Wildlives Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre
If you find a sick or injured fox, do not touch it. Even when incapacitated, foxes will regard your presence as aggressive, and could give you a nasty bite. The thing to do is to keep an eye on the fox, or get somebody else to stay with it, whilst you phone Wildlives or the RSPCA for help
Foxes are subject to injury all the year round, but injury is particularly common between December and February, when they become territorial in preparation for breeding and begin to get reckless and take more chances. Following are some of ways in which foxes most commonly sustain injury:
Road traffic accidents
Caught in fencing, or wire mesh
Caught in snares
Poisoned (internal injury)
Self-inflicted injuries as a result of irritation from mange
Attacks by domestic animals and other foxes - this, particularly, when they are weak and partially helpless as a result of some other condition.
Where a fox in the wild is injured, the wounds are likely to become infected. If they are not cleaned and treated, the infection will spread - and the fox may not survive. If you see an injured fox around, it will need to be humanely trapped and taken to a wildlife rescue centre for treatment.
Sarcoptic Mange
Mange is caused by a type of mite, which burrows into the skin of the animal, feeding off of it, and breeding constantly. The mites are host specific, which means that - although there are various animals that get mange (e.g. dogs, cats, hedgehogs, humans) - they are independent of each other and do not cross-contaminate. Although you might get a minor skin irritation from being in contact with a mangy fox, you will not actually contract mange.
So what causes mange? Unsurprisingly, little is known about the exact relationship between foxes and mange. What does seem clear is that:
(a) Foxes with low immunity as a consequence of some other cause will be particularly susceptible to mange.
(b) Mange is spread between foxes through contact. Thus foxes in urban areas, being more densely populated are more likely to suffer from it than rural foxes.
The National Fox Welfare has carried out research into the causes of mange in foxes, and have suggested that it is connected to the condition of the skin - a factor which is, in itself, determined by the diet of the fox. This may provide another explanation for the prevalence of mange among urban, rather than rural foxes. The diet of urban foxes consists, at least partially, of rubbish and discarded junk food. Thus they are more likely to have bad skin; thus they are particularly susceptible to mange mites.
Mange mites usually start at the tail end of the fox and work their way up to the head. In addition to causing extensive hair loss, they are an irritant. The fox's constant scratching causes the release of tissue fluids which build up into a thick crust. Foxes will also chew themselves in an attempt to relieve the itching - thereby causing further damage.
The condition is debilitating in the extreme: the fox loses weight, may frequently be seen out in the day, seems to lose its fear of humans, and may be dead within four months.
However, if it is caught in time, mange can be treated.
Jimmy was a fox cub brought in in October 2004. He was seen by a member of the public, and a cage trap was set to catch him. He was almost bald, and covered in wounds where he had chewed himself. A couple of months later he had recovered and was successfully released. These photos illustrate the progress of his recovery.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by an internal parasite. The disease has been found in practically all warm-blooded birds and animals - humans included - but it is thought that the only animal in which the toxoplasma oocysts can reproduce is the domestic cat. The oocysts are released in the cat's faeces, become infectious after a couple of days and can live for years independently of a host animal.
Certainly, people do not contract the condition from foxes. People tend to get it from eating meat not properly cooked, or from cat faeces (although this is less likely). Toxoplasmosis will have little noticeable effect in people except in the cases of pregnant women and those with autoimmune diseases.
Like people, foxes contract toxoplasmosis by eating animals infected with it. The transmitted oocyst will migrate from the gut to other parts of the body, forming cysts in the muscles and brain. This is not necessarily a disaster for the fox: it is thought that in most cases, the animal's immune system will
eventually subdue the disease. However, young foxes in particular - and those that have other problems at the outset - may find it hard to throw off the condition. Untreated (which of course, with wild animals, it usually is) it can cause permanent damage.  
Toxo can affect the fox's lungs (causing pneumonia), its liver (causing hepatitis), its eyes, its central nervous system and various other parts of its body. As a result of this, foxes with toxoplasmosis can show blindness, incoordination, extreme sensitivity to touch, personality change, circling, seizures, and difficulty in chewing and swallowing food.
Obviously, a wild fox infected with toxo and unable to resist it will die - not necessarily from the disease itself - but because the effects of the disease will render it unable to hunt and unable to escape from danger.
Foxes brought in to Wildlives are not routinely tested for toxo, but the condition usually reveals itself in otherwise inexplicable symptoms. Toxo foxes usually have something strange about their eyes - a sort of vacant look. The Centre's no-euthanasia policy prohibits putting to sleep a fox which, although unreleasable due to the extent of the damage caused by the disease, is none the less able to enjoy a good quality of life in captivity. Wildlives has three foxes that cannot be released as a result of toxoplasmosis. They now have permanent residency of the large outdoor fox enclosures.
Canine Infectious Hepatitis
Canine infectious hepatitis is a viral disease of the liver. It occurs in dogs and foxes - although dogs are usually vaccinated against it. It passes through contact with the urine, saliva and faeces of the infected animal. It is not transmissible to people.
Symptoms include lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrohea, abdominal pain, pale gums (later jaundice), neurological symptoms and - following recovery - foxes can develop 'blue eye' as a result of damage to the retinas. This usually passes.
Although there is no actual 'cure' for the condition, if it is caught early, the fox can be treated to boost its immune system, and may recover.
Unfortunately, it rarely ever is caught early. By the time the problem becomes evident and somebody spots the fox and brings it to a wildlife rescue centre, the fox is seriously ill and treatment stands less chance of success.
Canine infectious hepatitis also affects the fox's immune system - which suggests that an infected fox may become more susceptible to, among other things, toxoplasmosis. Wildlives has previously admitted foxes suffering from both problems concurrently.
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