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Beware the mangy fox

Can fox mange be passed onto dogs? Veterinary surgeon Tony Buckwell gives the answer ...

disease from foxes

This urban fox has bald patches that look sore, which are signs of sarcoptic mange

Q: We have foxes in our garden and one has a lot of bald, sore-looking patches, especially over its head. A friend suggested that the foxes have mange, which could be passed onto our dogs. What do you suggest we do?

A: Foxes can suffer various types of mange and what you describe sounds like sarcoptic mange which is common, especially in the urban fox population. It is caused by a tiny mite called Sarcoptes scabiei that burrows into the skin. Different species have their own specific sarcoptic mite; in people it causes scabies. Though dogs have their own sarcoptic mite, they can still contract the fox mite – particularly if they are in close contact with foxes or their dens. The fox mite causes a less severe form of the disease mange in dogs, but will cause skin irritation and affected dogs will scratch and bite themselves.

Itchiness and skin infection

Sarcoptic mange usually starts on the ears then spreads to affect the elbows and chest until eventually, unless treated, it will affect the entire body. Once the disease becomes more generalised, affected animals suffer from severe itchiness and secondary skin infection. People can be bitten and develop a rash, though the mite can’t live on us.

Mange in dog

Fortunately sarcoptic mange is easily treated and there are several products that your vet can prescribe for your dogs. Foxes, however, are more problematic.

The problem in getting rid of “your” foxes is that other foxes will almost certainly move into the vacated territory, where they will likely access the source of infection so all you will do is perpetuate the problem. Unless they can be trapped, veterinary treatment is difficult, but the National Fox Welfare Society claims success in treating the condition using a homeopathic remedy containing arsenic and sulphur.