear patterns and as a pet parent, it is a good thing if you notice those and eliminate them.
  • Get your vet to prescribe some techniques for healthy exercising and playtime that don’t pressure the trachea.
  • If you have a tiny Maltese that is just beginning to get trained, make sure you don’t allow it to jump off high fences or over big furniture pieces. Any mishap can lead to a chest injury that can be dangerous.
  • If your dog gets too excited during eating or playing, slowly train your Maltese for these situations so that they don’t unnecessarily pressure their trachea.
  • Ensure that your Maltese maintains an optimum weight because obese dogs are more prone to such discomfort.
  • If you are aware of allergens that trigger coughing in your Maltese, your first impulse should be to remove them. If that’s not possible, you should have allergy medicine handy should something untoward happen.
  • In some situations, you would have to resort to medicines and other medical interventions, so if you think your Maltese is having an unusual bout of coughing which is persistent and not subsiding, you should see a vet immediately.
  • You should create a healthy environment for the dog where s/he is not scared easily. This will be handy in preventing sudden bouts of coughing.
  • You should also ensure that there aren’t objects in the vicinity of the Maltese that can cause any form of choking. These include objects such as stones, bones and large pieces of food, that may cause breathing issues and subsequent coughing.

Also Read: Do Maltese Like to Cuddle?

The Final Word

Maltese are loving dogs that also make for excellent family pets. With a little care and affection, they will gel into your life seamlessly. All you need to ensure is a healthy and safe environment for them removing objects that can cause them harm.

It is also worthwhile to be aware of situations that cause them distress and work towards eliminating them while having a good vet to consult at any and all times.