Jack Russell Terrier Health Concerns [14 Common JRT Health Problems]


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Editor’s note: This article has been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM. Dr. Ochoa is a graduate of St. George’s University with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine.

If you’re the owner of a Jack Russell Terrier or are thinking about adopting one, then it’s important to be aware of the most common health concerns that affect this breed. JRTs are prone to a number of health problems, so it’s important to be on the lookout for any signs that your dog may be sick.

In this blog post, I’ll discuss some of the most common health concerns found in Jack Russell Terriers and provide some tips on how to prevent these health problems from occurring.

  1. Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
  2. Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease (LCPD)
  3. Patellar Luxation
  4. Allergies
  5. Ear Infections
  6. Eye Problems
  7. Dental Disease
  8. Obesity
  9. Portosystemic Shunt Liver Disorder
  10. Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease)
  11. Hemolytic Anemia and Thrombocytopenia
  12. Bladder and Kidney Stones
  13. Epilepsy
  14. Small Dog Syndrome

1. Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

While hip and elbow dysplasia are relatively common problems in dogs, they are particularly prevalent in Jack Russell Terriers. Both conditions are caused by a malformation of the joint, which can lead to pain, lameness, and eventually arthritis.

Genetics is thought to be the primary cause of dysplasia, though environmental factors such as diet and exercise can also play a role. Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the condition, but may include weight management, physical therapy, and surgery.

While there is no guarantee that dysplasia can be completely prevented, early detection and treatment is essential for helping your dog live a long and active life.

2. Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease (LCPD)

Some Jack Russells may be affected by a condition known as Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease. This condition is caused by a reduction in blood supply to the head of the femur, or thigh bone. As a result, the bone may begin to crumble and break down. Symptoms of Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease include limping, joint pain, and muscle wasting.

While the exact cause of the condition is unknown, it is believed to be genetic in nature. There is no cure for Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease, but it can be managed with medication and physical therapy. In many cases, surgery is needed to remove the damaged bone. With proper treatment, most dogs with Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease can lead happy and active lives.

3. Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation is a condition that affects the kneecap, or patella. In dogs with this condition, the patella can slip out of place, causing pain and lameness. Jack Russell Terriers are particularly prone to patellar luxation, with estimates suggesting that as many as 20% of all JRTs will suffer from this condition at some point in their lives.

There are several grades of patellar luxation, ranging from grade I (where the patella can slip out of place but slips back into place on its own) to grade IV (where the patella is permanently dislocated).

Treatment for this condition typically involves surgery to correct the alignment of the kneecap. In some cases, physiotherapy may also be recommended to help strengthen the muscles around the knee and prevent further episodes of luxation.

4. Allergies

If you’re thinking of adding a Jack Russell Terrier to your family, it’s important to be aware that these dogs can be prone to allergies. While not all Jack Russells will suffer from allergies, it’s estimated that around 40% of the breed is affected by some form of allergy.

The most common allergens for Jack Russells include pollen, dust mites, and grass. Symptoms of allergies can include itchiness, red or inflamed skin, hair loss, and excessive licking or scratching.

If your dog is showing signs of allergies, it’s important to take them to the vet for an evaluation. With proper treatment, most dogs with allergies can lead happy and healthy lives.

See: Best Dog Food For Jack Russell with Allergies

5. Ear Infections

Jack Russell Terriers are also prone to ear infections. If left untreated, ear infections can lead to serious health problems, including deafness.

The good news is that there are steps you can take to prevent ear infections in your Jack Russell Terrier. First, be sure to clean their ears regularly with a dog-safe cleaner. You should also avoid letting your Jack Russell swim in dirty water, as this can increase their risk of developing an infection.

If your dog does develop an ear infection, it is important to take them to the vet so that they can be treated with antibiotics.

6. Eye Problems

Jack Russell Terriers are susceptible to a few eye problems including cataracts, glaucoma, lens luxation, and progressive retinal atrophy. These conditions can lead to blindness, and they can be painful for the dog.

It is important for owners of Jack Russell Terriers to be aware of these conditions and to monitor their dogs for any signs of eye problems. Early detection is critical in ensuring that these conditions are properly treated.

7. Dental Disease

Jack Russells are prone to dental diseases caused by the build-up of plaque and tartar on the teeth, which can lead to gingivitis and tooth loss. In severe cases, dental disease can also cause damage to the heart, kidneys, and liver.

To help prevent this condition, it is important to brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis. You should also take them to the vet for an annual teeth cleaning. If you notice any signs of dental disease, such as bad breath or red gums, be sure to take your dog to the vet right away.

8. Obesity

Jack Russell Terriers are unsuspecting victims of obesity. This is often due to overeating, lack of exercise, or simple genetics. Regardless of the cause, obesity can lead to other health problems including joint pain, diabetes, and respiratory difficulties.

While it is important to keep an eye on your dog’s weight, there is no need to panic if your Jack Russell starts to putting on a few extra pounds. With a little diet and exercise, most dogs can easily lose the excess weight and return to a healthy weight.

See: Veterinarian Approved Jack Russell Feeding Guide

9. Portosystemic Shunt Liver Disorder

Some Jack Russells suffer from a condition known asportosystemic shunt (PSS). This occurs when blood bypasses the liver, resulting in a build-up of toxins in the body. Symptoms of PSS include poor appetite, weight loss, lethargy, and vomiting. If left untreated, PSS can be fatal.

If you think your dog might have PSS, be sure to contact your veterinarian right away. If you are considering purchasing a Jack Russell Terrier from a breeder, be sure to find a breeder who can provide proof that the parents do not have PSS.

10. Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease)

JRTs are also prone to a condition called hyperadrenocorticism, or Cushing’s disease. Cushing’s disease occurs when the body produces too much of the hormone cortisol. This can cause a variety of symptoms, including increased thirst and urination, weight gain, and hair loss.

However, with early diagnosis and treatment, the disease can be managed with medications. If you think your Jack Russell might have Cushing’s disease, talk to your veterinarian about getting tested.

11. Hemolytic Anemia and Thrombocytopenia

Jack Russells are susceptible to two particular blood disorders: hemolytic anemia and thrombocytopenia. Hemolytic anemia is a condition in which the red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be produced. This can lead to fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.

Thrombocytopenia is a condition in which the platelets, which are essential for blood clotting, are reduced in number. This can cause easy bruising and nosebleeds.

Both conditions are serious and require prompt veterinary treatment. Fortunately, there are treatment options available for dogs with hemolytic anemia or thrombocytopenia.

12. Bladder and Kidney Stones

Jack Russell Terriers tend to develop bladder and kidney stones more often than the average dog breed. These stones are formed when minerals in the urine become concentrated and crystallize. They can cause pain and urinary problems, and in severe cases, may require surgery to remove.

There are several things that owners can do to help prevent stone formation, including feeding a balanced diet and making sure the dog has plenty of water to drink. Regular vet check-ups are also important, as early detection can make treatment much easier.

13. Epilepsy

Focal seizure in a male Jack Russell Terrier

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects dogs of all breeds, including Jack Russell Terriers. The exact cause of epilepsy is unknown, but it is believed to be hereditary.

Epilepsy can cause seizures, which can vary in severity from mild to severe. In some cases, seizures may only occur occasionally, while in other cases they may happen frequently. Symptoms usually start show up between 6 months and 3 years old.

There is no cure for epilepsy, but there are treatment options available that can help to control seizures. If you think your dog may be suffering from epilepsy, it is important to talk to your veterinarian so that a diagnosis can be made and appropriate treatment can be started.

14. Small Dog Syndrome

Jack Russell Terriers are small dogs with a big personality. They are intelligent, active, and fearless, and they have a reputation for being stubborn and willful. Unfortunately, these same qualities can also lead to what is known as Small Dog Syndrome.

Small Dog Syndrome is a behavioral problem that occurs when a small dog perceives itself to be the leader of the pack. This can manifest in aggression toward other dogs, people, and even inanimate objects.

However, this does not mean that all Jack Russell Terriers will develop this problem. With proper training and socialization, most Jack Russell Terriers can live happily as part of a family.

Jack Russell Terrier Health Concerns Final Thoughts

While Jack Russell Terriers are generally a healthy breed, they are prone to some health problems. If you’re thinking about getting a Jack Russell Terrier, it’s important to be aware of these potential health concerns and make sure you take your dog to the vet for regular checkups. By doing this, you can help keep your furry friend a happy and healthy part of the family for years to come.

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Kevin William

Kevin William grew up with a female West Highland White Terrier named Murphy who was always by his side. Kevin currently lives in New York state with his family including a Labrabull (Labrador Retriever Pit Bull) named Lily.

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