The mite that causes the terrible condition that we see in foxes, along with many
other animals is the mite known as Sarcoptes Scabiei, the mite belongs to the family
The life cycle of the mite is usually between 17 - 21 days. The adults breed in a
moulting pocket on the surface of the skin and once fertilised the female starts
to excavate a burrow through the horny layer of the skin at a rate of 2 - 3 mm a
day. Whilst burrowing the female mite lays her eggs behind her and leaves fecal deposits
as she goes. Once the eggs hatch as larvae they burrow to the surface of the skin
where they travel around the animal’s body feeding, eventually resting in a moulting
pocket. A new generation of mites will be produced every three weeks. Since the mites
prefer skin with little hair, as the condition worsens and more hair is lost, the
mites will eventually colonise the whole of the body. The mite Sarcoptes Scabiei
are fairly host specific, although they will try and attack other hosts for periods
of time e.g. humans.
The mite’s activity causes the skin to react and this intense pruritus causes the
animal to bite and scratch constantly, self inflicting open wounds and secondary
bacterial infection often follows. All the scratching and biting opens the burrow
and once the female mite is exposed she dies. The eggs and faecal debris left behind
continue to cause pruritus which in turn causes more self mutilation, more females
to die, more pruritus, more self mutilation etc etc.
This intense irritation is often made worse by heat. A fox suffering from mange will
often act abnormally. It’s fear for humans often appears lost. It will walk around
almost aimlessly during daylight hours constantly biting and scratching at the irritation.
Always on the move and unable to rest for long periods, many of the affected foxes
will be dehydrated, often observed drinking for a duration of minutes as opposed
to seconds. In most cases the mange starts at the rear end and the great majority
of foxes will have one leg off the ground, due mainly to the self inflicted open
wounds causing apparent soreness to the back end.
If the mite infestation in addition to the secondary bacterial infections and the
dehydration wasn’t bad enough, many foxes will also suffer some degree of conjunctivitis.
In four months an untreated fox is likely to be dead. Within our study of Sarcoptic
Mange we have taken many blood tests and many skin samples from foxes suffering this
condition. We have spoken to over 100 householders whose dogs have contracted Sarcoptic
Mange and our findings are as follows: Please note these are just our opinion based
on the findings. We have spoken to many people within the veterinary field and they
think just maybe we have a case that needs answering.