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How to Care for an Older Jack Russell Terrier

There inevitably comes a time in life when your dog won’t be as perky, energetic, patient, and healthy as it used to be. These are all perfectly normal signs of aging and as your dog gets older you must consider making some extra effort to make sure that your beloved companion is happy and healthy.

Jack Russell Terrier’s life expectancy is about 15 years but, just like humans, not all dogs age the same way. Some won’t show signs of aging at all, while some start aging sooner than you would expect.

They are individual and unique in their own way with their own likes and dislikes, preferences and annoyances, nevertheless here are some surefire ways to spot how old your dog is feeling and how to care him/her in the best way possible.

Is your dog grumpy?

Do you know how older people often complain how the things used to be better in the old days, the music today is too loud, young people have no respect for the elders, they don’t have a lot of understanding for young people and their “partying” and most things seem to bother them on a daily basis?

The same happens to some dogs. They become grumpy and impatient, start barking at the smallest provocation (even if often you don’t know what could have possibly provoked them).

Often they’ll want to be left alone more than before and won’t have much understanding for other dogs and animals, and people trespassing in their space, even those that they got along with nicely before. They may even lose interest in toys that were previously their favorites and could even have short temper around small children. This is all perfectly normal.

Your pets, as they age, will lose patience for some things and gain interest in others (especially napping), just as humans. The most important thing is to not force them into doing things that they don’t want to. Observe and listen to your four legged buddies, they’ll always show you what they want to do.

Be patient and full of understanding for your dog’s needs and wants. Make sure that you explain the situation to other people, especially children. Set up some boundaries regarding your beloved companion and make sure that everybody knows and understands them so that you all have a good time.

Is your dog low on energy?

As we age we often aren’t up to such physical strains as we were when we were young. Most of us won’t go running marathons or attempt record braking weight-lifting in our sixties. The body becomes more fragile and we get tired more easily. The same thing applies to our pets, the only difference is that they age much faster and grow old much sooner then people.

Your exercise loving JRT might start to like shorter walks. Your adventurous Jack Russell might be more domesticated and tranquil than he was in his youth. He just wants to enjoy the small comforts of life in their old age, just like your grandparents.

Make sure that they are warm enough and that they have everything they need for their comfort – a comfortable place to sleep and call their own, their favorite toys, fresh water nearby and plenty of love and affection as always.

Is your dog healthy?

As your Jack Russel ages his health will deteriorate just like any humans. If he has some chronic condition like diabetes, or problems with their joints, sight and hearing it’s possible that they will worsen with time.

Do consider supplementing your dogs nutrition with appropriate vitamins and minerals (consult you vet beforehand).

You should be careful and observe if they are avoiding exercise because they are in pain – divert your attention especially on their hind legs because there are diseases common in smaller dogs that attack the hip joints of our beloved companions (such as hip dysplasia).

Always consult your veterinarian about any unusual changes in behavior and appearance that you observe in your loving pet. They will set your mind at ease and instruct you in proper care and possible treatment for your furry friend.

Make sure that your pet receives their medication (if needed) regularly and in appropriate doses.

Be careful with the diet!

Jack Russell’s are generally prone to overeating and that can only become worse over time. Make sure they eat regularly, preferably two meals a day, but measure their portions carefully so they don’t start gaining excess weight. Adult active JRT should daily eat approximately 1,25 to 1,75 cups of high-quality dog food.

When giving them food you must always consider their body structure (stature, weight) and their activity during the day. If they are less active during the day (as they sometimes are when older) you should give them less food to avoid them being overweight. Excess weight in Jack Russell’s could lead to many problems and diseases for your pet – diabetes, heart and breathing problems, etc.

Remember to always feed your loved one only the best high quality dog food or really good adjusted homemade food with all needed supplements. If you notice changes on the skin and hair of your dog, or he/she suddenly becomes itchy and incessantly scratches it might be a sign of a food allergy – take your dog to the vet immediately for a checkup.

Caring for an older dog isn’t even half as much trouble as it sounds. Sure, he can sometimes be grumpier than when he was younger and maybe doesn’t have as much energy to chase every single squirrel that he comes across in the day but he is still the same lovable furry, four legged hunk of love with which you decided to spend a life with.

We care for our humans when they get older and our pets deserve nothing less of us than our very best.

My sweet Kala will soon be eight years old which is considered senior age in dogs. Even though I see some changes in her fur – her eyebrows and cheeks were brown before and now they are white, but her energy level is still on it’s high. I do try to keep it that way with long walks, lot of running and playing, and most importantly with keeping her mind young.

We still learn new tricks and try to improve those she knows from young age. Also, I really try to feed her with the best quality food – Taste of the Wild Dry Dog Food and some homemade balanced dog appropriate food.

Do you fear your Jack Russell’s old age? Or maybe you have one old soul curled up next to you while you’re reading this? Please share your thoughts in comments below.


  1. Rudy's doggie-mom

    First, thank you for writing this blog/site. I am a proud doggie mommy of 12-year old JRT, Rudy. Rudy has always had a mild temperament for a JRT, though struggled with separation anxiety as a puppy, which we minimized with doggie day care. About 6 years ago, he was getting extremely skinny and wouldn’t eat. After vet visits and no answers, the vet told me to feed him hot dogs if that was all he could eat, which I desperately did. As I’m sure you can guess, this led to pancreatitis and an allergy to pork. I switched vets and have been very careful to minimize his pancreatitis. About 7 months ago, Rudy was scheduled to have dental work, but the vet found a heart Arrhythmia and wouldn’t proceed with the procedure. I took him to an advanced Vet program at a university somewhat nearby, who said his heart was okay, but he had a spot on his lung which they assumed was pneumonia (though he showed no symptoms). Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and he seemed clearly in pain and not eating, so we scheduled and performed the dental work/extractions. His heart rate dropped drastically and he stopped breathing. They breathed for him during the quick, 5 minute procedure. His mouth is recovering, but he will barely eat, and now he it having issues with his back legs. He won’t jump up on furniture, and when he tries to get up, he stumbles around and plops back down. I am going to try to get him into the vet tomorrow. Any thoughts, suggestions, or common stories out there?

    • Hi Rudy’s mum, thank you for sharing your story with us. Those symptoms might be connected to the procedure, although it just might be a coincidence. What kind of food are you feeding him? I agree hot dogs are good choice. I’m an advocate for home made healthy meals that are made from real meat and veggies. As he’s probably experiencing gums pain, I’d blend his food entirely. Except going to a trusted vet for a check up, I don’t have anything else to suggest. Only the vet who knows his full condition can tell what’s going on. Good luck and keep me posted, Ana

      • Thank you, Ana. I’ve been feeding him limited ingredient lamb and rice canned dog food. I tried boiling chicken for him recently, but he wasn’t a fan (even after cutting into tiny pieces and eating some of it in front of him, which usually works). Any recommendations on what veggies to try?

        • Hi Jody, when I’m preparing home made food for Kala (my JRT), except some meat (usually chicken, turkey, lamb, veal, chicken or veal liver or other organs) I always put some carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach or other leafy greens. Don’t give him raw veggies as most likely he won’t eat it and he can’t fully digest it. Steam or cook them and make a paste of it (with a fork or you can even blend it). I usually cook it all together – meat and veggies, like cooking bone broth, and then a remove bones (dogs shouldn’t eat cooked bones), make a veggie paste and mix it all together. I know cooking home made meals can seem complicated, but you can always cook bigger amount and freeze it in meal size portions. Also, when giving liver or other organs, make it about 5% of a meal. is there something he really likes to eat and would always eat when offered? Regards, Ana

  2. My JRT was 16 when she was out to sleep 2 weeks ago. We are heartbroken. She was the most perfect family pet. All of the things above relate to her in her old age.

    • Hi Kim, I’m so sorry to hear about losing your JRT. Let all the good memories remind you of all those years you spent together. Ana

  3. My Jack is almost 14 … he doesn’t like his walks anymore and it’s killing me!
    He used to get so excited!
    He still has a lot of energy when he is in the house.
    Am I in denial?
    I am having a hard time seeing him get old.
    I just want him to be happy.

    • Hi Debra, unfortunately they do get old and it comes with some changes. It seems like not liking to go for a walk is his change and you should probably accept it. I’m not saying you should stop walking him, I’m saying you should encourage him to go for a walk but also consider his wishes. I know it’s hard seeing our best friends getting old, but you can still enjoy quality time together and make his senior years great. Cheers, Ana

  4. I’ve been following your blog for quite some time and a couple of these tips have become some of my family’s favorites. My JRT is 11 and just lately he has been doing strange and unusual things ! he hides a lot, and seems to be terrified of loud noises in the house and is frightened of everyone that he used to love :( very upsetting to see …. So help me and tell me how I can solve the problem

    • Hi Stephanie, did it all start all of a sudden? Did you go to your vet for a check-up? Dogs tend to hide and behave as frightened when they are in pain. If you checked his health and everything is ok, did something happen that could cause this change in behavior? Did someone accidentally hit him? Was there some noise that was really loud and scary? Thai would explain sudden fear of noises, but wouldn’t explain fear of loved people. As I said, I’d go for a really extensive medical check up and if there isn’t anything found, I’d monitor his behavior to see when it happens, what caused it and so on (try to see things through his eyes) and then I’d do some positive reinforcement around scary things to change his emotions. Good luck, Ana

  5. Hi ana
    I’m in bed reading this with my jack Russell Alvin snuggled next to me. We gave him to metcam yesterday at 13:00 and then again at 8:30pm and he’s had his milvamax and front line today. He seems injured and his belly is swollen- I’m so worried :(

    • Hi Amy, as I understood, you visited your vet, so hopefully medications will help. If you didn’t go for a check up with Alvin, go as soon as possible. I know you’re worried, after all they are our babies :) but believe everything will be ok. Sending you lots of positive thoughts for speedy recovery. Ana

  6. Our almost 17 year old JRT Bobby is having a bad day, his second in 2 weeks. He’s totally deaf and partially blind and has arthritis in his rear legs. Tonight he’s pacing around and falling over on the tiled floor. No appetite today for his special renal food or his treats which he normally devours with gusto! He gets monthly injections for his arthritis but I think he’s getting close to the end 😞. My wife is finding it hard to watch him now and he there is no improvement in the morning I will take him to the vets and make a decision. He’s been such a grumpy character over the years (hospitalised two humans who wouldn’t listen and he bit them (both apologised to him lol)). It’s going to be a long night for us all but he did come good last week after a similar bad day. It started early this morning when he vomited what looked like blood laced fleum?? Kidney failure? Who knows?

    • Hi Brian, you’re really facing some tough decisions. I think it’s the best to ask your vet for an opinion but final decision should be made by you and your wife. It seems like he had a nice life and he trained all people around him like a pro, true Jack Russell. After all, you’ll have some great memories to think and talk about. It’s rough and painful part of life but we’ll all go through it eventually. Hug Bobby for me, cheers, Ana

      • Thanks Ana. We lost bobby yesterday. He moved over from the passenger seat to lay on my lap for the final 200 metres to the vets who ultimately euthanised him afrter a through examination. The vet sent a lovely card and a bunch of flowers today, a lovely jester dor our loss. Lots of great memories with a typical JRT 😄

        • I’m so sorry to hear that, although it ended his suffering. Remember him by his quirks and things he did that made you happy. He had a good life with you :)

  7. Love the article. My Jrt (fancy) will be 14 September 30 and has been with me since a couple months old. She was also an unwanted pet I was supposed tojutloo fter until a home was found for her.. Yeah right! That home was found within an hour of having her. She is not the typical Jrt and his never bee since she was very young. She does not bark unless there is. Very good reason and not hyper at all unless a tennis ball is in sight… Or smelling range.
    She is a very healthy loved and well cared for spoiled rotten dog lol. She does have paifrom the hip dysplasia and I give her meds for that as I can afford.. They are not cheap as you know. Other than that her heath is fine. I’ve noticed recently she is getting “moles” on her feet and leg that looks like a tick. Trust me they ARE Not ticks as I learned when. I. Found the first one and tried to remove it. Ms. Fancy let me know fastbut was attached lol. Any idea what this is?
    I am a single male 45 years old and she is my best friend and by far the best dog I’ve ever ran across. Extremely smart overly protective and well my baby. Seeing the post made by jordon and her 20 year old relly made me smile thanks for posting that one jordon.
    Bunky & Fancy

    • Hi Bunky and Fancy, I’m so happy to hear your story. I totally understand that she “crawled” under your skin immediately and of course she stayed with you. I think I would be the same failed foster dog parent :) Others also reported some kind of moles that appeared in senior years, so I suppose it’s just that – some kind of senior moles. As humans get some kind of skin changes in old age, so do dogs. Maybe you can check them when you visit your vet, just to be sure it’s nothing serious. Wish you lots of healthy and happy years together. Cheers, Ana and Kala (my jrt)

  8. Hi. I am struggling terribly with knowing “when”!or what to do with my sweet Pie. (Rocket’s American Pie). She will be 18 in July. Pretty physically healthy but is blind in her right eye, mostly deaf and has some cognitive problems. She never wags her tail anymore or gets excited about anything. She does still eat, although not as well as she once did. Has some anxiety & pacing off and on. Not a high quality life. She does sleep with me and luckily I work at home. Any advice? No pain really. Some occasional back leg pain in the winter.

    • Hi, I can understand your troubles, but except the vet that knows Pie’s health condition, I don’t think anyone can help you make a decision. By now, I never was in that situation so it’s hard to say what I would do, but now when I’m thinking about it, I think I would take pain as a main factor. Such old years are rarely high quality in means as they once were, but absence of pain and regular eating show some kind of high quality of life for that age. I would consult the vet I trust, think deeply about it and mostly listen to the voice in side of you. Just don’t rush with decisions and be there for Pie in her last stage, until the very end. Wishing you all the best, Ana

  9. I have a Jack Russell who is 16 years old and is blind in the right eye, she has plenty of energy as she runs around quite well. Her name is Bonnielass and she is well looked after and loved very well. Bonnie goes every were with us shopping with us in the car. My bonnie eats very well and she also has dried food and always plenty off fresh water every day and Bonnielass is all white with a tan face. The only problem Bonnielass has is she has plenty of cysts all over her body and we had one removed this year as the vet thought it was cancer but it was just a cyst.

    • Hi Lesley, glad to hear that Bonnielass is still active and going with you everywhere just as she’s used to. Blindness and cysts are normal part of senior years, and I’m happy this are only cysts, not tumors. Keep pampering her, she deserves it :) Cheers, Ana

  10. We have a Max, a 13 year old broken coated Parson JR, that we love dearly. When he was 3yrs old he was hit by a car and has had a stiff back leg and works his other back leg over time. I know he’s in pain and it’s next to impossible to get his pain med in him. He still tries his best to be his spunky self but can’t stand or walk for long. Now here’s my question, is it unfair to bring a new dog into the house? The new dog is 2yrs old and very playful. He had been having to live in a crate most of the time so my kids brought him home. Max growls at him a lot. I feel bad for Max and for what the new dog has been through. Any suggestions??

    • Hi Kay, is it unfair or not, it’s hard to say as it depends on each situation. I would suggest for you to try and solve thing between then and if it’s not working, try to find appropriate home for a new dog. Apparently Max isn’t very happy with the new comer, but try to make that experience as positive as possible. Give him more attention when the new dog is around, give him high value treats whenever he behaves around a new dog and praise him a lot. Spend some alone time with each of them, in beginning especially with Max, continue doing things he’s used to. Hiring a good dog trainer who uses only positive reinforcement techniques is the best option as he can see the situation themselves and suggest what would be the best. Bringing home a new dog can revive the sparkle in old dog or it can make the situation worse. It all depends on their characters and your effort. If it doesn’t work out, don’t beat yourself, some dogs are not meant to live with other dogs. There is no shame in finding another home for younger dog if that’s the best option for all of you. Good luck, Ana

  11. Hey Ana-
    We have a 14-year old Jack, Uno and was our first baby, now have 4 other human kids, 11-6 years old. He’s led a great life! Lately he has been vomiting constantly and we’ve had to change to a soft food… all blood work and ultrasound has come back clear. Wondering if it is time to say our good byes… any advice??
    Michael in NOLA

    • Hi Michael, looking our best friends (or fur children) getting old is painful and although we know our time together will come to an end, we can never prepare properly. 14 years is respectable age for a dog, but it still doesn’t mean his time has come. If blood work and ultrasound were clear, I’d try to find another reason for vomiting. Adjusting food is normal part in life, not just getting old. Did you find any pattern in vomiting? When it appears? Did he eat something he’s not used to? Did you talk to your vet about other examinations that could be done to clear up the situation? Before making toughest decision, be sure to do everything in your power to help him. Good luck, Ana

  12. My jack russell turned 11 in January and still has a very high energy level, good appetite, and she’s overall a happy dog. Lately it seems like her breathing has been more rapid and she pants at random times. Usually the panting only lasts a few seconds but the rapid breathing is an all the time thing. She doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. I think it’s really only giving ME anxiety. She’s my baby and I kinda overreact when it comes to her health. I have a vet appointment for her teeth on may 11th so I was gonna talk to the doc about it then, but just wondered if other jack owner have experienced heavier breathing with their senior dogs?

    • Hi Jessica, there can be lots of reasons for heavier breathing, so concluding anything without proper examination would be wrong. Definitely talk to your vet about it. And it would be great if you give it more thought before you go there – look if there’s a pattern in heavier panting – when it appears, was it extra hot, did she play a lot, was under stress… It’s the best to take notes so you’ll have more info to tell your vet. Good luck with teeth and solving this mystery. Cheers, Ana

    • Jack Russell terriers can be prone to a collapsing trachea. My 13 year old JRT has one and sometimes the sound of his breathing terrifies me. He even stops breathing for a couple seconds when he sleeps sometimes. The vet ,however, said that he is very healthy for his age. The X-rays reveal that his trachea , although is collapsing, isn’t severe enough to cause him any distress. I trust my vet because my dog still appear a very happy in general and full of playful energy. He still loves walks , although shorter slower ones. He also prances around the house, ears up, tail wagging, to find something new to sniff, or someone else to play with. So even if your dog does have a collapsing trachea , tans sound distressed when breathing sometimes, can be very happy and care free. One last point I should make on the subject is when my dog does get sick , or has allergies, that’s when we need to administer medication to help him breathe comfortably . He’ was just diagnosed at age 8, five years ago. Just be sure to keep up with vet visits to monitor the problem and be sure it isn’t getting worse too quickly.

  13. I found this article when I googled “12 year old Jack Russell sleeping more”. My little Piper has always been more of a lap dog than her 3 far more typical, crazy, uncontrollable litter mates. She was an unwanted wedding present (who gives a puppy to newly weds?!), but has become my heart and the best big sister 3 little boys could ever ask for! I wish she could live at least 8 more years. This article is a great reminder to spoil her rotten and treat her with the extra care and respect that she deserves. I had to post a comment because I know anyone reading this will just “get” how wonderful this breed of dog truly is!!

    • Hi Liz, thank you for writing. Although dogs as presents can be weird or unwanted, especially such special breed as JRT, it seems in your situation all worked out great. As you can see, jrt’s don’t have to be crazy or typical, and although most people claim they aren’t suited for small children, as you can see, they can be very good big siblings. Just continue spoiling her, feeding her right and exercising properly, and it wouldn’t be strange if she lives 8 more years. Good luck, Ana

  14. I have a 13 year old jack. He went completely blind 3 years ago. He has had a dry hacking cough for over a month. The vet said that he did hear something off in his lungs. He lost his balance and fell over the other night and could not get back up for about 30 seconds no matter how he tried. I think it’s time to put him down. My heart is broken.

    • Hi Michele, I’m so sorry to hear about the condition of your Jack. You are facing the hardest decision, but before you make it consult your vet and go through all options and possible outcomes before you decide what’s the best. Consider even going for a second opinion – it doesn’t tell that you don’t trust your vet, just worried for your pup and everyone should understand that. Regards, Ana

  15. I’m thinking about adopting a 12yo female. I’ve never had this breed, but I just spent 2 hours with her, and she seemed sweet and laid back…kind of a lapdog. Any advice before I commit?

    • Hi Dale, adopting senior dog is very rewarding. Jacks can be very different by nature, some of them are laid back but most of them are hyperactive lunatics for their whole life and they are gorgeous for it. Only advice I could give you is to adopt her and shower her with love and affection, provide her with proper nutrition, but don’t forget about giving her enough activity. Monitor her reactions and adjust levels of activity to her needs. She’ll tell you the best. Good luck, Ana

  16. We have a 14 year old jack russell bitch and recently every time we take her out she licks urine puddles from the street. We always try to stop her doing this as we don’t want to make her sick. Why is she doing this and is it bad for her? Thank you.

    • Hi Benjamin, did she start doing it recently? All sudden changes in behavior can be a sign of an illness or lack of some nutrients. Also, dogs have the vomeronasal organ which is placed on the roof of dogs mouth and it is olfactory organ. So maybe she licks urine to smell it more properly with the vomeronasal organ. It would be the best to take her to the vet for a check up and to talk with the vet about that behavior, he/she might have better insights in it, especially after taking some tests. Good luck with it.
      Cheers, Ana

  17. My JRT is 11 and just lately he has been doing strange and unusual things ! he hides a lot, and seems to be terrified of loud noises in the house and is frightened of everyone that he used to love :( very upsetting to see ……

    • Hi Bea, sudden change in behavior can be a sign of illness or pain. Are you sure he’s ok? I suggest to go to the vet for a check up or think if he had some encounter that frightened him. It might be something that seems totally harmless to you but it somehow developed fear of noises of people. Hope it’s nothing serious. Cheers, Ana

  18. My Daisy will be 13 in October. Her high energy level still completely amazes me, she chases every critter going, attempts to run after deer, still loves playing with her toys and basically never misses a trick. I used to think to myself….when is she going to settle down… now I marvel at how young she acts compared to dogs her age. JRT s have so much stamina, they are an amazing breed. I have noticed that she does not like the cold anymore, she starts shaking frantically at the door on a cold morning when I let her out. She also has developed a few fatty lumps underneath, they don’t appear to bother her but I think they are getting bigger. She also gets grumpy when her regular routine is off. I enjoyed reading your article.

    • Hi Shirley, than you for writing. It’s amazing how long they stay young. Although they show few signs of getting old, their souls remain alway young.
      Enjoy your time with Daisy :)

    • My 11 year old has lumps too. I call them her old lady lumps. Lol. She has a small one on her lower chest and a little bit bigger one higher up (where her neck ends and chest starts) ..she doesn’t seem bothered by them at all. I guess it’s normal for old dogs to get lumpy..Hehe

  19. Maisie is 14 in July.. Very grumpy ..she breathes very fast most days..her appetite is good ..has trouble sometimes getting herself on our sofa..but she can do this if she wants to sometimes she decides she can’t so we poxk her up…she has some fatty lumps on her..they dont seem to bother her..also has a wart on her too..and I’ve noticed this her barking has changed to..sounds like she is losing her voice but I don’t think she has but a different sound..otherwise she is growing old like me gracefully …

    • Hi Gail, happy to hear you two are growing old together. Although some things changed in Maisie’s life, I’m sure her senior years have some specials that still warm your heart, and still when life gets hard you are here for her (you pick her up) and she’s here to cheer you up. Thanks For sharing, cheers, Ana

  20. This is a great article! My Jack Russell , Holly is 20 years old! She’s been with me since she was only a few months old! I was 12 when she was born and I’ll be 33 this year, she’ll turn 21. She does have her days… some good some bad but she just keeps going and going! JRTs are very special! ?

    • Hi Jordan, 20 years for a dog is really impressive, you might have taken great care of her. I’m so happy to hear you grew happily together, always having a good friend by your side is priceless. Thank you for sharing and give Holly belly rubs from me :)

    • WOW!!!!! 20 years old! This makes me happy! My sweet JRT, Sony, will be turning 16 in Novemer! He seems to be doing really well for his age, with the exception of his eyesight and hearing…which have declined just a bit! He eats a clean “senior” diet with appropriate mess/vitamins! He is a solid white Jack which hides all of his gray hairs. Everybody thinks he is a puppy! It just warms my heart to hear it!

      • Hi Shelia, 16 years are also respectable years for a dog, but it really comforts us that they are long living breed. I’m so glad to hear you’re taking good care of your JRT, as nutrition and proper exercise is really important.
        Cheers, Ana (sending belly rubs for Sony :))

  21. claire yvonne mackay

    I am sitting reading this with my 14 year old JRT, Spot. A lot of the things you have said are so true and i try to implicate this into my household especially with my 12 year old daughter who still thinks that he is 2 years old. Hi to you and Kala and have an Amazing Christmas. x

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