Yes, dogs can get attacked by foxes, and when they do, it's important to inspect your dog and take him to the vet if there are any injuries.
While foxes are rather solitary animals, they may bite if approached by dogs or if they have a nearby den with kits.
These nocturnal mammals are not usually aggressive toward dogs. In fact, when foxes attack dogs, it is usually out of self-defense.
If your dog was bitten by a fox, please have your dog see your vet at his earliest convenience considering the risk for infections and the fact that foxes can be carriers of rabies.
Why Do Dogs Get Attacked by Foxes?
Dogs are rather solitary animals, however, given the right circumstance, they will attack and bite if necessary.
Most attacks from foxes occur because dogs chase them and perhaps corner them, or they may occur because mother fox (“vixen”) has a nearby den and she is trying to protect her kits (babies).
Sometimes, if a vixen or male fox feels threatened enough, he or she will put herself/himself in harm's way to lure the dog away from the den area. Males help raise the young and they too may protect them, especially if mother fox is in the den with the babies.
In many cases though, foxes are not troublemakers and they would rather flee than fight. If an attack occurs, most likely the dog was chasing the fox or got too close to the foxes' den.
Dangers of Fox Bites to Dogs
If the fox managed to bite your dog, consider that there are dangers with bite wounds. Even if your dog seems OK and you don't see any signs of trouble with the wound, you should have your dog see the vet.
One major issue with bite wounds is that the damage occurs at a deep level and you may not see the extent of the problem, especially with all the dog's fur.
Even when the dog's fur is shaved, when dogs receive puncture wounds, the main problem is that the bacteria from the fox's mouth is injected deeply into the dog's tissues. This is a major cause of infections and complications such as nasty abscesses.
Shaving the fur to assess the wound, allowing it to air, and applying warm compresses to the area for 10 minutes twice a day can help promote drainage. Antibiotic ointment such as plain Neosporin can help too. It is best to keep the wound open to air to help the infection drain.
Did you know? The more your dog bleeds from a wound, the better. Blood from a wound helps flush out the bacteria, lowering the chances for infections.
Dangers of Rabies
Other than the risk for infection, another concern is rabies. Any time a wild animal bites, a human or a dog, there is risk for rabies.
Rabies is life threatening and can be passed on to humans and therefore it is something that needs to be seriously considered.
This acute viral disease, which affects the central nervous system, can be transmitted from animal to animal, usually through a bite from an infected animal.
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In general, dogs start showing signs of rabies as early as 9 days, although it can take weeks to months, with most cases taking between 3 to 8 weeks.
Generally, the closer the bite wound to the brain, the faster the dog will show symptoms.
What Happens At the Vet's Office?
Once you take your dog to the vet, he or she will check your dog's rabies vaccine status. Depending on how long ago your dog was vaccinated for rabies, the vet may recommend a booster.
Many times, the vet will give a booster as an extra precaution, especially when the animal who has bitten cannot be observed or tested (testing for rabies requires the animal to be killed and then submitting a sample of the brain).
The bite wounds may be flushed out and debrided (damaged tissue or foreign objects are removed from the wound). Pain medications may be prescribed.
Afterward, the vet will give an antibiotic injection and/or may prescribe a course of broad-spectrum antibiotics to be given to prevent/treat any infection.
Preventing Fox Attacks to Dogs
If your dog is left in the great outdoors unsupervised, he or she is likely to eventually come into contact with a fox. It's therefore important to take steps to avoid dangerous encounters.
While a larger dog is generally safe from fox attacks, a puppy or small dog can be attacked by a fox and even killed.
If your dog is kept in an unfenced area, consider watching him during the day and keeping him indoors at night.
Foxes tend to be for the most nocturnal animals. They tends to emerge from their dens in the early morning hours and then go back to sleep before the sun rises.
As a result, a good portion of their activity occurs after dark. However, they can be active during daylight hours, too.
Using repellents may also deter a fox. Some of these products contain ultrasonic sounds or flashing lights, and there are also repellents with pungent-smelling compounds to scare them away. Using a repellent like "Get Off My Garden" may startle a fox and stop him from attacking your dog.
You can also contact your local animal control agency to remove the stray fox.