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Jack Russell Terrier - breed information and advice

Lively and tenacious, it’s easy to see why the Jack Russell Terrier was popular as a hunting companion in the Victorian era. Despite its diminutive size, this breed is fearless and curious, with an insatiable appetite for adventure. The Jack Russell makes a loyal pet, but its endless energy means it can get into mischief if bored.

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Breed information


Size: Small

Coat: There are smooth-coated and rough-coated versions, in colour combinations of white plus brown, black or tan. Both types shed hair and will benefit from a weekly brush.

Exercise: At least an hour a day for adult dogs

Life span: 12+ year. Healthy Jack Russell Terriers can live to around 16 years.

Breed group: The word terrier comes from ‘terra’, meaning ‘earth’, as these dogs were bred to control vermin, pursuing them below ground. They tend to be fun but feisty, and love to chase!

Dislocating lens

Among the various eye problems that dogs can suffer from, Jack Russell Terriers are prone to dislocating their lens (this is called ‘lens luxation’). It occurs when the lens capsule inside the eye becomes detached from the tiny ligaments that hold the lens in place. This can lead to a blockage of the normal drainage channels within the eye, causing a build-up of pressure that is painful and may result in blindness if it is not attended to. The condition can be treated with surgery or, occasionally, eye drops. While the surgery can provide a cure, the drops may be required on and off for the rest of the dog’s life.


We paid £3,044 to treat Ollie the Jack Russell for lens luxation in 2016

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Gum disease

Gum disease occurs when some (or all) of a tooth’s deep supporting structures become inflamed. This begins when food, bacteria and minerals accumulate along the gum line, leading to the build-up of a brown scale known as tartar. When this undermines the gum the condition is called gingivitis. Eventually, small spaces can form between the gums and the teeth creating pockets of space for bacteria to grow, resulting in what is known as periodontal disease. The bacteria from infected gums can spread around the body and damage the liver and kidneys. This condition can be prevented by brushing the teeth and ensuring dental descales, helping the dog to lead a normal, pain-free life.


We paid £2,029 to treat Athena the dog for mouth and oral disorders in 2016

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Breathing problems

A dog’s respiratory system runs from the nose to the air sacs in the lungs. Any part of this system can become diseased. Pneumonia, for example, means ‘inflammation of the lungs’, and is caused by infections or parasites such as lungworm. Tracheal collapse is a common cause of airway obstruction in small breeds such as Jack Russells. The trachea (or windpipe) is a tube made up of sturdy rings of cartilage through which air is transported to and from the lungs when the dog breathes. Sometimes the tracheal rings begin to collapse, and air is squeezed through, resulting in a characteristic honking cough. Treatment may include surgery if the dog’s breathing is severely compromised.


We paid £4,569 to treat Jack the Jack Russell for respiratory system disorders in 2016

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Skin conditions

The skin is the largest organ of a dog’s body and a number of disorders can affect it. Like other dogs, Jack Russells can suffer from allergies that lead to dermatitis (skin inflammation). Allergies can be caused by many different items, including things that are inhaled (such as pollen or dust mites), items that are eaten (for example, wheat), items that the dog comes into contact with (for example, washing powders), or bites from parasites such as fleas. Another skin problem, pyoderma (meaning ‘infection of the skin’) is usually caused by bacteria, fungi (‘ringworm’) or yeasts. Skin disorders can be managed using various treatments, usually required long-term, which means the dog can get on with enjoying life.


Skin conditions are the third most common illnesses we see in Jack Russells

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The pancreas is a fragile organ that lies between the liver and the small intestine. Jack Russells can be prone to a condition called pancreatitis, which means ‘inflammation of the pancreas’. It occurs when the digestive enzymes within the pancreas start attacking it. There are mild and severe forms of the condition. Treatment for the mild form revolves around supportive care and avoiding highly fatty foods in the longer term. The severe form can require more intensive treatment, such as IV drips and various medicines, to restore good health.


We paid £3,198 to treat Bailey the Jack Russell for pancreatitis in 2016

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