Sarcoptic mange is most often seen in foxes, although we do see hedgehogs suffering too on a fairly regular basis. It is caused by the mite, Sarcoptes scabei. The female mite burrows under the skin and lays her eggs which hatch in 3-10 days producing larvae which, in turn, move about on the skin surface eventually turning into a “nymphal” stage and finally into adults. The adults move on the surface of the skin where they mate and the cycle begins again with the female burrowing and laying eggs.
The mites cause the fox immense irritation, leading to constant scratching, fur loss and, if left untreated, open sores develop which will become infected and eventually lead to septicaemia. Mange can often be fatal if not treated in the early stages.
Unfortunately a lot of the people who contact us have had the homeopathic treatment recommended to them. They have tried it, and by the time they realise that, in our experience, it very rarely works, the poor fox is in a very sorry state and the mange is far worse. It helps to relieve the intense itching and can lessen the inflammation but it does not kill the cause of the problem, the mites themselves. We have come across very few people who have had long-term success with this treatment so we would advise against using it, unless it is being used alongside a conventional drug which will kill the mites.
The treatment that we use for sarcoptic mange is Stronghold, which is sold as a spot-on treatment for fleas and mites in dogs. Obviously it wouldn’t be possible to put the Stronghold directly onto the skin of the fox, so it is used orally. One treatment in food (60mg dose) on week one and another treatment a week later is usually all that is needed (although we sometimes need to continue for a third dose). As long as the fox takes the food with the Stronghold in, it works every time. If the mange is so severe that there is infection present, the fox needs to be humanely caught and needs to be admitted to a wildlife centre for antibiotics as well.