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Helping foxes with sarcoptic mange

Updated on November 20, 2013

I am lucky to stay in a semi-rural location where nature and wildlife is in abundance, and have many visitors to my garden including birds, badgers, squirrels and a family of foxes. I moved here three years ago and since then I have been feeding the foxes. Feeding foxes has always been a controversial subject, but in my opinion, it would seem such a waste to throw away food which could potentially help the survival of these beautiful animals.

Last winter I noticed that one of the male adult foxes was very bald around his tail and hind quarters. I telephoned the R.S.P.C.A. (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) for advice. They set a cage trap at the bottom of the garden with the intention of capturing the fox, treating what they suspected was mange, and releasing it back in the same spot. Unfortunately, on examination, the fox was found to be too severe to treat and therefore, they felt that the kindest thing to do was to put the long suffering fox to sleep.

Since then, the vixen and her cubs still come for food each night, but last month I noticed that the "mother" had a bald patch on the base of her tale and around the top of her leg. I trawled the internet looking for a miracle cure when I happened to stumble on the website: www.nfws.org.uk. This is a voluntary society set up to help foxes in need of help. They rely on public donations and their website is full of useful information such as feeding foxes, illnesses, treatment and advice on caring for foxes. I contacted them and explained the history of my family of foxes and they suspected that the problem sounded like sarcoptic mange. I was sent a bottle of treatment and asked to ensure that I continue feeding the foxes. As foxes like sweet foods, it was suggested that I make honey sandwiches and cut into small pieces with a drop of the remedy on each one, which I have been doing faithfully each evening. The remedy contains arsenicum and sulphur which is a homeopathic treatment completely harmless to birds, cats and other animals.

I am happy to report that in the few short weeks that I have been treating the foxes, there has been a marked improvement in the condition, as the hair has started to grow back.


What is Sarcoptic Mange?

Sarcoptic Mange is also known as "canine mange" or "canine scabies." It is a highly contagious skin disease caused by the sarcoptes scabei mite. The mites mate while living on the skin for around four weeks, the female mite then burrows into the skin laying eggs as she moves. The male mite dies after mating, leaving the eggs to hatch around ten days after being laid. These eggs then return to the surface of the skin, mate and the whole vicious cycle is repeated until the fox is completely infested.

A sarcoptic mange mite which is only visible under a microscope.
A sarcoptic mange mite which is only visible under a microscope.

Symptoms of Sarcoptic Mange

The most common symptoms of sarcoptic mange are very severe itching and hair loss. The foxes scratch the itch which often causes lacerations and sores which become quickly infected. If left untreated, can lead to weight loss, organ failure and death within 4-6 months of contracting mange. Foxes with mange usually develop conjunctivitis and "scabby face" as they spread the disease through washing themselves. They become lethargic, disorientated and can often be seen wandering the streets in daylight as their behaviour changes and they seem unaware of the time of day or the dangers around.

A fox with sarcoptic mange.
A fox with sarcoptic mange.
A healthy fox.
A healthy fox.

Treatment

Treatment for sarcoptic mange is very simple, one fox only needs four drops per day of the Arsenicum and Sulphur homeopathic treatment for a few weeks to rid them of the mites which cause this cruel and debilitating disease. If you wish spot a fox with sarcoptic mange, I would recommend logging onto www.nfws.org.uk and following their instructions.

UK mange outbreak

In 1994, an outbreak of mange in Bristol, UK caused the death of 95% of the fox population. It was reported that it only took two years from the first outbreak until the rapid decline, leaving only 5% of foxes alive in this area.


Foxes suffering from mange should not be handled, as the mites can in fact be passed onto humans. Professionals and vets always ensure that they are wearing gloves to avoid the infection being spread.

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    • jacqui2011 profile imageAUTHOR

      jacqui2011 

      7 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      Thank you for commenting. I could spend all evening watching the foxes. I've started putting the food out and whistling (very badly) and they come to collect it within a few minutes!

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      A fascinating hub. This looks like a horrible illness for any animal to have to suffer, so I salute you for the time and effort you have taken to look after your fox family. They are so beautiful and so interesting to watch. Many thanks for sharing.

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