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Jack Russell Terrier Hereditary Diseases

Jack Russell Terriers have very few problems with hereditary diseases. They are not plagued by hereditary health problems like many other breeds. Here are some of the ones that you need to be aware of and check for in the parents, or before breeding your dog.

Lens Luxation

This is the most common hereditary disorder in Jack Russell Terriers. Although this is more prevalent in terrier breeds than in any other breed, it does not mean that it is common. It is a condition that breeders and owners should be aware of.

Lens Luxation is when the lens of one or usually both eyes becomes displaced. The CERF test was created to test for heritable eye diseases in order to reduce the chance of passing these diseases along. All terriers that will be bred should be tested before breeding.

A CERF test is a painless examination of the dogs eyes. CERF the Canine Eye Registration Foundation maintains a registry for dogs tested by certified ACVO (American College of Veterinary opthamologists) for major heritable eye disease. Click on this link to find a clinic that administers the CERF test near you.

To learn more about lens luxation, click here.

Patellar Luxation

Luxating patella is now less common than it used to be. It is more common in shorter-legged JRTs.

The kneecap, the patella, slips from the groove in front of the knee and becomes displaced which prevents the dog from straightning his leg. The dog will hold the leg up for several steps when moving until the patella pops back into place.

For more information, read our article on Patellar Luxation by clicking here.

Progressive Neuronal Abiotrophy (PNA)

This disease was originally referred to as Ataxia. The dog develops tremors and severe lack of coordination, and ultimately is unable to stand or even eat. A degeneration of cells in the brain that are responsible for making smooth, coordinated movements causes these results.

The first signs of this disease generally occur between 9 and 16 weeks of age. Early signs include head tremor and rear leg stiffness. Limb movements become exaggerated and progress to severe degrees of incoordination. The front legs usually are affected within two to three weeks after the back legs. The dog otherwise acts healthy with no other signs of sickness.

This condition occassionally occurs in Jack Russell Terriers, but more frequently in Kerry Blue Terriers. Alexander De Lahunta, and Eric Glass warn that Kerry Blue Terrier breeders must not become complacent and believe that this disorder has disappeared. The age of onset has widened over time and has occurred in dogs eight to nine months old.

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