Health Problems of Jack Russell Terriers

Picture of a Jack Russell Running Outside

Jack Russell Terriers are endearing and mostly have happy personalities. They have a lot of passion and energy, and while they are a healthy breed in general, they do have specific health problems.

In this article, we will look at some of the most common medical issues that Jack Russell Terriers can suffer from. Many of them are genetic and despite the breeders’ attempts to eliminate these health complications over time, this will call for an effort that entails decades of correct breeding.

Breed-related Health Issues

Jack Russell Terriers have a genetic predisposition that makes them more susceptible to certain diseases. These are the following:

We’ve written an extensive article on Von Willebrand’s disease in the past, but let’s take the other health problems and see what they entail. Luxating patella is what happens when the kneecap slips out of place – this usually happens for a short period of time. Portosystemic shunt is characterized by abnormal blood circulation, with some of the most severe cases consisting of the blood by-passing the liver.

Lens luxation is the dislocation of the lens in the dog’s eye. Legg-Perthes disease is a condition where the blood supply to the femoral head is insufficient, which eventually leads to its destruction.

These are the most typical diseases that Jack Russell Terriers can suffer from and that they carry and can transmit to their puppies. But as you can expect, they aren’t the only ones that this dog breed can have. Keep on reading to find out about many others.

Ear Infections

Jack Russell Terriers are prone to some ear problems, and the most common ones are infections and deafness. If your canine friend has developed an ear infection (otitis), you could see a lot of head shaking, redness inside the ears, or ear scratching. Usually, ear infections are treated quickly and effectively, but you should take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice the symptoms so that the disease doesn’t become complicated. External ear canal infections can turn into internal ear canal infections when they are left untreated.

Some Jack Russell Terriers can develop nerve degeneration in the ear, in which case they will become deaf. You can learn to communicate with your dog with hand signals if this happens.


This has become a more common problem in the past years, and that’s because people don’t exercise as much as they used to. With this lifestyle change comes a complication for our canine buddies, too, and especially for Jack Russell Terrier dogs. As you know, Jack Russell Terriers are very energetic; they love playing and running, so they can quickly become overweight if they don’t get enough exercise.

Being overweight isn’t problematic per se, but since the breed is already predisposed to luxations and a variety of other bone-related issues, the excess weight doesn’t really make things better. Weigh your canine friend on a regular basis to make sure that you prevent this problem.

High Toes

This is a fairly common benign health problem found in Jack Russell Terriers. It’s a foot defect where the dog has high toes and they don’t really touch the ground how they are supposed to. However, we’d like to note that this is merely a problem for breeders and people looking to enroll their dogs in competitions. It usually makes no difference to the dog, meaning that it doesn’t affect his or her wellbeing or overall health.


Also known as progressive neuronal abiotrophy, ataxia is a neurological problem that consists of brain degeneration. The part of the dog’s brain that is affected is usually the one that’s in charge of controlling coordinated movements. Jack Russell Terriers that exhibit this health problem, will experience tremors and a loss of coordination when playing or running.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for ataxia. This is a medical condition that has variable rates of progression. Nevertheless, if you take excellent care of your dog, he or she has a good chance of living with ataxia for many years.

Patent Ductus Arteriosus

When they are inside their moms’ bellies, puppies have a fetal vessel that runs between the aorta and the pulmonary artery. This vessel closes when the puppies are born. If this doesn’t happen, the dog can suffer from an array of cardiovascular problems. Dogs that have a Patent Ductus Arteriosus can die suddenly, but more often than not, they have a strange heart sound that’s usually discovered in a routine consultation.

Also, dogs that have this health problem are weaker than those that don’t. Fortunately, the condition is reversible as surgery can be performed to artificially close the fetal vessel.


This is a condition where the dog’s testes haven’t descended yet or will never. The condition itself isn’t dangerous at all, but it does pose a risk to the male’s fertility, and it might be a drawback if you want your dog to participate in competitions. There also seems to be a correlation between cryptorchidism and later life malignancy, which needs to be considered, as well.

Getting your canine companion neutered early can help prevent a variety of issues, including cancer. Consider having your pet neutered for his sake.


In this disease, fluid begins to accumulate in the brain. Hydrocephaly is a dangerous health problem for Jack Russell Terriers as the fluid puts a lot of pressure on the brain tissue and the latter can eventually degenerate. Dogs that have hydrocephaly suffer from balance issues, confusion, and disorientation. Most cases are untreatable, and many pet parents choose euthanasia as a humane ending of the dog’s suffering.

These aren’t the only diseases that a Jack Russell Terrier can suffer from over the course of his or her life. Most dogs in this breed have oral hygiene problems, arthritis, epilepsy, diabetes mellitus, cardiomyopathy, hernias, cataracts, glaucoma, as well as any other medical conditions which characterize old age, for example. As you can see, getting a Jack Russell Terrier needs to be considered carefully – it is a responsibility that needs to be taken seriously.



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