The Diets for Jack Russel Terriers

The Diets for Jack Russel Terriers

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Jack Russell Terriers are high energy dogs, so they need a diet program that packs a punch. Learn the ins and outs of feeding your Jack Russell here.

Jack Russell Terriers, also known as Parson Russell Terriers, are a high-energy breed known for their cocky, bold personalities. Originally bred as fox-hunting dogs, Jack Russell terriers love digging, running and tenaciously stalking potential prey. Highly active dogs in a small body, Jack Russell terriers need to be fed a high-quality food with a crunchy texture to keep their teeth clean.

Caloric Requirements

Jack Russell terriers usually weigh between 13 and 17 pounds. Dogs of this size need approximately 450 to 650 calories per day, depending on their activity level, according to the National Research Council of the National Academies. Unless your dog is 7 years or older, feeding your dog the higher of the amounts will account for the Jack Russell's energy needs. Puppies require around 800 to 900 calories for proper growth until your Jack Russell reaches approximately 1 year old.

Type of Food

Feed your Jack Russell Terrier a diet that is at least 75 percent dry kibble, recommends the book, "Jack Russell Terrier: Your Happy Healthy Pet." The crunchy texture of this type of food will reduce buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth. Buildup of plaque and tartar can cause dental problems for small breeds like the Jack Russell. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations about how much to feed your dog daily, based on your pet's weight. Divide the daily ration into at least two meals; three is even better for your pet. This is because the Jack Russell's small stomach can only hold so much food at once. Dividing the daily ration into two or three meals per day allows for proper digestion of the food.


The primary ingredients in your Jack Russell Terrier's high-quality dry commercial diet should be meat-based proteins, such as poultry, beef or fish. Dog food ingredients are listed in descending order of their percentage in the food, so the first named ingredients are the main ones. Avoid foods with grains such as wheat or corn listed among the top five ingredients. Lower quality ingredients such as meat by-products are harder to digest protein sources, and should be a minor component of the food. Avoid chemical preservatives, including butylated hydroxyanisole, butylated hydroxytoluene, and ethoxyquin.

Some small dogs cannot digest ingredients such as grains or meat by-products, typically found in lower-quality diets. These grains may be eliminated undigested. Feed your Jack Russell a higher-quality diet if the dog attempts to ingest the undigested food in droppings.

Food Allergies

Jack Russell Terriers are more likely than some other breeds to suffer from skin problems due to allergies, called atopic dermatitis, according to Bio-Medical Services, a laboratory that specializes in allergy testing of pets. Symptoms include red, dry, itchy skin along with excessive licking and biting of the skin, creating patches of hair loss. Allergens can include foods, pollen, insect bites and molds. If your Jack Russell Terrier has skin problems, consult your veterinarian. Your dog may need to go on a hypoallergenic diet to determine whether food allergy is the cause of the problem. Such a diet contains a single unusual protein source, such as fish or venison, and one carbohydrate source not usually found in dog foods. These ingredients are unlikely to cause a reaction in your Jack Russell Terrier. If the skin problem clears up after some weeks on the hypoallergenic diet, your veterinarian can guide you in adding foods back into the diet until you find the one causing the allergic reaction.

How to Feed

Free-feeding dry kibble to a Jack Russell Terrier can lead to obesity, especially if your little dog shares the voracious appetite of many Jack Russells. It is better to feed two or three measured meals per day, controlling the calories and keeping your dog fit. Because Jack Russells are hunting dogs, you can consider hiding portions of your dog's food around your home so your little Terrier has to search for it. Having the dog work for food may reduce destructive behaviors caused by boredom while you're away from home. An alternative to hiding the kibble is the use of a puzzle toy that you can fill with kibble. The dog must chew on the puzzle toy or roll it around to get at the food inside.


Myasthenia gravis, a genetic neuromuscular disease, affects Jack Russell Terriers more than most other breeds. This disease causes weakness and mobility issues for the dog. If your Jack Russell Terrier has been diagnosed with this disease by a veterinarian, it is important to take special care when you feed your dog. Make eating easier by feeding your Jack Russell Terrier in raised dishes, and keep the little dog standing for 10 minutes after a meal. Myasthenia gravis can affect the dog's esophagus, creating the risk of vomiting and inhalation pneumonia after a meal. Keeping your dog upright can help prevent these problems. While a good diet cannot prevent all health problems your Jack Russel Terrier might face, it certainly reduces their risk. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What food is best for Jack Russells?

The best food for Jack Ruseels are the ones that contain significant amounts of Omega 3 and 6, as these contribute to their joint and muscle health. Jack Russels are known to be extremely active, which can take a toll on their joint health, including Leggs-Perthes disease. Food with vegetables rich in vitamins A and C are also very helpful for Jack Russells’ joint health. Protein is also a must for them (obviously).

What human food can Jack Russells eat?

Jack Russells can eat any form of meat or organs, as long as they are properly cooked. They can also eat fish, as fish is rich in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Beef, chicken, and turkey are the best meats for Jack Russells. You can also feed them carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, and cucumber.

What should Jack Russell terriers not eat?

Like any other dog, you shouldn’t give them grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, and any food from the chive family. Also, beware of feeding them chocolate and food products containing xylitol. Xylitol is often found in artificially sweetened (sugar-free) products like peanut butter and chewing gums.

How much should a Jack Russell eat daily?

Jack Russells will gobble up as much food as you give them, so it is extremely important to moderate their food intake. It’s best to feed them twice a day. Stick to 1.25-1.75 cups of dog food each day, depending on how active your dog is.

Can Jack Russells eat eggs?

Eggs are an excellent source of proteins, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids for Jack Russells. It is best to feed them raw eggs, as cooking them destroys many nutrients. But if that grosses you out, you can feed them semi cooked eggs or mix them with their food.
References & Resources

National Research Council of the National Academies: Your Dog's Nutritional Needs
VetInfo: Myasthenia Gravis What Should I Feed My Dog
Jack Russell Terrier Club of America: Stool Eating
Jack Russell Terrier Club of America: Frequently Asked Questions
American Kennel Club: AKC Meet the Breeds: Parson Russell Terrier
Bio-Medical Services: Pet Allergy Clinic Reference Guide
VetInfo: Food for Allergic Dogs

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

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