What is the Life Expectancy of a Jack Russell Terrier?

Picture of a brown and white Jack Russell Terrier

Nearly everyone worldwide is familiar with the little white tornado known as the Jack Russell Terrier. Those that love them REALLY love them, and those that don’t? Well…they don’t. Still, it’s hard to resist the appeal of these little white mischief makers who are so friendly and filled with their very own brand of “joie de vivre.” If you’re considering adding a Jack Russell Terrier to your home, you’ll want to know what type of life expectancy you can expect from the breed. Jack Russell Terriers are typically hardy and healthy little dogs who you can expect to be around to entertain your family for many years. But just what is the life expectancy of a Jack Russell Terrier?

The Life of a Jack Russell Terrier

As an extremely healthy breed whose typical health conditions are genetic, a Jack Russell Terrier from soundly health-tested parents is likely to enjoy a long life indeed. Though common hereditary illnesses for Jack Russells can include eye, ear, and patella (knee) problems as well as several genetic diseases, the most common cause of death for this breed is being hit by a car.

Why is that?

Jack Russells are known to have intense prey drive. This drive can often cause even the best obedience-trained pooch to take off in hot pursuit of a cat, squirrel, rat, fox…or even a small dog! Since Jack Russells were originally bred as hunting dogs to accompany the Parson John Russell on his jaunts in search of fox in the English countryside, this terrier’s drive to chase overpowers all other reason. This often means the dog will chase supposed prey directly into the line of traffic where he will meet his demise with a head-on collision with a car.

Though you cannot train prey drive out of a Jack Russell Terrier, you can provide a secure backyard containment system to prevent the dog from having the opportunity to bolt. This is a very important part of keeping your Jack Russell Terrier healthy and happy…and much more likely to live to a ripe old age.

So, assuming your Jack Russell Terrier has come from a reputable breeder who screened well for all possible genetic diseases prior to a mating between your dog’s parents, you can expect your dog to have excellent quality of life for the majority of its years.

The average life expectancy of a Jack Russell Terrier ranges from as low as 12 years to up to 19. It has been reported that some Jacks have even lived up to 21 years before succumbing to old age!

Bear in mind, that genetics play a key factor in how old your dog will live to be. Dogs bred from non-health tested parents or whose canine family members have a history of cancer or other serious physical ailments may pass away at an earlier age than the reported average.

So too does environment play a role. Dogs who are fed a poor diet or who are overweight are also more likely to suffer from health problems and a reduced capacity of life.

The best news of all when it comes to owning a Jack Russell Terrier is that the breed remains vibrant, energetic, and youthful well into its senior years! Many vets report that the 12 year old Jack Russell still maintains his puppy-like ways, bouncing his way around the veterinary clinic as though he were still a babe. A part of the breed’s charm, for sure!

How Long Will a Jack Russell Terrier Live?

With a little bit of luck and a lot of love, you could find yourself with a 19 year old Jack cuddled up on the couch next to you but still ready for adventure when the mood strikes! To know the breed is to love it, and many do!

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13 Responses

  1. Hi..i rescued a jack russel off the streets 4 years ago..i had to give him to a friend because I was in the process of being homeless myself ..with a child and two other dogs..hes very sweet and so I started worrying this year and feeling bad that he’s been in a small pin all these years and asked if he could come stay with me through below freezing weather..they said yes so I had him for a week and a half but the managers threatening to kick me out over the dog…we aren’t allowed dogs and now the friend who had him doesn’t want him back..i love him but I can’t have him..hes a handsome guy and hasn’t been fixed so let me know if u may want him

    1. Aww thats a crappy situation amanda. Id help in a heartbeat. But im in canada. My older malamute would have loved the company

  2. This article is very irresponsible to suggest that Jack Russells live to be 19 years old and to report cases of Jack Russells living to 21 years of age.
    I grew up with Jacks on a farm in Devon in England and adopted Jacks while living in both the city and suburbs of New York and now live in upstate New York where I’ve had many Jacks over the year and known many other people who have had Jacks.
    Some die of natural causes as early as 6 or 8 years old generally from inbreeding while the average age at death is 12 to 16 years like many other breeds with some outliers up to 18 or 19 years. So to say Jacks live to 19 is just reporting the extreme outliers. And there are just a handful of dogs of any breed who have ever lived to be 21 just one or two on record in the United States.
    So this article is grossly exagerrating the potential live span of a Jack.

    1. I have a JRT who will be 18yrs old December 9th. I’m 75 and I have a very hard time with him. The Veterinarian told me June 2019 that he has a mass in his chest as big as a lemon and his prognosis is poor. He has a bad coughing as he sleeps at night, walks slow and is restless wanting to go in and out of the house. Is he suffering? I’m very frustrated with dealing with him, sadly to say. I have a few health issues and don’t feel like caring for him anymore but don’t know what to do.

      1. My JRT turned 18 on August 9th., and likewise has health issues. They had been managed well until very recently. I don’t know that she is suffering, but her quality of life has definitely decreased. I pray you find peace in whatever decision lies ahead. They are some of the most difficult ones to make. God bless

    2. I’m one of the lucky few who has had a male JRT that reached 16, and currently my female is 18. I’m now faced with hard decisions with increased health issues, but what a blessing to have a best friend live a long and happy life. Remington and Riley will be remembered forever as family favorites.

    3. Have a Jack Russell who made it to 18 so I have to disagree with you Tony! And we didn’t do anything extreme either. Just made sure he got his exercise.

    4. Hi I’m sitting on my sofa next to my 18 and a half year old Jack Russell,she is still energetic and full of life and I know I’m very lucky she is still with me and sorry you lost yours so young x

  3. MY Jack Russell just went to heaven, I hope. Her name was Clementine,I took vets advise wish I did not and waited a little so listen to me make sure you are sure with vet, ask extra questions, you can not come back so please be sure., And it hurts worst than any thing after all the lose in life this is horable. I got her when my mother died to help with daughter and family daughter got older moved out. Clementine stayed with me came in my truck her big adventure. If I left for one min or five days she would be in picture window waiting for me. been 6 weeks, I miss her so much, Crying now, real tough construction worker bull. watching football coming home no Clemy in the window just sucks hard to take. She is in yard were she played and went in her pool. please ask extra question be sure doing right thing, no coming back, it is hell can not say how long. she was the best friend ever,,,,bless her heart

  4. Sorry Clementine went to heaven 3 weeks before she turned 16, so many love filled years, still not enough. Pray she is with my mom and dad, and friends. so please before vets gives bad news ask to many questions and be sure, no coming back. I wish I waited just a little for more spoiled time with her, sorry clementine…

  5. I lost my Patter Jack in a car crash last May, his name was Harry and he was 14 and a half. He was in his cage in the back seat of our car and we thought he was safe. We miss him so much, he was like our child and he made our lives so much fun. I want another one ,but my partner said we could never replace him. I don’t want to replace him, I still have alot of love to give and would love to get another one. They’re the best dog’s ever!

  6. I had a JRT that lived to be 14 1/2 years old. He was super smart and athletic and possessed an incredibly strong hunting instinct. We hiked in the woods and ran in the fields and swam in the lakes as often as we could. He could retrieve on land and water. Totally fearless but, sometimes hostile to other dogs. The best part was that he was so darn affectionate. He was a face licker but, he was cute so nobody minded. He loved jumping up on the bed and getting under the covers with us. As he got older he began growling more….I attribute that to hearing loss, cataracts in his eyes and hip arthritis. I think he felt threatened more easily due to the sensory loss that really accelerated once he reached the 14 year mark. The end came 6 years ago. Had to put him down…
    literally the saddest day of my life. Still think about him everyday.

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