Jack Russells are small terrier dogs that were traditionally hunting dogs. They are reported as the 11th most popular dog in the UK and are a firm family favourite. They may, however, experience a number of common health issues from conditions that impact the whole body, mouth issues, eye problems, organ conditions, pain in the joints, or complications with the brain.
Anyone with a Jack Russell may have also recognised their endearing ‘skipping action’ where they lift one of their legs off the floor when walking or running. In some cases, this can be a reaction to an underlying health condition.
Let’s take a closer look at what some of these common health conditions found with Jack Russells are are and how we can identify them.
Due to the fact that Jack Russells are smaller dogs, they are prone to easily becoming overweight. This can impact their ability to move around and their quality of life. On top of this, any dog that is obese is more likely to have issues with its health compared to its healthy weighted counterparts.
With many owners now treating their dogs like 'one-of-the-family' this can lead to further complications around diet related issues, often from over feeding. Try to avoid letting your dog snack on your snacks. If they are regularly begging by your side when eating try and remove them from the room or provide a natural and healthy option alongside your food to pass them.
Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease)
If your Jack Russell is older, it will be at an increased risk of a condition known as hyperadrenocorticism. This is where the adrenal glands produce a higher level of steroid hormones than normal which can lead to a number of complications. This condition can be treated with medication and frequent vet appointments, and the sooner it is identified, the better. Early symptoms to look for include fur loss and bald patches, increased weight, increased drinking, a swollen stomach, and increased urination.
Hemolytic Anemia and Thrombocytopenia
Jack Russell Terriers can develop issues with their blood, where their own immune system does not recognize the platelets or red blood cells as their own and instead treat them as foreign bodies. Due to this, it turns against them and begins to attack them. If the red blood cells are attacked, the dog will become extremely tired and weak, lacking energy. They will also become anemic, and their gums will discolour to a pale yellow or white. When the platelet levels in the blood drop, the blood will not clot correctly, meaning that there could be excessive bleeding if they become injured or are bruising.
However, if this condition is diagnosed by a doctor, it can be treated by suppressing the immune system combined with steroids.
Jack Russell Terriers have a higher rate of skin cancer than other dogs and are particularly susceptible to mast cell tumours. These can be hard to detect as they look like many other non-cancerous lumps and skin conditions, so they are often overlooked. If you notice any lump, it is crucial to get these investigated quickly so that if it is cancer, it can be operated on. Surgery is the best option to try and tackle this, but it is vital that it is caught early for the best chances of survival.
Mouth Issues found with Jack Russells
One symptom to look out for carefully is bad breath. Yes, dogs can have breath that smells like their food, but it should not be so bad that it is unbearable. If this is the case, they may have gum disease due to a build-up of tartar on the teeth, which can infect the gums. The cause of this is poor oral health, and when left untreated, it can lead to tooth decay and loss. Not only that, the decay and infection can then impact other areas of the body.
To avoid gum disease, it is important to ensure that your dog’s teeth are cleaned regularly. There are a number of products available on the market to help with this, such as toothbrushes and dental sticks for them to chew on. As well as cleaning your dog’s teeth yourself, consider booking an appointment to get them cleaned at the vets every so often to keep on top of any dental issues that your dog may have.
As well as gum disease, Jack Russells can have a number of abnormalities that can lead to difficulties eating and biting correctly. These include teeth that are out of alignment, overbites, underbites, and a condition known as oligodontia, where there is a lack of teeth. These conditions are easily identified, and many can be fixed using braces and other dental options.
Eye Issues found with Jack Russells
A condition that can cause blindness in both humans and dogs is glaucoma. If left untreated, those with glaucoma can lose their eyesight quickly, however, it can be treated if identified early. The first sign of the condition is a pain in the eyes, but this can be hard to spot. In dogs, look for them squinting, their eyes watering, or them pushing their head against hard surfaces to try and get rid of pressure. When the condition has developed, the eyes can look like they are too big for the head and swollen. As soon as you notice this in your dog, contact a vet immediately who will need to deliver emergency treatment.
Another cause of blindness in ageing Jack Russells is cataracts. The tell-tale sign of cataracts in both humans and dogs is cloudiness in the eye developing over time. There are few treatments in dogs to prevent this, but most will come to terms with their sight loss and be able to function with it.
Primary Lens Luxation (PLL)
This lesser-known condition can be inherited and is common within the terrier breeds. Primary Lens Luxation is where the fibers within the eye break down, meaning that they can no longer hold the lens of the eye in place, which can cause a number of complications. To fix this, surgery may be required on the eye.
Organ Issues found with Jack Russells
A common liver issue found in the Jack Russell breed is a portosystemic shunt, sometimes known as PSS. This is where the liver’s blood flow is cut off, impacting its ability to work correctly. If this occurs, the dog will not grow at the usual rate, may struggle to go to the toilet, or have seizures. To help identify this, a liver test can be completed, and surgery used to help rectify the issue. In the best cases, however, surgery is not required, and medication and diet can be used to alleviate the symptoms instead.
Diseases of the heart can also be inherited by Jack Russells, including a condition called pulmonic stenosis. Dogs with this condition do not have a fully formed pulmonary valve or artery, leading to difficulties with the blood moving between the heart and the lungs. This leads to weakness of the lungs that can present as your dog passing out or not being able to take part in exercise.
To help diagnose this, your dog’s heart rate will be monitored in a number of tests such as ECGs and x-rays. This will help identify any issues with blood flow and abnormal heartbeats. The earlier heart conditions are detected, the better the outcome.
Compared to other dog breeds, Jack Russells have a higher chance of developing kidney or bladder stones. These are extremely painful for a Jack Russell and can lead to complications. Look out for blood in the dog’s urine, or if they find it difficult to go to the toilet – if so, contact your vet as soon as possible as they require urgent medical care. This is such a common problem that many vets undertake urine tests for kidney and bladder stones once or twice a year to try and identify the issue before it becomes painful.
Bone and Joint Issues with Jack Russells
Jack Russells have smaller legs to support their body, and partially due to this, they often experience the dislocation of their kneecap. This often occurs when walking, where the dog may take its weight off the leg as this happens. Generally, they are able to knock it back into place themselves, but this can still cause some level of discomfort. One of the best ways to avoid this, like many of the conditions on our list, is to ensure that the Jack Russell’s weight is monitored and it does not become too heavy.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
A common problem in many dog breeds is hip and elbow dysplasia, which leads to the joints at the hips and elbows not developing properly as they grow. This may lead to trouble moving and getting up, as well as lameness as the dog ages. This can eventually lead to arthritis, causing pain and stiffness. If arthritis is developed, it can be treated with medication and therapy, however, it is important to note that keeping your Jack Russell at a healthy weight is vital as this can delay any diagnosis of arthritis.
This hip condition can develop in Jack Russell puppies, causing pain. It is a complex condition that is not fully understood by experts. Thought to be passed down in genetics, this condition is caused by a lack of blood supply to the area, which means that the top of the leg can break down and become susceptible to breakage. To fix this issue, surgery is often necessary.
There is nothing worse than hay fever when the springtime comes around, and this impacts dogs as well as humans. Dogs can be allergic to a number of substances such as dust or pollen, but instead of making them sneeze, or their eyes run, their skin will become itchy and uncomfortable. Jack Russells often experience this, with the allergies also leading to a number of ear infections and discomfort.
Brain Issues with Jack Russells
One of the most common brain issues that dogs experience is epilepsy and seizures related to this. Seizures can be caused by several different conditions such as strokes, brain tumours, organ failure, or low blood pressure. If there is no apparent cause of these seizures, however, your dog may have epilepsy. This is a condition that is often passed down through the bloodline and does not generally present itself until the dog is at least 6 months old. The good news is that epilepsy can usually be managed well, with blood testing and medication where required. Vets treat epilepsy in dogs often, and therefore, are well versed in how to handle them.
You might be surprised to see this on the list, and chasing their tail every so often is perfectly acceptable, but if it happens too often, it can lead to issues with the brain. This is because it can become an obsessive compulsion which can lead to the dog injuring itself and finding it difficult to stop. If you notice that your Jack Russell is chasing its tail too often, try and distract them by getting them to engage in another activity instead. If this continues, your dog may require specialist intervention from a behaviour expert and medication to help control it.
Within some bloodlines of Jack Russells, there is evidence of deafness that runs in the family. If you often find yourself shouting your dog’s name and not getting a reaction, this may be the issue. A hearing test is an easy way to identify any problems, but other hearing issues may require a brain scan to confirm. Before a hearing test, look for any noticeable issues with the dog’s ear and check with a vet that they do not have a bad ear infection as this can also impact hearing.
And finally, when looking at health conditions in a Jack Russell, it is important to look at mental health as well as physical health. Jack Russells are clever and skillful dogs, as seen in the fact that they are often traditionally used in hunting. It is, therefore, vital that they are kept mentally and physically active for the sake of their mental wellbeing.
While they are small dogs, they are active, so it is important to ensure that they get enough exercise. Regular walks are important, as well as playing games that will stimulate their mind, such as fetch, hide and seek, or having toys to play with.
While common in Jack Russells, many of the health issues listed above can be treated by a vet and in some cases avoided by careful planning. In the case of an injury related to these conditions, or linked to joint problems, consider looking at rehabilitation therapy to help get your beloved furry friend back on its feet in no time.
With the addition of Advanced Magnetic dog collars now available to dog owners and a large plethora of healthy food and long-term suitable supplements to aid your dogs ongoing wellbeing there is no better time to live a happy life with a fit and healthy Jack Russell.