Jack Russell Terrier Health

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Jack Russell Terrier health problems are a big concern for any Jack Russell owner. These are some of the most common health problems affecting JRTs, their symptoms and what to do about them.

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Be aware that many different diseases can show similar symptoms, and symptoms don't always show up in the same combination. Don't attempt to diagnose your pet based on this information - this is a general guide for educational purposes only. If there's something wrong with your dog, be on the safe side and talk to a vet. Any Jack Russell Terrier health program should involve regular check-ups, at least once a year.

Jack Russell Eye Problems

  • Problem: Lens luxation. This is when the lens of the eye gets dislocated. This is a very common Jack Russell Terrier health problem as it is heriditary.
  • Symptoms: The dog may be unable to open its eye. There may also be a fluid discharge from the eye, reddening of the eye and noticeable pain.
  • Solution: Luxation is a problem that can be dealt with by surgery. Talk to a qualified vet.
  • Problem: Cataracts. The lens of the eye becomes cloudy or opaque, gradually leading to blindness.
  • Symptoms: Watery eyes, a change in color of the pupil to a lighter color. (Pupils should be black).
  • Solution: Surgery.
Many eye problems may simply be caused by an object in the dog's eye. Gently wipe the eye with a warm, damp cotton ball, or use eye drops available from a vet.

Jack Russell Heart Problems

  • Problem: Heart Disease. Just like in humans, heart disease is a common Jack Russell Terrier health problem. Also be aware of heartworms, which are transferred by mosquitoes.
  • Symptoms: Losing weight and a change in appetite, lethargy, breathing trouble, change in pulse speed, coughing and wheezing.
  • Solution: Vitamin E can help older dogs with heart disease. Worming medication is available from vets for heartworms. If you exercise your Jack Russell regularly and feed it a healthy diet (ie no table scraps and sweets) its risk of heart disease will be reduced. A well-balanced diet is the cornerstone of Jack Russell Terrier health.

Heartworms are another problem that can crop up. This are internal parasites. You can protect against heartworms with a preventive medicine like

Jack Russell Kidney Problems

  • Problem: Kidney disease.
  • Symptoms: Increase in urination or urinating inside, loss of appetite, excessive drinking, weakness and lethargy, weight loss, shivering, mouth smells and ulcers.
  • Solution: Careful monitoring of the dog's diet. A dog with kidney disease should be fed a low protein diet and plenty of water. A qualified vet can prescribe a diet for your dog.
  • Problem: Leptospirosis. This is one of the big threats to good Jack Russell Terrier health and should be vaccinated against at an early age.
  • Symptoms: Pain, vomiting, excessive drinking, weight loss, change in appetite, increase in urination or urinating inside even though the dog is housetrained.
  • Solution: Leptospirosis is covered by early vaccinations. Make sure your dog gets its annual booster shot. Antibiotics are used to treat leptospirosis. Read more about leptospirosios in dogs.

Jack Russell Travel Sickness

  • Problem: Dog becomes sick when traveling in a car.
  • Symptoms: Vomiting, dizziness, lethargy.
  • Solution: Always travel with your Jack Russell in a crate it has been trained to feel comfortable in, belted in place. Provide plenty of water. Crate training is likely to solve most travel sickness problems. Don't feed the dog for a few hours before you drive. If problems persist, talk to your vet about herbal remedies and medications to prevent travel sickness. This is one of the relatively minor common Jack Russell Terrier health problems.

Jack Russell Diarrhoea

  • Problem: Diarrhoea.
  • Symptoms: Diarrhoea is a symptom of many possible Jack Russell Terrier health problems, from relatively harmless bacteria to severe poisoning.
  • Solution: If the diarrhoea is not serious and the dog is not showing other symptoms you can try removing solid food from its diet. Don't feed your dog milk as many dogs can't digest it properly - this may be the cause of diarrhoea. A sudden change in diet may also cause this problem. Give the dog small amounts of water several times a day. Ice cubes for licking can also help.

Jack Russell Dandruff

  • Problem: Dry and flakey skin.
  • Symptoms: Skin flakes in the dog's coat.
  • Solution: They are special shampoos to deal with this problem. Be aware that "dandruff" may in fact be the eggs of parasites. See external parasites below.

Jack Russell Heat Stroke

  • Problem: Dog becomes ill after an extended period in then sun or a hot environment.
  • Symptoms: Disorientation, lethargy, rapid breathing, excessive drooling, high temperature, diarrhoea.
  • Solution: A Jack Russell with heat stroke should be cooled down with wet bedding or towels and/or dunked slowly into cool water or hosed off - never use freezing water. This is a problem that needs immediate attention from a vet. Never, ever leave your Jack Russell in a car on its own on a hot day. Even if you leave the windows down a little, the car can still heat up enough to kill your dog. In order to get enough air circulation, you'd have to leave the windows down far enough that the dog can jump right out anyway.

Jack Russell Liver Disease

  • Problem: Infection or deterioration of the liver, reducing the dog's natural ability to handle toxins.
  • Symptoms: Vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, lethargy, signs of internal swelling, rapid weight loss, change in appetite, excessive drinking and increased urination.
  • Solution: This depends on the cause of the problem. Your vet will need to examine your Jack Russell to determine the cause of liver disease before a treatment plan can be formed.

Jack Russell Constipation

  • Problem: Constipation.
  • Symptoms: The dog can't defecate. It may the result of a poor or imbalanced diet, or a symptom of a more serious internal problem.
  • Solution: An enema can do the trick, but you really need to talk to the vet about other symptoms your dog may have to determine the cause.

Jack Russell Ear Infections

  • Problem: The Jack Russell's ears become infected by bacteria or a foreign object.
  • Symptoms: Smelly ears, head shaking, excessive ear scratching, rubbing ears on the ground, swelling.
  • Solution: A quick flush of the ear with fluids or a wipe with a wet, warm cotton ball to remove foreign bodies can solve minor ear issues, but antibiotic treatment may be needed for more severe infections. Talk to a vet before you put anything in your dog's ears. Weekly cleaning of the ears with damp cotton balls can help prevent infections. (Note: It's common for JRTs to go deaf as they age. This is due to Jack Russell genetics.)

Flea under an electron microscope.

Jack Russell External Parasites

  • Problem: Fleas.
  • Symptoms: Scratching, visible bites and sores, tiny black flea droppings in the coat. Fleas can also transmit internal parasites (worms).
  • Solution: You can buy sprays and shampoos to solve flea problems. You may need to "flea bomb" your whole house to completely get rid of them, as flea eggs drop off your dog and develop in the house. One popular flea medicine for dogs is Advantage - I've had good results with this in the past and can recommend it. Make sure you get the right dosage for a Jack Russell.
  • Problem: Ticks.
  • Symptoms: Ticks are visible on the dog's skin. Ticks left untreated can lead to more serious problems, as they transmit harmful bacteria (although these can be vaccinated against).
  • Solution: You can remove a tick with tweezers. Dab the area with rubbing alcohol first. This makes the tick relax. If you try to pull it out before doing this, its body can tear and the sucking parts will remain stuck in the dog, which can lead to infection. For severe tick infestations, you may need to apply a topical cream.

  • Problem: Lice.
  • Symptoms: Small white lice visible in the coat, as well as small white eggs, easily mistaken for "dandruff." Excessive scratching.
  • Solution: As with fleas, shampoos and sprays are available to deal with lice. Any solution should be applied several times over a period of weeks. Follow the instructions on the label.
You can prevent most of these external parasite problems with the use of special collars.

Jack Russell Terrier Health: Kennel Cough

  • Problem: Infection of the dog with the parainfluenza virus, aka Kennel Cough. It affects the dog's respiratory system. It is very contagious between dogs.
  • Symptoms: Coughing, sneezing, fever.
  • Solution: Kennel cough can be severe but should not last most than a few weeks. See your vet as soon as possible and your dog has a good chance of recovering fully. Parainfluenza should be vaccinated against when the dog is a puppy.
Good Jack Russell Terrier health begins at home. Give your dog regular checks for parasites and other problems when you groom and bathe it. Don't let problems grow - see the vet sooner rather than later for better chances of recovery.

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Remember that the foundation of Jack Russell Terrier health is built on a solid exercise program. To find out more about exercise for Jack Russells, and in particular how exercise can affect training, check out my free Jack Russell training e-course.

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