Russell Terriers are very sound, healthy canines, but as with all dogs, they are susceptible to certain diseases. Regular check ups by your veterinarian, keeping all shots and heartworm prevention up to date, and awareness of the owner of any changes in temperament or in activity, will help ensure the ongoing health of your dog.  Russells are relatively health companions but they are susceptible to a few hereditary problems, some of which are listed below :-


Skin Diseases

Some Russells develop skin problems. Many of these dogs respond well to dietary changes of a more natural-type food or raw with few or no chemical additives. Others may require allergy testing along with long-term treatment of antibiotics, food change and possible allergy injections.


Liver Disease

A condition called Portosystemic Liver Shunt has been seen in Russell Terriers. This diseased is caused by an under-developed or abnormal vessel that allows blood to bypass the liver, preventing the blood from being adequately cleansed. A vet can perform an acid bile blood test to determine if liver shunt is present.  If so, surgery will be recommended to repair the shunt.


Eye Diseases

Juvenile Cataracts  - Juvenile Cataracts are diagnosed early in life, usually between birth and 5 years of age. Because these cataracts can happen anytime within this age range, breeding dogs should be examined annually by a registered Ophthalmologist.

Distichiasis - Distichiasis is a condition in which small hair structures abnormally grow on the inner surface of the eyelids. Both upper and lower lids may be involved. The abnormal hairs growing on the inner surface of the lids cause irritation to the cornea.

PPM - Persistent pupillary membranes (PPM) are blood vessel remnants in the anterior (forward) chamber of the eye which fail to regress normally in the neonatal period. 

PRA-PRD - Progressive retinal degeneration ( PRD ) is also known as progressive retinal atrophy ( PRA ) and refers to retinal diseases that cause blindness.

Primary Lens Luxation  -  Somewhere between the ages of 2 and 7 years of age, Russells can develop this painful and blinding disease, when the lens of the eye, situated behind the iris, breaks away and becomes free in the eye. This is an emergency situation that requires immediate surgical treatment.  Primary lens luxation is inherited and results from defects in the structures that hold the lens in its normal position. 


Each year starting from the age of 2 years, all Russells should begin their annual visit to a Veterinary Ophthalmologist for an A.C.E.S. certified examination (Australian Canine Eye Scheme).

View 2004 letter from Queensland Ophthalmologist, Dr. Mike Bernays  (printed with the kind permission of the author)

View 2008 letter from Queensland Ophthalmologist, Dr. Mike Bernays  (printed with the kind permission of the author)

Read "Sophie's Page"



Testing locations throughout Australia - where you can take your dogs for eye examination

What can I do to help ?

Autosomal Recessive Gene Graph

  Request free DNA sample kits from :-

Davis University, California    

The Animal Health Trust, UK     

Cambridge University, UK

Owner donated pedigrees of affected dogs



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