10 Devastating Jack Russell Old Age Problems – Simplified

Jack Russells are fun and energetic dogs all throughout their lifetime. But all dogs age with time and every owner should be ready for it. Some Jack Russell old age problems should be noticed in time.

Once they reach their senior age, Jack Russells will start sleeping more and getting tired faster. They might also develop serious illnesses like diabetes, deafness, dental health issues, or cognitive dysfunction syndrome. There are things you can do to make the senior ages easier for your dog.

What Age Is A Jack Russell Considered A Senior?

You can consider your Jack Russell Terrier to be a senior once it reaches the age of 10-12 years. Around this time, the dog will slowly start to manifest changes in its behavior and physical health. It is the owner’s job to notice the differences and help the dog in any way they can.

What Is The Life Expectancy Of A Jack Russell?

The average lifespan of a Jack Russell Terrier, according to the AKC, is 12-14 years. During their lifetime, these dogs are quite healthy dogs with energetic and playful personalities. But they will start showing signs of aging at one point in their life.

Signs That A Jack Russell Is Getting Old

There are a few aging problems in Jack Russells that you will notice once they reach their senior age of 10-12 years.

Sleeps Excessively

Usually, Jack Russells will sleep for around 10-14 hours every day. This will change once they reach their senior age. Senior Jack Russells will sleep around 14-16 hours per day. Their sleeping pattern won’t always be continuous as they wake up often to use the potty.

Mood Changes

The once energetic and impatient Jack Russells will start acting more mature and quieter. That said, these seniors might start getting less tolerant of younger pups and children, often reacting aggressively. All in all, these dogs will be wiser and able to think for themselves, so they deserve their alone time.


Jack Russells love attention and being around their owners. They will often show playful behavior trying to get their owner’s attention. But once they get older, these dogs will want more time for themselves. Leaving them some space to relax will help the dogs greatly.

Health Issues In Old Jack Russells

Even though they are healthy and energetic dogs, once they get older, Jack Russells can start showing signs of a few age-related elderly Jack Russell Terrier health conditions.


Jack Russells were bred as working dogs and developed to be energetic. This accompanied by their sturdy build, allows them to keep an athletic body for most of their lifetime. But once they get old, Jack Russells can start gaining weight.

Senior Jack Russells start isolating themselves and tend to exercise less and sleep more. If their diet is not changed to fit this lifestyle, the dogs will become obese. Obesity is dangerous as it increases the possibility of other health problems like heart disease and respiratory issues. Another sign of bad nutrition is if the dog is having diarrhea at night.

Diabetes Mellitus

Older Jack Russells will sometimes suffer from type 2 diabetes mellitus. This is a condition often present in obese dogs where insulin is produced in the pancreas, but the tissues of the body are resistant to it. Type 1 diabetes also exists but it is only present in younger dogs.

Some signs you can notice in the dog include excessive thirst, hunger, incontinence, and weight loss. You might also notice a sweet smell in the dog’s breath and the dryness of its coat. This disease can be life-threatening if not treated properly.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

This is one of the age-related illnesses in Jack Russell Terriers that we also know as dementia. Dogs will normally start forgetting more as they age, which is a sign of this disease. But the illness will also cause a lot more problems as it is caused by a degeneration of the brain cells.

Dogs that have this disease will show different behavioral changes. They will become disoriented and confused, often changing the way they interact with their owners. Their sleep-wake cycle will also be disturbed and they may forget about their potty training.

Wobbler Syndrome

There is some possibility that an older Jack Russell may develop Wobbler syndrome. Another name for this disease is cervical spondylomyelopathy. It is a disease that causes a compression of the cervical spine of the dog.

You can notice that your dog has this disease if you see the dog having a progressively worse gait in the rear limbs. The limbs may shake and look uncoordinated, often losing their muscle mass. The dogs’ toenails become worn out cause they drag their feet. In some dogs, acute neck pain and weakness may occur.


Another one of the elderly Jack Russell health concerns is blindness, which can be caused by a few different vision problems.

One common eye disease in dogs is called Progressive Retinal Atrophy. It is a disease where the retina of the eye degenerates progressively. In time, dogs lose their sight completely.

Another common eye disease is called Cataracts. This disease affects the lens of the eye. With time, the protein in the lens clumps up causing opaque marks. These marks worsen the sight capabilities of the dog, leading to complete blindness.


Jack Russells can sometimes be born deaf. But older Jack Russells can also develop deafness due to many factors. Direct trauma to the ear, infections, blockage of the ear canal, and toxic medications, can all cause deafness.

Dogs can be completely deaf or only suffer from partial hearing loss. You can notice that your Jack Russell is deaf if you see that it keeps ignoring your commands. The dog may also start acting weird and bark excessively, make weird sounds, and get confused in normal settings.


Among the most common aging-related medical issues in Jack Russells is arthritis. This is essentially an inflammation of the joints that results in the destruction of the cartilage meant to protect the bones and joints. This can happen due to obesity, trauma, or abnormal development, among other causes.

In dogs that have arthritis, we see that their joints are red, painful, and swollen. The dog will have difficulty moving around because it feels pain and stiffness in the affected joint. This disease can not be cured but rather managed for the rest of its life.

Dental Issues

Older Jack Russell Terriers often suffer from periodontal disease. This is essentially an infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth, beginning as gingivitis. If left untreated, the infection will spread and eventually reach the bone causing the tooth to fall out. 

Dogs that have this disease will feel discomfort and pain in their gums. This will affect their eating capabilities and cause the dog to lose appetite and weight. You might also notice their breath smelling bad. Older dogs will also be more commonly affected by decaying teeth and require regular visits to the vet.


Other possible age-related health issues in Jack Russells include seizures. These can be caused by epilepsy, brain tumors, kidney failure, liver failure, trauma, or intoxication.

Before the dog gets a seizure it will show unusual behavior like restlessness and fear. When the dog starts having the seizure, you will notice it falling to the side and shaking its body. This can also be accompanied by uncontrolled urination, defecation, and salivation.

Some seizures are not as serious and will only appear as the dog is staring at one point unaware of its surroundings.

Degenerative Myelopathy

This disease, also known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy, is a chronic genetic disease that affects the spine of the dog. It happens because of degeneration of the white matter in the spinal cord.

The exact cause of the disease is not known, but a genetic component definitely plays a part. Dogs that suffer from this disease will have problems with moving. They will have problems getting up from a lying position. Then, while moving, the dog will “knuckle” its paws and scrape the ground. You may also notice that the dog leaves odorless wet spots wherever it sleeps. The disease is progressive and incurable.

How To Care For An Older Jack Russell Terrier

There are things you can do for your Jack Russell to help it throughout its elderly years. Aging pet care includes diet and exercise changes, as well as setting up the house and vet checkups.

Change The Diet

Once the Jack Russell grows old, its nutritional needs will also need to change to fit its age. There is dog food made specifically for older dogs. It usually contains fewer calories than normal dog food and prevents obesity.

The dog food you choose for your dog should be filled with protein and all other vitamins and minerals needed to maintain its health. Foods that have a lot of carbs and artificial ingredients should be avoided. The dog food should also be from reliable companies like Pedigree and Purina. Supplements like chondroitin and glucosamine are also very important to maintain the dog’s joint health.

Give Enough Exercise

To prevent serious senior Jack Russell health issues, you should give the dog enough exercise during the day. Jack Russells are naturally high-energy dogs and need at least 1 hour of exercise every day. Once they get a bit older, these dogs will not need to spend as much energy. But they should still exercise.

Make the exercise sessions short and fun. Avoid playing games like fetch, and settle for short walks around the dog park or the neighborhood. Exercising too much will damage the joints and cause pain. If the dog can not move much, mental stimulation and puzzles will suffice.

Provide A Spacious And Safe Environment

Once the dog gets older and develops mobility challenges and problems with its sight, it will need a safe house to live and move around in. Put mats or carpets on the floors to prevent the dog from slipping.

You can get pet steps or stairs to enable the dog to climb in certain areas. A comfortable dog bed will also be needed to enable the dog to rest. The bed can be put into a separate room or an empty space where the dog may rest if it needs quiet. Giving supplements like valerian root to your dog will help calm it down.

Regular Vet Checkups And Care

Because there are more health challenges in aging Jack Russells, they should get regular vet checkups. Make sure to observe the dog and notice any symptoms of diseases. If you catch it early, there are bigger chances of helping the dog. Sometimes, a dog’s balls turn black with age and it is something to check up on.

Older dogs will also get cold quickly. Getting them a nice blanket or a bed warmer will prevent the dog from getting cold. If the dog has lost its eyesight, you can put strong-smelling essential oils around the house to make it easier for it to find its way. If it has arthritis, a short massage, and an orthopedic bed will go a long way.

A Jack Russell Terrier lying on a bed

Jack Russell Old Age Problems – A Summary

A Jack Russell can be considered old once it reaches the age of 10-12 years. Usually, these dogs will live around 12-14 years so you will spend some years with your elderly dog. During these years, it can suffer from a few geriatric Jack Russell health conditions that need your attention.

Blindness, deafness, and arthritis are common diseases in old age that can affect the quality of life of your dog. Obesity and diabetes will also negatively affect the dog’s daily living. Diseases like Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome and Wobbler Syndrome will cause progressive damage to the dog.

If you want to help your dog during its elder years, you should provide a proper diet and give it enough exercise to keep it healthy. Providing a safe living environment and regular vet checkups are also important.


What is the oldest Jack Russell to ever live?

According to the Guinness World Records, the oldest Jack Russell to ever live was called Willie. It lived for 20 years and unfortunately died in 2014. It still lived around 6 years more than the average lifespan of Jack Russells.

How old is a 12-year-old Jack Russell in human years?

When counted in human years, a 12-year-old Jack Russell Terrier would be around 64 in human years. So it’s no wonder why we consider 12-year-old Jack Russells as elderly dogs. Jack Russell old age problems appear at this point.

Do Jack Russells need another dog?

Jack Russells can benefit from having another dog in the house to play with. Jack Russells get along great with other dogs and will love having someone around when the owner is not home.

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