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How To Tell If Your Jack Russell Is Sick, Jack Russell Crazy Issue #13
October 26, 2010

How To Tell If Your
Jack Russell Is Sick

Hello again!

In this issue, I’m going to talk about recognizing signs of sickness in your dog. I’ve also taken the time to go through and answer some of the unanswered questions from the forum, so there’s a big fat Q & A section included at the end of this email covering topics like senility in old dogs and dogs “peeing” while they’re asleep, and why white puppies sometimes go deaf.

Recognizing Warning Signs of Illness

My dog Runty has just finished getting over a nasty infection after a round of antibiotics. This has got me thinking, because I know a lot of Jack Russell owners are unsure about when to take their dog to the vet and how to tell the difference between symptoms that are serious, and symptoms that are not such a big deal.

When I was researching health problems that affect Jack Russells about a year ago, it became clear to me just what a difficult job vets and pet owners have in diagnosing what’s wrong when a dog is sick. This is because a lot of the symptoms of different diseases are actually fairly similar. Some of these diseases will pass on their own, some require medication and antibiotics, and some are life threatening.

I’ve put together here a list of symptoms to watch out for, and signs that your dog definitely needs a trip to the vet. Remember, I’m not a vet, so don’t take this list as gospel – always be on the safe side and call in to the vet if you have any doubts.

Symptoms to Watch Out For:

  • Vomiting – can indicate a number of different diseases
  • Excessive drinking – can indicate liver or kidney problems
  • Collapsing – can be caused by various issues, from heat exhaustion to a bad infection
  • Dizziness or apparent confusion
  • Pacing
  • Tearing patches of fur – may be a sign of parasite infestation
  • Excessive self licking
  • Pupil dilation
  • Coughing – the famous Kennel Cough is a kind of dry, throaty hacking sound
  • Dry retching
  • Excessive shedding (more than normal)
  • Appearance of sores or blotches on the skin
  • Sudden unexplained aggression when touched (can indicate pain)
  • Cloudy eyes, or discharge coming from eyes
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Scooting along the ground (this is symptomatic of an impacted anal gland, not worms)
  • Scratching or shaking ears excessively
  • Diarrhea – can be caused by an upset stomach, or may be a sign of a more serious problem
  • High temperature
  • Irregular or raised heart rate
  • Trembling
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Sudden loss of weight
  • Sudden gain of weight
  • Excessive urination
  • Urine leaking while asleep – typically a sign of incontinence
  • Struggling to urinate or defecate
  • Bumps or tumours
  • Any behavioural changes may indicate the dog is in pain or suffering from an illness
This is by no means a complete list, but it covers many of the most common symptoms you might see in your dog. As an extra tip: never, ever give a dog a medication designed for humans unless your vet expressly tells you to do so. Many of these medications contain ingredients that can be harmful to dogs, and even those ingredients that work on dogs will be in the wrong dosages.

Question and Answer Sessions

Here are my answers to some of the open questions on the Jack Russell Lover Forum.


Laura asked…

My four month white Jack Russell puppy seems to not listen or hear anything. For example today she was sleeping, I held my keys next to her ear and nothing. How do I train her? How do I know if she is really deaf?

My Answer

Hi Laura,

Unfortunately, it wouldn't surprise me if your pup is deaf. You say she's white - there is a proven link between the gene for whiteness in dogs and the gene for deafness, so all-white dogs tend to be more at risk of going deaf that others.

That said, you can still train her easily. Just replace voice commands with hand signals, and instead of saying "Good dog" or using a clicker to mark good behaviors, simply use a flash from a flashlight.


My Jack Russell Amy will fall asleep and occasionally what appears to be urine ends up in a pool around her rear end. She is 5 years old and has been completely house trained since a few months old. This problem started about one year ago. Please help.

My Answer

Hi there,

Amy's problem is not a training issue if she's asleep - it's medical. She is obviously losing control over her bladder while sleeping. This is an issue that needs to be dealt with by a vet. Is Amy spayed? Spaying can sometimes heighten the risk of incontinence, but not losing control of urine release is not that uncommon in older females anyway.


Lisa asked…

Hello, I have a 4yr old female Jack who has been living in a very large leafy, grassy, suburban backyard since I purchased her from rescue group. I am thinking of moving close to the city, to a backyard which is a smallish paved courtyard. Can anyone suggest anything for the adaption? Or is this just a very bad idea????

Regards, Lisa

My Answer

Hi Lisa,

It depends a little on the size of this paved courtyard. It can be done, but it will take some adjusting. My advice would be:

1. You might have to up the exercise levels, to make up for the fact that your dog can't run around as much on her own.

2. Beware of housetraining backslides and be prepared to go through the routine of toilet training all over again.

All in all though, it should work out all right as long as you maintain a regular exercise schedule.


We got our JRT just over a month ago from a breeder. She was 10 weeks old when we got her. She was the runt of the litter. So adorable...but it seems that all she wants to do is sleep. She constantly walks around with her tail tucked and her back hunched. She is so sweet when she plays which is not very often. She seems like she is so sad all the time. What could be wrong or what do we need to do. Right now she is about 16 weeks old. I thought that she should be a little more playful by now.

My Answer

First of all, don't panic. It may simply be her own individual character to be a little shy - not all Jack Russells fit the stereotype of being hyper little maniacs. That said, it may simply be that she wasn't socialized well enough by the breeder.

If she is afraid of people, this should correct itself in time as you train her and play with her. Just make sure that when she does play, you make a big deal about it and maybe give her some treats. All in all, don't worry too much - her personality will continue to change over the coming months, so just keep things positive and begin some basic training and proceed as normal.

On the other hand, if she seems clearly depressed it may be an indicator of illness. If she's displaying other symptoms as well, it's probably worth a visit to the vet to know for sure.

To see more questions and answers, or to ask your own questions and help out other Jack Russell owners, visit the Jack Russell Forum.

Got a Question About Jack Russell Training?

When I wrote my ebook on training Jack Russells, I was very careful to answer all the most common questions I got in emails about training Jacks. So when you buy a copy, you can rest assured that all the training issues you're ever likely to run into are covered in this ebook. Get your copy of The Jack Russell Lover's Ultimate Guide to Training today. -

The Jack Russell Training 7 Part Crash Course

All doom and gloom aside, life goes on and JRTs will continue to be JRTs, earthquakes or no. Many readers are continuing to benefit from the free 7-part e-course which serves as a beginner’s introduction to the unique art and science of training Jack Russells. Sign up today to start enjoying the benefits of improved JRT behaviour.

Jack Russell Calendars

As you may have noticed, there are now JRT calendars up for sale through the website. Take the chance now to grab a 2011 calendar – there are some really cute pictures and a variety of shapes and sizes of calendar. The transactions are handled by, and Jack Russell Lover receives a commission when you buy – this helps keep the site alive as the best free JRT info resource and online community on the net! You can check out the range of calendars here:

The Jack Russell Lover Community

As always, it's great to see more people contributing their JRT stories, questions, answers and photos to the community. You can have your say on one of these pages:
Jack Russell Stories
Jack Russell Photos
Jack Russell Forum

'Til Next Time...

Take care - and take care of your JRT!

Any comments on this issue, or ideas for upcoming issues of the E-Zine? Don't hesitate to contact me. Simply reply to this email. Your question may even be featured in an upcoming issue of the newsletter!

Know of a friend who might be interested in this newsletter? Go ahead and forward it to them and encourage them to sign up. Let's continue to grow the Jack Russell Lover community together.

Thanks for reading and best wishes,

Tom McSherry

Click here to order a copy of The Jack Russell Lover's Ultimate Guide To Training

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