"Can dogs really catch fox mange?

"Can dogs really catch fox mange?

Yes, they can! Foxes are very good at sharing parasites with dogs. Fox mange is no different, it is a condition that once seen on your dog, will not be forgotten. In this Pets4Homes article, we will be looking at the causes, the spread, the symptoms, and the treatment of fox mange in dogs.

So, what is fox mange?

This condition is also known as sarcoptic mange or in humans (yes, we can get it as well as it’s zoonotic), it is called scabies. This condition is caused by a mite that lives in the skin. It is called fox mange because the mite loves living on foxes!

Mange, as it is commonly known, will occur in a dog that has come into contact with an infected fox. It may sound disgusting, but the mite burrows into the skin. This is one of the most irritating skin conditions known. It can cause distress for the animal and hair loss. Some dogs that have come into contact with fox mange and are infected with Sarcoptes scabiei (a proper name for the mite) have even been known to cause wounds to themselves, in an attempt to ease the itching.

The self-trauma can cause additional problems in the dog. The most common of these is a secondary infection, either of the skin or from the wound becoming infected. This is discussed further on in the article.

How does my dog get it?

Generally, foxes and dogs don’t live together, so you may think fox mange wouldn’t pass to your pooch, but you would be wrong. A dog can actually pick up the mite by indirect contact with a fox that is infected with Sarcoptes scabiei, simply by rolling in an area the foxes recently rolled or slept.

By nature, dogs are always drawn to where foxes have been, as an owner that knows the smell of fox poo will testify! The fox may leave behind mites on the grass or even earth, that the dog may come into contact with and become infected.

The most common cause of a dog becoming infected with fox mange is from direct contact – usually another dog that has the condition. This can happen in kennels, in the park, even in the street.

Luckily once you know your dog has the condition, you tend not to let it come into contact with others. Many veterinary surgeries would also see suspected cases of fox mange is the last appointment, to reduce the chances of an infected animal coming into contact with another pet.

What do I look for?

If your dog is unfortunate enough to pick up the mite, you will certainly know about it! Your dog will scratch because it is itchy to the point of looking crazed! The effects of the condition are:

  • Itching
  • Loss of hair
  • Scaliness and crusting of the skin
  • Thickening of the skin

Let’s look at these in more detail and why they occur.


Imagine having a mite burrowing into your skin, it causes immense irritation and the way to try and stop the irritation is to scratch it. That’s exactly what a dog will do. Itching, known as pruritus will start a chain reaction of problems in an upset dog.

Loss of hair

The most commonly affected area in the initial stages of fox mange is on the underside of the dog, on the abdomen. Hair loss, also called alopecia, is caused by the itching and scratching from the dog. Other common places for hair loss are the chest, ears, the elbows, and hocks. Around the ears can also be infected. If the condition is left untreated, the whole body will be affected.

Scaliness and crusting of the skin

Some of the wounds that affect the dog can start to ooze and then crust over, this is where secondary infection from bacteria on the damaged skin poses a problem.

Thickening of the skin

If the skin is left untreated it will produce more oil in a response to the irritation, this is a condition known as seborrhoea. The skin will also thicken as a response.

So, if a dog is left untreated, the end result will be an animal with hair loss and thickened skin, that is greasy and with lesions that are crusty. The effects of mange make the animal truly look a sorry state.

How is it diagnosed?

Generally, a vet will be able to diagnose the condition simply by looking at the dog! However clinical signs such as hair loss, itching and crusted lesions on the skin may still need investigating. A medical history will be taken, and the following questions are commonly asked:

  • Are there any other dogs in the house that are affected in the same way?
  • Has the dog recently been in kennels or, rescued?
  • Has the dog recently been anywhere that it may have come into contact with areas foxes roam or has it come into contact with another dog with similar symptoms?

Once these questions are taken the vet will normally suggest a skin scrape. This means using a scalpel blade as a scraper on the most commonly affected parts. The procedure is usually done under sedation for safety.

Because it is a burrowing mite, this is why the skin needs to be scraped to try and lift the mite out of the skin itself. All scrapes are then transferred to a microscope and viewed by the veterinary team. Even though a dog may present with these symptoms, sometimes mange can be hard to diagnose, because the mite is notorious for not being found!

The signs that are shown clinically alone are enough to warrant a treatment of medication to kill the sarcoptic mange mite.

What treatment is there?

Medication such as selemectin or moxidectin is generally used these days. These are used to kill the mite, and the vet might opt to use some topical preparations that go on the skin, to help soothe the dog's distressed state of itching.

Some vets also like to use medicated shampoos helping the skin to return to its normal pH and health. The treatment for fox mange normally lasts for around a month to 6 weeks, this is to break the usual two-week life-cycle of the mite.

It has been found that dogs that are also stressed can flare up badly in reaction to the mite more than dogs that are happy. This is why it is important to keep your dog mentally stimulated – especially if they are diagnosed with the condition.


Mange is a very distressing condition that can cause an animal misery. By using preventative treatments such as parasite control spot-on, can stop mange forever causing your pet a problem, but the treatments have to be applied regularly in accordance with instructions.

If you have any concerns about your pet’s skin, or if they seem to be scratching excessively, please speak to your vet.

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