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11 Jack Russell Old Age Problems

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Senior Jack Russells experience a wide variety of age-related problems. Most old age problems for Jack Russells are caused by the natural deterioration of their body and health.

As Jack Russells get older, their bodies slowly get weaker.

They attract diseases easier and get affected by various health conditions.

As a result, Jackies experience a series of behavior issues. But owners can control the issues.

Jack Russells experience many issues related to old age:

  1. Cognitive dysfunction syndrome
  2. Arthritis
  3. Wobbler syndrome
  4. Obesity
  5. Blindness 
  6. Deafness
  7. Seizures
  8. Diabetes
  9. Dental issues
  10. Degenerative myelopathy
  11. Behavior problems

This article explores most age-related problems that senior Jack Russell Terriers face. You will also learn how they manifest and what you can do about them.

1. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome 

Jack Russell Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome in Jack Russell Terriers is also called dog dementia. This behavioral syndrome affects older dogs. The main cause is the deterioration of the neural networks in the brain. The death of brain cells is the culprit for this degeneration.[1]

Jack Russells affected by cognitive dysfunction syndrome display a variety of symptoms:

  • Confusion 
  • Disorientation
  • Anxiety
  • Disregard house rules
  • Forgetfulness of previously learned training
  • Excessive barking
  • Altered interaction with owners
  • Disturbance of sleep-wake cycle
  • Changes in activity

You can slow the progression of cognitive decline if your Jack Russell has cognitive dysfunction syndrome. 

Try to maintain a stimulating environment. Do this by engaging your dog in regular exercise and play.

2. Arthritis

Jack Russell Arthritis

Senior Jack Russells are affected by canine arthritis as they grow old. This disease consists of the destruction of cartilage tissue that protects bones and joints. Canine arthritis affects the well-being of old Jack Russells Terriers as it is painful.

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. This condition affects 1 in 5 dogs in the United States.[2]

Jack Russells have a high risk of developing Cushing’s disease. This condition is a possible risk factor for osteoarthritis in dogs. Other causes include age and obesity.[3]

The symptoms of canine arthritis include:

  • Stiffness and limping after rest
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty walking
  • Inactivity
  • Irritability 

Arthritis in dogs is not curable. But you can diminish the severity of its symptoms. Treatment includes medication and surgery. 

Here’s how to reduce your Jack Russell’s arthritis-related pain:

  • Controlling their weight
  • Keeping them active
  • Including fatty acids in their diet

3. Wobbler Syndrome

Jack Russell Wobbler Syndrome

Jack Russell Terriers are at high risk of developing Wobbler syndrome as they age. This condition is also called cervical spondylomyelopathy[4]. It consists of the compression of the spinal cord in the neck area.

The causes of Wobbler syndrome haven’t been discovered yet. The disease is supposed to be specific to large dog breeds, but a correlation between size and Wobbler syndrome has not been proven yet.

The symptoms of the Wobbler syndrome in Jack Russells include:

  • Uncontrollable shaking in the posterior limbs
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Worn toenails due to walking difficulty
  • Neck pain
  • Weakness

While surgery improves the quality of life for Jack Russells with this condition, There is a 20% chance of the disease reoccuring. 

The problem with senior dogs is that various complications can occur during surgery. The age and health conditions of the dog deciding factors of whether the dog should have surgery or not.

4. Obesity

Jack Russell Obesity
Image Source

Jack Russell Terriers are energetic dogs. They enjoy physical activity throughout their life. When they get old, their activity is reduced. This leads to obesity, which can affect their well-being.

In 2018, around 55.8% of the dogs in the United States were obese[5]. A study published in 2021 found a correlation between dog obesity and owner obesity.[6]

If you are overweight and you have a fat jack Russell, analyze your feeding habits. Evaluate your dog’s energy levels. If they sleep more due to aging, reduce their food intake. 

Obesity reduces the lifespan of Jack Russells[7]. Prevention is key when it comes to gaining weight. Engage your dog in several physical activities that increase their exercise. Avoid this if they experience pain.

5. Blindness

Jack Russell Blindness

Jack Russell Terriers are prone to several conditions that cause vision loss. As they get older, the symptoms of these diseases worsen. 

The most common eye conditions that lead to blindness in senior Jack Russells:

  • Canine cataracts 
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Nutritional cataracts

Canine cataracts[8] and nutritional cataracts[9] lead to the loss of transparency of the lens. This leads to blindness. Treatment for both conditions is surgery. The surgery consists in replacing the natural eye lens with an artificial one.

Progressive retinal atrophy[10] encompasses various conditions. These conditions lead to the deterioration of the retina. This disease leaves Jack Russell permanently blind. The retina can not be repaired after it has been damaged.

Blind Jack Russells can live happy lives. If you stimulate their other senses, they can perform daily tasks with ease. 

Senior dogs can experience other health issues. When these issues are combined with blindness, they impair dogs to engage in regular activities. Regardless of these issues, blindness in senior Jack Russells is manageable.

6. Deafness

Jack Russell Deafness

Deafness due to old age is common in Jack Russells. They can experience complete deafness or partial hearing loss. 

Age-related deafness is not the same as congenital deafness. Jack Russells have a high risk of developing congenital deafness. This disease starts at birth and has nothing to do with age.

The cause of deafness in elderly Jack Russell Terriers is the degeneration of the nerves that communicate sound to the brain. The levels of this degeneration increase with age, resulting in progressive hearing loss.[11] 

Your senior Jack Russell shows early signs of hearing loss if:

  • They are ignoring you.
  • They get confused in familiar surroundings.
  • They do not respond to sounds that used to excite them.
  • Their sleep is not disturbed by loud noises.

Teach your jack Russell hand signs and nonverbal cues if they experience deafness. This makes communication easier. It also increases your dog’s confidence and reduces anxiety.

7. Seizures

Jack Russell Seizures

Seizures are among the most common Jack Russell Terrier old age problems. Tumors or metabolic diseases are some of the possible causes. Epilepsy causes 23% to 45 % of seizures in old dogs.[12]

The causes of epileptic seizures in dogs are unknown. The length of epileptic seizures is not high. 

The more seizures your dog has, the more damage they will do over time. They have a cumulative effect.[13]

The 3 types of canine seizures are:

  • Partial or focal seizures – occur in one part of the body, like a limb.
  • Psychomotor seizures – dogs gaze in one direction for a long period without moving.
  • Generalized seizures – generate violent limb movements and loss of consciousness.

Do the following to protect your senior Jack Russell:

  • Use pillows to protect their body.
  • Support their head with a pillow or blanket.
  • Move dangerous objects from the dog’s proximity.
  • Avoid sticking your fingers inside their mouth. It is useless and they can bite.

8. Diabetes

Jack Russell Diabetes

Diabetes in senior Jack Russells is called Diabetes Mellitus[14]. This condition occurs because the pancreas can not produce enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone used to metabolize sugar in the body.

Canine diabetes is similar to Type 1 diabetes in humans. Diabetes affects Jack Russells older than 4 or 5 years old, and symptoms begin in middle-aged dogs.

The average life expectancy of senior dogs that have diabetes is 964 days.[15]

Cushing’s disease is a possible cause of diabetes in dogs, besides old age. Jack Russell terriers are prone to Cushing’s disease. 

Symptoms of diabetes in senior Jack Russells include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Excessive hunger
  • Sweet smell of the breath
  • Dry coat
  • Blurry vision

Canine diabetes is kept under control by regular exercise and food. Your vet will make further recommendations if the illness progresses.

Related: Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs

9. Dental Issues

Jack Russell Dental Issues
Image Source

Periodontal disease is the most common health issue in dogs. It affects a wide range of Jack Russell Terriers. This disease progresses and worsens in their senior years. More than 12% of dogs are diagnosed with dental diseases every year. [16] 

Dogs older than 12 years of age have a 3.91 times higher risk of developing dental diseases. Dental diseases in Jack Russell also cause kidney problems and heart disease.

The discomfort caused by gum pain and toothaches affects the feeding of Jack Russells. Improper feeding patterns lead to a lack of nutrients. 

This causes a series of health issues that are uncomfortable for senior dogs.

10. Degenerative Myelopathy

Jack Russell Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy is a genetic disease that Jack Russells inherit from both their parents. This condition leads to progressive muscle atrophy in senior Jack Russells. Another symptom of the disease is the loss of coordination of the body.[17]

The frequency of the disease in Jack Russells is relatively low. Some studies suggest that around 23.3% of jack Russells are at risk.[18]

Jack Russells develop symptoms between the age of 8 and 14 years old[19]. As the disease progresses, your Jack Russell will not be able to stand or walk properly. Eventually, they become paraplegics.

11. Behavior Problems

Jack Russell Behavior Problems

As they age, Jack Russells experience some behavioral changes. This characteristic is similar to humans. 

Behavior problems specific to senior Jack Russell Terriers:

  • Excessive sleeping
  • Isolation
  • Mood change
  • Becoming less tolerant
  • Becoming less active

These behavioral changes are caused by health deterioration, causing senior Jack Russells to experience pain and distress. This is caused by several health conditions, such as osteoarthritis. 

Pain makes dogs less tolerant and inhibits movement. It is also responsible for mood changes. Degenerative diseases are also the cause of mood changes and isolation.

Related: Jack Russell Terrier Behavioral Problems

At What Age Are Jack Russells Considered Seniors?

Jack Russells become seniors at the age of 10-12 years old. This is when you can see behavior changes related to old age manifest.

Jack Russells have the longest lifespan of all breeds. They live between 13 and 16 years old, on average. The oldest Jack Russells reached 20 years and 160 days. 

As their activity levels decrease, senior Jack Russells enjoy spending more time with their owners. Enjoy this period to the fullest, as it is full of love and affection.

Related: Jack Russell Lifespan

Final Thoughts

Jack Russells’ old age problems are not always severe. They affect the well-being of your dog to some extent, but this can be controlled. 

Jackies are the most long-living dogs. They reach their senior life stage relatively late. By engaging them in lots of physical exercise you can make their old years bright.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.

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