Jack Russells and Cataracts

Jack Russells and Cataracts

Health & Safety

Jack Russells boast long life spans and they become valued members of the family and make brilliant companion dogs. When well cared for, these little dogs can live up to 16+ years which is greatly helped by reputable breeders who have ensured the breed boasts a large gene pool to draw from in their breeding programmes. With this said, Jack Russells are predisposed to suffering from a few health issues that affect their eyes on of which is cataracts. If you are thinking about either getting a little puppy or adopting an older dog, it’s well worth making a note of this so you know what to do if you notice any cloudiness appearing in your dog’s eyes.


The breed is known to suffer from cataracts which can be a worrying health issue that vets need to investigate sooner rather than later in order to establish why a dog is developing them. Most Jack Russells, as they get older and more especially when they reach their golden years tend to develop cataracts which is a condition where the lens in their eyes start to harden. The result of this hardening is that your dog's eyes appear cloudy.

If left untreated, your dog's eyesight could end up being seriously impaired and in a worst case scenario it could result in them going totally blind. The thing to bear in mind is that cataracts are treatable as long as the condition is caught in the early stages of them forming on your dog's eyes. However, if the cataracts are age-related, they tend to be quite small and do not generally affect a dog's vision which means surgically removing them is not really necessary.

However, not all cataracts are age-related because there are a few conditions that can trigger them to develop too and this includes the following health issues:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • An injury or trauma to the eye

Why Jack Russells Develop Cataracts

Cataracts can be a genetic eye disorder that puppies inherit from their parents which is why it's so important to contact reputable breeders if you are thinking about getting a Jack Russell puppy. An established breeder takes great pride in selecting healthy dogs to use in their breeding programmes which as a result means there's far less chance of puppies inheriting any health issues and this includes cataracts.

If the condition is genetic, it means a Jack Russell could well develop cataracts at any point in their lives which includes when they are still quite young. Once the cataract starts to form, it can develop quite quickly or it may take a few weeks to fully form and they may develop on one or both of your dog's eyes.

With this said, diabetes mellitus is the second most typical cause of a Jack Russell or other breed of dog developing cataracts. Once a dog has been diagnosed with diabetes, the cataracts will generally develop in the first 9 months of the diagnosis and they form incredibly fast. Sometimes it happens as quickly as overnight which can be seriously worrying for a dog’s owners. If this is the case, vets treat the cataracts as a medical emergency and would need to perform surgery on the affected eyes to save a dog's vision. A vet would also recommend giving a dog that's been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus specific supplements that would help prevent the cataracts from forming in the first place.

Another very common reason why Jack Russells develop cataracts is because of a toxic reaction"" that occurs on the eye’s lens which is often referred to by vets as a lens being ""sick"". This can occur for numerous reasons whether it's due to some sort of eye disease or because of a reaction to certain medications or drugs. Toxic cataracts can also develop as a result of the following conditions:

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
  • Uveitis and this includes any sort of trauma to the eye
  • Glaucoma

A scratch to the eye which penetrates the lens can also be the cause for a cataract developing. In fact, any injury to the lens that causes it to rupture can be the cause of cataracts and if not treated quickly, it could result in a dog losing part of their vision or in a worst case scenario, the eye may need to be surgically removed.

Nutritional Deficiencies

If a Jack Russell is not fed a correct, well balanced diet to suit their ages, it could lead to certain nutritional deficiencies which is especially true in puppies that have been given a milk replacer for whatever reason. Nutritional cataracts often get better as a puppy gets older as long as they are given a good quality diet that contains all the right levels of protein, minerals, vitamins and other essential nutrients they need to grow.


If you notice any sort of cloudiness or injury to your Jack Russell's eyes, it's best to get them checked out by the vet sooner rather than later. If your dog is over the age of eight, you may find the cataracts are age-related, but if your dog is younger, it could be an inherited eye disorder and the vet may recommend surgically removing the cataracts before your dog's vision is seriously impaired. If, on the other hand there's another underlying health issue that's the cause of the cataracts developing, the sooner the condition is correctly diagnosed the better the prognosis would be for your dog. The thing to bear in mind is that some cataracts can form alarmingly fast so the sooner a vet can treat your Jack Russell, the better.




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