CARING FOR THE HEALTH AND NUTRITION OF YOUR  DOMESTICATED PET FOX

Lucy the Fennec Fox

Lucy the Fennec Fox

If domestic pet fox ownership is a desire of yours, you will need to know the basics to care for your new furry fox properly. In this article, we will touch base on several subjects that may help you better understand and be aware of what to expect before committing yourself to a fox. Before we get started, let me state that I am not a veterinarian, the information listed is strictly from experience and or research. Always consult a licensed exotic pet veterinarian when it comes to any health issues related to your fox.

 

FINDING A LICENSED FOX VETERINARIAN

Fox at vet visitIf you have researched foxes and have decided that you would make a great lifetime home for one then before purchasing your new furry family member, please seek an experienced licensed exotic veterinarian in your area. Ask this vet any questions you may have so you are well informed beforehand. I did not have a hard time finding a great vet as our life-long family vet is highly qualified and trustworthy. However, some other fox owners have mentioned the difficulties in finding qualified reasonably priced veterinarians in their area so if you do not already have a vet that you trust, call around or ask other pet fox owners in your area who they recommend.

Also, if your vet is licensed but unfamiliar with foxes be sure they contact an experienced exotic health care provider with any questions they may have. There are many different species of fox, and some require different vaccines. Get involved in your fox’s health care, ask many questions and make sure they are using the right vaccines on your specific fox even if it means waiting on confirmation from a second opinion. You really can never be too careful or ask too many questions.

Foxes are becoming very popular pets, but they are not legal to own in every state. If you live in one of the banned states and you feel your desire to own a fox outweighs the laws of ownership in your area, please remember not only will you be breaking the law but your fox will also suffer and possibly be put down. Even if you successfully fly under the radar of the law, your fox will not be able to receive the proper health care it needs; and more than likely your vet will not be licensed to treat an animal that is not allowed to be owned in that particular state so be aware before you endanger an animal.

 

PROVIDE PROPER PET FOX NUTRITION

There are many options when it comes to your pet fox’s nutritional needs. Some feed strictly high protein dog food and some feed strictly a raw diet with vegetables. For the health of your fox, I would suggest that you do both. Buy a high-quality kibble from Petco or PetSmart but be sure it has Taurine as an ingredient. All foxes just like cats need Taurine in their diet. Become familiar with Taurine, research it and make it a habit in your fox’s daily nutrition. I can’t stress enough how important Taurine is for your fox’s health and it cannot be overlooked. When you buy a pet food, pay more and get a high-quality brand don’t purchase low-quality dog food. I can almost guarantee you that no dog food available at Walmart has Taurine as an ingredient. Your fox’s health is important, and if you are committed to owning a pet fox, you must be prepared to pay more for the better food.

What brand of pet food should I feed my fox?

I keep a high-quality dog food like Blue Wilderness available 24/7 to my fox and sometimes I will purchase an organic vegetable puree in the baby section of Walmart or a canine puree in the pet store. My Fox does not enjoy eating vegetables, so this is a great way to make sure he gets those needed vitamins. Also, for those foxes who don’t enjoy eating dog food, in my experience, the puree mixed in with the dry food has proven successful on every occasion.

Recommended brands of high-quality dog food that include Taurine for your fox:

  • Blue Wilderness – High Protein – Grain-Free
  • Blue – Life Protection Formula
  • Blue Basics – Grain-Free
  • Wellness CORE – Grain-Free
  • Natural Balance
  • Royal Canin

Many of these same brands are also available in cat food as some pet fox owners find success in feeding cat food to their foxes as it is sure to contain Taurine since a cat’s health requires it. However, in my experience cat food was too rich for my fox and gave him a runny stool. Try different Taurine filled products and see what your fox thrives on and what doesn’t agree with them. You can visit our recommended Fox Food page to find a product that will work well for your fox’s nutritional needs.

Recommended brands of meal enhancers for your fox:

Many of the below-listed meal enhancers do not contain Taurine but are meant to be combined with a Taurine filled kibble from the list above. They are completely optional and are not necessary to the well-being of your fox. If you choose to use any recommended meal enhancers, please do so sparingly as they are not meant to be fed on their own in large quantities as they do not include the needed ingredients to be your foxes sole source of nutrition.

  • Freshpet Vital – Grain Free
  • Freshpet Vital PURE
  • Blue Wilderness Trail Toppers – Grain Free
  • Purina Pro Plan Puree
  • Blue Wilderness Can Food
  • Freshpet Vital Cat Food – Grain Free (with Taurine)

You can visit our recommended Meal Enhancers page to find a recommended product that will work well combined with your fox’s other nutritional needs.

What are some other fox food options?

In addition to the recommended dog food, I also provide my fox with many raw opinions daily. Currently, he enjoys chicken gizzards, eggs, chicken drumsticks, chicken thighs and even chicken paws. Raw chicken bones are very soft and safe for animal consumption, however never feed any animal cooked bones as they can splinter and choke or severely injure your animal. If you choose to feed raw products to your fox, try to stay as close to their natural needs as possible. For example, chicken and rodents are common prey for a fox in the wild, however, a fox would be less likely to have an opportunity to chow down on a cow in the wild so be mindful. It’s ok to offer your fox various raw meats that they normally wouldn’t eat in the wild but I wouldn’t make it a habit.

A good rule would be to not feed your fox anything that you wouldn’t feed your dog but if you’re unsure about any product just error on the side of caution. Chicken is probably the best raw product you can feed your fox and it’s very affordable and readily available. As they say “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it”, there are many safe common foods for foxes so if you don’t want to chance your fox’s health just stick to the basics and you will never go wrong. A few foods to avoid, while they may not kill your fox upon consumption, they can have lasting negative effects or even lead to an early death.

Some hazardous fox foods are:

  • Alcohol
  • Almonds
  • Apple Seeds
  • Avocados
  • Caffeine
  • Candy
  • Cherry Pits
  • Chives
  • Chocolate
  • Cooked Bones
  • Garlic
  • Grapes
  • Gum
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Peach Pits
  • Peanut Shells
  • Peppers
  • Pork
  • Raisins
  • Salt
  • Sugary Foods
  • Tomatoes
  • Toothpaste
  • Walnuts
  • Xylitol (avoid Xylitol at all costs as it will kill your animal, it can be found in many brands of gum, candy and toothpaste products).

 

RESEARCH COMMON FOX HEALTH PROBLEMS

When you first purchase your fox, you may be unfamiliar with certain health-related issues that foxes could possibly experience within their lifetime. However, if you stick to proper nutrition and purchase your fox from a reputable breeder with an overall good health standing from previous buyers, you shouldn’t experience that many unwarranted health issues and you may never experience even one health issue. Some common health issues that you will probably experience are fleas and worms. Be sure to use a high-quality flea medication as well as a safe dewormer.

Fox flea medication

I currently use Advantage Multi for fleas because our veterinarian highly recommends it as in addition to fighting fleas it can keep a fox from developing mange. Sarcoptic Mange is a mite that lives on the skin of the animal and is a common occurrence in many foxes if not preventively treated correctly. Be sure and ask your vet about this skin condition upon your first visit and your vet can aid you in finding the proper flea medication for your fox.

Fox dewormer

The wormer I use is Safe-Guard Dewormer, it is a cattle dewormer that is currently and successfully used on many dogs. Safe-Guard fights against stomach worms, intestine worms, and lungworms. Always worm your fox at the recommended times and with the recommended doses pertaining to your fox’s individual weight and age. Your vet will provide you with this information upon your first visit and consult with your vet if you see any signs of worms in between or after each vet visit. You will find many owners who recommend different brands of wormer but the best route is to visit your vet and see what they recommend.

Most people have a pet that gets worms, it’s not uncommon but be familiar with the different types so you can readily identify and treat that parasite. My fox even after being wormed and preventatively treated developed lungworms, they grow in the lungs and eventually are coughed out by the animal. They can be contracted from licking frogs or snails that have the parasite on them so make sure your foxes outside play area is properly blocked off from various parasite-carrying creatures. If you notice your fox is coughing more than usual take him/her to the vet as that is one of the signs of lungworm. A vet will want to make sure the fox successfully coughs up the parasites and then check for any secondary lung infections caused by the parasite. They will then place the fox on a lungworm dewormer to eradicate any other eggs present in the lungs.

Fox vaccinations

Your vet will also provide your fox with his vaccines which are multiple sets of shots that he/she will receive every two weeks until they are completely vaccinated. Be sure your vet knows the correct vaccine for your species of fox. For example, a Silver fox is a Red fox, an Arctic Marble fox is a Red fox, they are both simply color morphs of the true Red fox but they still require the vaccines for a Red fox. Red fox species require a modified or killed virus vaccine as the live virus vaccine can be detrimental to their health and/or possibly fatal. Research your fox’s species as it is very important that you understand all aspects of the animal you own. Pet fox ownership is still unfamiliar to many so be proactive and learn as much as you can as it will only benefit you and your fox in the future.

Fox rabies vaccine

Upon reaching a certain age your vet will recommend that your fox be vaccinated for rabies. I did not experience any problems with vaccinating my fox for rabies. However, be aware that some states do not recognize the rabies vaccine. Giving your fox the vaccine does protect them from contracting rabies but if the state does not recognize it your fox would still be put down if it was ever in question of having rabies. For the safety of your fox, check with your state so you are aware of the laws pertaining to fox rabies vaccines in your area. If your state does not recognize the vaccine do not let strangers touch or pet your fox as one complaint is all it takes. One small nip or lick to the wrong person and your fox could pay the ultimate price. Be very protective of your fox and don’t let just anyone near them as you do not know their full intentions.

Neutering or spaying your Fox

When your Fox reaches six months old, you will have a decision to make. You can either choose to neuter your male fox or spay your female fox. None are required, but there are some advantages from having your pet fox neutered or spayed. If you are considering breeding your foxes, of course, then you would not wish to have them fixed but if they are simply a family pet you might want to consider discussing the benefits with your vet. I chose to neuter my male at six months old for various reasons.

  1. I was not planning on breeding my male fox as I love him very much, but do not feel he meets the required disposition and traits that I would want to be passed on to offspring. When breeding foxes for the goal of making their offspring pets, you would want to selectively mate only the calmest, most well-behaved specimens and of course become USDA licensed.
  2. Research pointed to a higher chance for intact fox males to develop testicular cancer and since I was not going to be breeding him, that seemed like an unnecessary risk.
  3. I had seen cases where male fox’s temperaments calmed after being neutered. They became less aggressive and easier to handle. However, do not expect immediate results as it can take months for testosterone to leave their body. It has now been three months since my fox was neutered and I can tell he is much calmer and less aggressive. He does look like he has packed on a few extra pounds; however, It’s hard to say if the extra poundage is entirely due to the neutering, age progression, or just visual from his added winter coat. A foxes winter coat can be deceptive, so the best approach is to weigh them.

 

KNOW YOUR PET FOX

Fox playingYou should be spending a lot of quality time with your fox as he or she grows and matures. You will start to see different personality traits and notice likes and dislikes as well as start to become accustomed to your fox’s overall temperament. Members of the same fox species, although may be different in color, are the same visually as far as build and structure, but their personalities can vary quite differently.

What are the October Crazies and how do I survive them?

Fox kits are typically born in the late winter or early spring and are brought into their new homes hopefully around 5 to 6 weeks old in most fox species. My pet fox was born in April and I brought him home in May at 5 weeks old. As they grow and mature there will be a time in which they hit a hormonal roadblock, known as the October Crazies. Although, named October a fox can experience these effects as early as August or as late as November. In my experience, my fox went through the October Crazies in late August. He became distant and irritated with me. He was always upset with me and voiced his disappointment quite regularly. I was very hurt by this occurrence because we had been doing well and I had just commented on his wonderful behavior. I finally understood he was experiencing this hormonal change early so not to make things worse I gave him his much-needed space during this time. My fox’s mood swings only lasted two weeks and then he was back to his normal happy go lucky self. The fall freak-out occurs in the wild when the fox’s parents kick them out of the den to survive on their own. The new independence causes the kit to become combative and withdrawn. If you think of your fox as your kid and the October Crazies as puberty, then you can better understand what they are going through except fox kits are forced by their parents and in humans it’s usually the teen doing the forcing.

Once you make it through some of the ups and downs of fox ownership you will build a bond with your fox and you will be able to notice if something is bothering them quickly. If your fox is usually very active but then becomes inactive for multiple days, and October Crazies have already passed or it is much too early for them then that would be a red flag that something might be wrong and you would want to schedule a vet visit. This could also be a sign of a blockage and since fox’s love chewing and eating pretty much anything they can get in their mouths, your fox experiencing a blockage is a high possibility within its lifetime.

If you ever find your fox lethargic or with an inadequate or nonexistent appetite get them to a vet immediately as it does not take long for a fox to succumb to a blockage. The best way to make sure your fox survives such an experience is to prevent it. Completely fox proof their entire area of any objects that they could chew up and swallow.

Be careful of the toys you offer a fox as they have some of the strongest, sharpest teeth I have ever witnessed and can and will shred and eat most dog toys. Only provide the most durable toys for foxes, no stuffed toys with squeakers or plastic rubbery toys. I have only found a handful of toys that will survive an encounter with a fox. Some of these toys can be found here Fox Toys.

Toys that might survive a fox’s teeth:

  • Gorilla Chews (Made from non-splintering solid Java Wood, this is next on my list for my fox to try.)
  • Nylabone Durable Dental Dinosaur (Very strong dental chew that my fox has yet to succeed in defeating.)
  • Jolly Pet Romp-n-Roll (Strong non-deflating ball with a tug-o-war rope attached.)
  • Mammoth Tire Biter Extra Strength (Durable toy tire for aggressive chewers, I have yet to test out this product on a fox.)
  • Weazel Ball (Now part of this product could be shredded by your fox but it has preoccupied my fox for so many playful hours that I had to include it on the list. However, be careful as foxes love to flip their toys into the air and this one can really knock you out if it connects with your head, speaking from experience.)

Offering your fox various treats as well as toys can also help deter unwanted chewing of various objects. Be sure to always have plenty of yummy treats on hand in case you need to redirect any of your fox’s naughty behaviors.

Treats that your pet fox might enjoy:

  • Claudia’s Canine Cuisine Cookies
  • Whimzees Alligator Dental Dog Treats
  • Greenies Dog Treats
  • Bil-Jac PBnanas Peanut Butter & Banana Soft Dog Treat
  • Blue Basics Biscuits (with Taurine)
  • Blue Buffalo Blue Stix (with Taurine)
  • Greenies Feline SmartBites (with Taurine)

Various links to recommended treats can be found here, Fox Treats

The above-mentioned issues in this article are not the only issues that could possibly affect your fox within its lifetime but they are the only issues in which I have firsthand knowledge, either from having a fox that experienced the event or from being advised by a medical professional. Make your pet fox’s safety and health your number one priority. Foxes are very mischievous and even if you are vigilant with their vaccine and nutritional needs, they can and will still find trouble so be ready financially and mentally for when/if it happens. Not having the funds to provide proper care for your fox in the event of an emergency or other is not an excuse as you were not forced to take on the responsibility of a fox, it was your choice so follow through and make the entire fox community proud.

Good luck in all your future Fox endeavors.