Jack Russell Pregnancy: Gestation Period, Weekly Milestones, and Care Guide

Written by Katie Downey
Published: June 6, 2023
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Jack Russell Terrier Summary

Dog, Summer, Relaxation, Sunlight, Sun


Jack Russells are intelligent and highly energetic

Jack Russell Terriers, named after Reverand John “Jack” Russell, is a smaller breed of British canine primarily bred to aid in fox hunting in North Devon during the 19th century. These dogs of small stature are generally white and reddish-brown, weighing in at 14-18 pounds and standing 12 inches tall at the withers. Jack Russells are bred to be at least 50% white so that their coloring would stand out against the color of the fox’s coat that they were hunting.

These fiery little canines are intelligent and highly energetic, making them the perfect fox-hunting companion. In addition, these small dogs are very vocal and enjoy spending time with their human companions. Reverand Russell took pride in that his dogs had just the right amount of aggressiveness but never tasted blood while hunting. They were small dogs with big dog attitudes, and though they enjoyed the chase, they did not harm the fox. As terriers, they share many similarities with Parson Russell terriers and also fox terriers.

Jack Russells have no known significant health barriers and live 12-14 years, as do most canines. Unfortunately, though, they are slightly more prone to being deaf. They are athletic and fearless and do their best with an active lifestyle. Russells are said to be excellent dogs for children, but with their hallmark aggressive nature, they are best suited for older children. They are not a destructive breed and tend to have good indoor manners. Jack Russells tend to get along with other dogs and are not overly territorial. As working dogs, these terriers tend to be happiest when they have a job. However, they can become destructive out of sheer boredom without the appropriate stimulation.

Jack Russell Pregnancy Symptoms and Signs

It’s typically recommended to spay your female puppy around six months of age; however, the choice is ultimately yours to make regarding whether or not you want to breed your dog in the future. Some of the earliest and most common Jack Russell pregnancy signs can be similar to human ones. You may notice your dog’s personality changing a bit. She may start whining more frequently and may not have as much of an appetite as you are used to seeing. This is likely due to early pregnancy nausea, AKA morning sickness. Do not offer your dog flavorful human food during this time because it will only exasperate the issue. The best and quickest way to determine if your dog is pregnant is to take her to the vet for blood work. The pregnancy hormone relaxin will be very high if your dog is pregnant.

Gestation Period: How Long Are Jack Russells Pregnant?

As with many canine breeds, Jack Russells are generally pregnant for approximately 60 days. Of course, this can vary from dog to dog, just as it does with humans or any other species. There can be complications that warrant early delivery naturally or by cesarian section, just as with any mother-to-be. Keeping a puppy journal is one way to document your mama terrier’s progress and list any questions you might have for your vet. Make a note of anything unusual that you experience, and stay in tune with your mama dog’s needs. If she seems lethargic, not eating/drinking, excessively vomiting, panting, and whining nonstop, that is her way of saying she needs your help.

Pregnancy Care for Jack Russells

©Pavel Shlykov/Shutterstock.com

Jack Russells are generally pregnant for approximately 60 days.

To keep your beloved pregnant Jack Russell comfortable, healthy, and safe, it is essential to have specific protocols in place as you would for any pregnancy. First, have your vet’s name, number, and address on your refrigerator in case you need another person to aid your dog at any point. Then, of course, you always want to have that information in your phone or wallet in case of an emergency. This is not to frighten you but to help you remain calm if anything unexpected arises.

Before breeding your Jack Russell, it is vital to know a few things. First, it’s best to breed a mature dog between 2-5 years old that is not over or underweight. It is also imperative to have your dog up to date or vaccinated and other health protocols.

Food and hydration are of the utmost importance to any pregnant female. Without the proper vitamins, nutrition, and hydration, the puppies stand a much better chance of facing severe complications than they would otherwise. Make sure your pregnant Russell is drinking plenty of cool water. It’s best always to have filtered, reverse osmosis water available. Make sure to clean the water bowl daily, eliminating bacteria and the potential for an infection or upset stomach.

Do not change her regular dog food, especially in the first few weeks of pregnancy, and never all at once. She will be nauseous for a good bit of the gestation period, and you will want to minimize any further stomach upset. Your vet can provide safe medication if your dog struggles with nausea or an upset stomach.

Please give her a whelping box or a comfortable, undisturbed space to call her own until she finishes raising her puppies. You will know when she is getting ready to go into labor because you will notice a lack of appetite, panting, pacing, whining, shivering, and digging at the whelping area.

Average Litter Size for Jack Russells

Two white Jack Russell Terrier puppies are standing on a tree stump among purple flowers.

Jack Russells may be a small canine breed, but they can have quite a few puppies, so make sure you prepare for that. Generally, a litter will have 5-7 puppies, but some can have as many as 12! They can also give birth 6-8 times in their lives, which can equal many puppies to find homes for.

What to Expect in Weeks 1-3

This is the first stage in your dog’s pregnancy and is the most delicate on her stomach. She will begin going through a personality change, as with any mother of any species. Your Jack Russell made me nauseous, and, unlike us, I cannot tell you so in words, only in actions. Do not force her to eat or add anything extra to her usual food. If she does not want to eat, know that she will once she becomes hungry and not as nauseous. If you feel that her nausea is extreme and interferes with her eating ability, contact your vet. They can prescribe medications to combat nausea and give you tips to help her through this period.

At this early point in the pregnancy, your vet cannot palpate your dog’s abdomen to feel for puppies or pick their heartbeat up on an ultrasound. So the only guaranteed way to be sure your dog is pregnant is to have your vet perform a blood test to look at the amount of relaxin in your dog’s blood.

In the first couple of weeks of pregnancy, your dog can still play and exercise as usual. Let her be the judge of whether or not she wants to play.

What to Expect in Weeks 4-6

At this stage in your dog’s pregnancy, your vet can pick up a heartbeat on the ultrasound and may be able to feel the puppies. The puppies are quickly gaining weight and size in this stage, and you will notice your dog taking on a rounder appearance. The puppies’ skeletons will begin to calcify and can now be seen on an X-ray to help you determine how many there will be. You may feel the puppies moving by placing your hands on her abdomen. However, she will not be as nimble as she was, and any rigorous exercise or play should be discouraged.

Your dog’s nausea will have passed by now, and her appetite has returned. As recommended by your vet, feed her many small meals a day, and be sure to include plenty of cooked, unseasoned meat and vegetables in her daily diet. She needs extra protein to help those puppies grow.

What to Expect in Weeks 7-9

As the birthing process draws to an end, you will notice your dog pacing, panting, and seeking out a comfortable place to have her puppies, called nesting. Try not to discourage this behavior. She will also become a bit more clingy, and you might notice her panting and whining more as the day gets closer.

When puppies are on the horizon, your Jack Russell’s body temperature will fall by a couple of degrees. Do not obsessively take her temperature, which can cause anxiety and discomfort. When you notice that she has become visibly uncomfortable, the time will be closing in soon. She will lie down and get up many times while pacing and whimpering. This is perfectly natural, and you shouldn’t take it to mean there is a problem. Your dog knows what she is doing and is going through the beginning stages of labor. If possible, you can have your vet nearby in case of an emergency.

Be sure to have clean towels, blankets, and rags on hand for the mess unfolding soon. Do not prioritize the lot over your dog’s and her puppies’ health and safety.

How to Prepare for Labor and Delivery

dog nuzzling mother


Generally, a litter will have 5-7 puppies, but some can have as many as 12!

The time you and your Jack Russell have been waiting for has finally arrived! It’s time for some puppy birthdays, and you need to be prepared but don’t worry, soon you and mama dog will be snuggling those babies and picking out good names and homes.

The most important thing to remember during your Russell’s labor is to provide comfort and safety while maintaining a level of privacy for your dog. She knows what to do and only likely needs you interfering if it’s an emergency. So let her do what she instinctively knows to do, and do not scold her or get too handsy in your helping.

What you will want to have on hand is a gram/ounce scale, a baby nose suction, pee pads, old clean towels, water, and your vet’s emergency contact information. Other than that, make sure mama’sMama dog feels safe and comfortable. If she is constantly trying to leave the whelping area while in labor, let her. Follow with plenty of old towels and blankets to where she feels safest. It’s unlikely that she will want to go far but help her past her anxiety however you can. Once she enters active labor, give her some space but remain nearby to check in frequently. You could set up a baby camera to watch the action without intervening unless necessary.

Jack Russell Labor Aftercare

puppy curled up


Be ready to go on cleanup duty full-time for your puppies.

Once your Jack Russell has successfully given birth and appears calm and not anxious, help clean her up using a warm wet washcloth. She will be exhausted and will want to clean her newborns. If she doesn’t seem comfortable with you cleaning her off, stop doing it and let her take care of herself.

Provide high-quality dog food and speak with your vet regarding what human foods you can give your new mama dog to help keep her and her puppies happy and healthy. A nursing mother requires much more water than a non-nursing mother, so always have cool, filtered water available. Without the appropriate hydration, she may falter at producing milk, in which case you might be looking at bottle-feeding puppies around the clock. In addition, she must be minimally stressed and fed small meals throughout the day to build a hearty milk supply.

Be ready to go on cleanup duty full-time as the puppies grow. In the early days, your dog will stimulate the puppies to use the bathroom, but as time passes, this will stop, and you will be looking at the consumption of many newspapers or puppy pads.

As the puppies grow, you must bring them to your vet along with the mama dog for a checkup, worming, and vaccinations. The best way to ensure the health of your dog and her puppies.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Pavel Shlykov/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Katie Downey is a writer for A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on wildlife, arachnids and insects. Katie has been writing and researching animals for more than a decade. Katie worked in animal rescue and rehabilitation with handicapped cats and farm animals for many years. As a resident of North Carolina, Katie enjoys exploring nature with her son, educating others on the positive role that insects and spiders play in the ecosystem and raising jumping spiders.

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