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48 Common Health Problems Found in Jack Russell Terriers

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Jack Russell Terriers are generally a healthy breed, but they are susceptible to certain common ailments.

Jack Russell Terriers are generally a healthy breed, but they are susceptible to certain common ailments.

A Generally Healthy Breed

For many years, we have grown to love Jack Russell Terriers for their abilities, passion, energy, and endearing and happy personalities. The good news is that they are a generally healthy breed; however, as with all dogs, Jack Russell Terriers are particularly susceptible to certain health problems.

Note: Please DO NOT self-diagnose; if you have any doubt or worry, please have a consultation with your vet. They will be able to give you a proper diagnosis, treatment and expert advice.

If you can learn to recognise your dog's anatomy, regular movements and behaviour, it will make it easier to spot anything out of the ordinary. This will give you a better chance of identifying and treating any problems as soon as they arise.

A Jack Russell Terrier's anatomy.

A Jack Russell Terrier's anatomy.

Common Health Problems Among Jack Russell Terriers

  • General Oral Hygiene Problems: Regularly check their teeth and gums; a daily check by you with the help of dental products could help keep their mouths healthy.
  • Absence of Premolars: The absence of one or more premolars could occur during the period of development. A vet and nutritionist could help with establishing a suitable diet.
  • Oligodontia: The absence of most or all of their teeth.
  • Ear Infections: If you notice their head shake more often or incisively scratch, it could be a sign of an ear infection. They are common and easy to treat; combining oral commands with hand signals whilst training would come in handy.
  • Unilateral Deafness: This is partial deafness, meaning only one ear is affected. The use of hand signals would be beneficial.
  • Bilateral Deafness: This means complete deafness. As well as using hand signals, you can also get special training, leads and coats to raise awareness to others.
  • Obesity: JRT should be lean and muscular with high levels of energy and require plenty of exercise. However, they won't say no to treats, so be careful of giving them scraps, food under the table, overfeeding and not giving them the exercise they need. Have your dog weighed in between checkups if you are worried
  • Arthritis: Affecting joints and bones, this typically develops at a later stage but taking action at an early stage could help make this condition more manageable. If you notice your JRT showing difficulties such as getting up the stairs, long walks, getting in and out of their beds, etc., seek veterinary help. The vet may recommend certain nutrients, oils and supplements.
  • Excessive Aggressiveness: Although JRT are generally happy, friendly dogs, they're natural hunters and can develop excessive aggressiveness. This could be an act of aggression, such as attacking someone or something without reasonable provocation.
  • Epilepsy: This can be in the form of seizures or fits and can be treated with medication.
  • Diabetes Mellitus: Due to a lack of insulin, this condition results in excessive sugar in their blood and urine.
  • Pyloric Sterosis: An abnormally small opening between the stomach and duodenum, this condition prevents food passing and can be the cause of projectile vomit.
  • High Toes: This is a breeding defect which causes the toes not to be able to reach the floor.
  • Von Willebrand's Disease: This is another breeding disorder that causes abnormal platelet function; excessive bleeding from a cut is an indication. This could also be from the gums, nose or urine. However, there is no cure.
  • Patent Ductus Arteriosus: The fetal vessel between the aorta (the largest artery in the body) and the pulmonary artery not being able to close at birth. This can cause a variety of cardiovascular problems as a result; in rare cases can cause sudden death. It is, however, more common in relation to heart murmurs and can be picked up on at routine appointments.
  • Cardiomyopathy: This is the weakening of the heart muscle which involves thickened heart and or dilation chambers. The complications include pleural effusion and pulmonary edema (water in the chest cavity or lungs). Breathing would be more quick or laboured and signs would be a reduced tolerance to exercise.
  • Persistent Pupillary Membranes: This is the failure of blood vessels in the anterior chamber to regress normally.
  • Cryptochidism: This is to do with undescended testicles in unneutered male dogs. It is common for one teste to be hidden sometimes; it isn't dangerous. But there is a proven correlation between having this condition and an increased likelihood of malignancy in later life. This could be prevented by having your dog neutered as soon as possible.
  • Hernias: This is formed from an internal organ or section of tissue protruding outwards and creating a noticeable bulge. These could be umbilical or inguinal involving part of the intestine protruding through either the scrotum or lower navel.
  • Congenital Myasthenia Gravis: This is severe muscle weakness; showing signs of fatigue, due to the failure of the neuromuscular transmission to the nerve impulses.
  • Scotty Cramp: These are muscle cramps triggered by excitement or exercise.
  • Trembling: This can be excessive, particularly in the rear limbs.
  • Wobbler Syndrome: An abnormality in the neck vertebra causing the rear leg ataxia to progress to paralysis.
  • Achondroplasia (Appendicular): This is the lack of normal development of the skeleton and limbs, causing dwarfism.
Regularly check your Jack Russell's teeth and gums; a daily check by you with the help of dental products could help keep their mouths healthy.

Regularly check your Jack Russell's teeth and gums; a daily check by you with the help of dental products could help keep their mouths healthy.

  • Hermivertebra: An abnormal formation of the body vertebra where the posterior ataxia and paralysis cause twisted or screw-tailed breeds.
  • Legg-Perthes-Aseptic Necrosis: This causes leg lameness due to the head and neck of the femur.
  • Overshot: This is when the upper jaw extends beyond the lower jaw.
  • Undershot: This is when the lower jaw extends beyond the upper jaw.
  • Laryngeal Hypoplasia: This is the failure to develop the larynx (voice box), which causes breathing difficulties.
  • Tracheal Collapse: This is the improper formation of the cartilaginous rings of the trachea causing mild to severe breathing problems.
  • Tracheal Hypoplasia: Is having a small trachea, causing mild to severe breathing problems.
  • Cleft Lip or Palate: This is the fissure of the roof of the mouth and upper lip either bonded together or separated.
  • Patellar Luxation: This is poor development of structures holding the patella (knee cap) in place.
  • Premature Closure of the Ulna: This stops growing sooner than the radius, which causes the wrists to turn in.
  • Radial Agenesis: This stops growing sooner, which causes bowed front legs.
  • Progressive Neuronal Abiotropy (Ataxia): This is a neurological problem involving degeneration of brain control of coordinated movements. Manifests as tremors. However, there is no known cure.
Some Jack Russell Terriers may have high toe, which causes the toes not to be able to reach the floor.

Some Jack Russell Terriers may have high toe, which causes the toes not to be able to reach the floor.

  • Cerebellar Ataxia: This is an inherited disease causing the neurological cells to die, causing problems in balance and inevitably walking into objects.
  • Hydrocephaly: This is fluid accumulating within the brain. It is a particularly dangerous neurological disease as it puts pressure on brain tissue and causes degeneration. Affects balance, confusion and disorientation.
  • Myelodysplasia: This is the lack of development of the brain, causing problems with coordination.
  • Lens Luxation: This is an inherited disease that affects the eye, causing the lens to dislocate in either one or both eyes. It causes pain, and the eye turns typically opaque or reddish in hue, which inevitably causes blindness.
  • Cataract: This means the lens opacity obscures vision and may cause blindness.
  • Congenital Cataract and Microphthalmia: These are cataracts associated in the small eye globe.
  • Distichiasis: This is an abnormal location of the eyelashes on the margin of the eyelid, causing irritation.
  • Trichiasis: This is the abnormal placement of the eyelashes on the eyelid.
  • Glaucoma: This means increased pressure in the globe, which damages the eye.
  • Glaucoma (Pigmentary): This is glaucoma present in the dark pigment, causing blocks in the drainage angle.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: This is the degeneration of the retinal vision cells, which can cause blindness.
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes: This is hereditary and signs show later in life, although signs can be seen from the age of six months. It affects the ball and socket joint in the hip, leading to degeneration, pain, stiffness and reduced movements.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2015 Kally


Erich Coetzee on May 26, 2020:


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Jasen on January 14, 2017:

Very informative...i look up everything on here

Summer LaSalle from USA on July 16, 2015:

Very informational- I will share this with a friend who has a JR Terrier. They are such wonderful pets. :)


Kally (author) from Scotland on July 16, 2015:

Thank you :)

Amine from Doha, Qatar on July 16, 2015:

Very informative hub, keep up the good work Princess

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