Like many animals, foxes can develop mange; however, treating a wild fox for mange is not as easy as treating your pet dog. Fortunately, wildlife rehabbers have developed various approaches to treating fox mange, including hands-off treatment that causes less trauma to the fox.
Are you interested in learning more about mange treatment for foxes? Read on, and you will find out about:
- The common types of mange.
- The variety of mange that is seen most often in foxes.
- The best approach to mange treatment in foxes.
- Factors influencing mange treatment in foxes.
Microscopic lice cause the skin disease we know as mange. Mange lice burrow into the skin and hair follicles and cause significant hair loss, skin irritation, scabbing, and crusting.
The Common Types of Mange
There are three common types of mange, but only two are pertinent to foxes. Sarcoptic and demodectic mange are valid concerns in foxes, but Audycoptic mange is a variety of mange limited to bears.
Sarcoptic mange is the most common type of mange caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. Sarcoptes scabiei mites burrow into the fox’s skin, creating tunnels as they move. The female mite then lays her eggs throughout the tunnels, and after three days of “incubation,” the eggs hatch into mite larvae.
Sarcoptes scabiei larvae might stay in the tunnels where they hatch, or they might travel to the skin surface. Within a week or two, those larvae turn into nymphs. Sarcoptes scabiei nymphs finally grow into full-sized adult mites that repeat the egg-laying process.
Animals with sarcoptic mange tend to have thicker skin with crusting, itching, and hair loss. The extent of these symptoms depends on the severity of the infection. If left long enough, sarcoptic mange can thicken the skin so much that a fox’s eyes and mouth are severely compromised. This extent of damage to the skin often leads to skin infection and can cause starvation and death if the fox cannot hunt or eat.
Demodectic mange is another variety of mange, but it results from Demodex mites, not Sarcoptes mites. Demodectic mange is much less common in wildlife like foxes. Demodex mites live inside the hair follicles and makeup part of a healthy skin microfauna.
For immunocompromised animals Demodex mites can quickly multiply and throw off the skin biome, causing complications.
Animals with demodectic mange experience a general feeling of malaise and illness and may experience hair loss.
The Type of Mange Most Often Seen in Foxes
Since sarcoptic mange is the variation of mange seen most in foxes, we will focus on treatment for sarcoptic mange.
Treating Ill Foxes
Before we begin talking about sarcoptic mange, we must cover a few basics –
Many countries have eradicated the rabies virus – in these countries, wildlife rehabilitators treat ill foxes in the field or take foxes in need of treatment to a rehabilitation hospital for treatment.
In other countries like the United States, where rabies is still an ongoing problem, most wildlife rehabilitation hospitals will not accept foxes as patients because they are rabies vectors.
The Best Approach to Mange Treatment in Foxes
There are two main approaches to treating foxes with mange – in-hospital treatment and in-field treatment.
In-hospital treatment is preferable for foxes with severe cases of mange, but not all wildlife rehabilitation units accept rabies vectors, so it is not always possible. Another advantage to in-hospital treatment is that volunteers and veterinarians can closely monitor sick animals and ensure they get the medication they need.
In-field treatment is the only option for areas where in-hospital treatment is not an option. In-field treatment is also preferable for mild cases of mange or for foxes that volunteers cannot capture safely.
The preferred medication for treating mange in red foxes is Bravecto. Bravecto is a newer medication, but just one pill treats the fox for mites and eggs while also protecting the fox for a further three months.
Bravecto is much preferred over older treatment methods for mange because the fox only has to take one dose of medication rather than multiple doses over weeks or months.
Ivermectin – the same medication used as a dewormer for dogs – is another preferred medication for treating red foxes with mange. Wildlife experts recommend treating affected foxes with Ivermectin every three days for three weeks, followed by every five days until they have received ten doses of Ivermectin.
When volunteers administer either Bravecto or Ivermectin mange treatments in-field, volunteers set up feeding stations and do their best to monitor and ensure that the affected fox eats the food with the medication in it.
This approach to wildlife treatment can be troublesome, though, because it relies on consistency and no other animals eating the medicated food.
Factors Influencing Mange Treatment in Foxes
In areas where wildlife rehabilitation hospitals are available to work with foxes, those animals suffering from advanced stages of mange receive treatment at the hospital.
In-house treatment is necessary for these foxes because their ability to hunt and feed themselves is compromised by mange that has caused scabbing and thickening skin, or they are suffering from a severe infection resulting from mange.
If a fox with mange is particularly difficult to capture, seems overly distressed during capture, or in an area where rehabilitation hospitals do not accept foxes, in-field treatment is the only option.
Treating Wildlife For Mange
Treating wildlife for mange should only be administered under the supervision of a veterinarian. Not only are the treatment medications potentially dangerous when improperly used, but they also require a veterinary prescription.
Conclusion / Summary
Foxes are more likely to develop sarcoptic mange rather than demodectic mange; however, because rabies is still a concern in the United States, many wildlife rehabilitation units will not treat foxes in-hospital. While there are a few rehabilitation units that work with wild foxes in the U.S., most mange treatment plans are focused on treatment in the wild and minimizing human contact for the good of the animal.