Foxes in folklore are often depicted as clever little thieves, and in some myths, it was the fox who stole fire to give to people. As foxes are becoming an animal of interest to the exotic pet trade, they are often described as the perfect combination of cat and dog traits, but this inaccurate description is already leading to devastating results for these wild animals.
Eevee’s owners never imagined their household would include a fox, but after stumbling onto a social media post where a man stated that an eight-week-old fox had to be out of his home within two days or he would simply release it outside, they were worried enough for the animal’s welfare to take a chance.
We first met Eevee and her family under extremely unfortunate circumstances. They arrived at our clinic in a state of pure panic because Eevee, still a baby fox and just over five pounds, was attacked by a large dog. Although Eevee’s owners diligently researched how to care for a fox prior to bringing her home, their research failed to prepare them for an emergency of this magnitude. Research also failed to warn them that some veterinary clinics would refuse to treat a fox.
The situation appeared very bleak, but our doctors did not hesitate to begin making every effort to save Eevee’s life. The attack was severe, and because the dog grabbed Eevee by her head, the injuries consisted of a possible dislocated jaw, visible damage to the face and skull, bleeding from her nose, and displacement of her right eyeball from its socket. To make matters worse, Eevee was coughing up blood. During her examination, the tiny fox was in shock and unable to stand. Since her injuries were so extensive, our doctors needed to build Eevee’s strength prior to performing any major diagnostic testing or radiographs.
Eevee was immediately hospitalized. She was placed on IV fluids and given medications to prevent pain and fight infection, and we also placed lubricant on her injured eye. Other than performing treatments, we limited our handling of Eevee to avoid causing her any stress in her delicate condition.
We were all relieved when Eevee finally began holding her head up, and once she seemed to be more alert, our doctors scheduled radiographs to get a better grasp on the severity of her injuries in order to determine the best course of action.
Eevee was placed under anesthesia, and the radiographs showed multiple fractures on the right temporal bone which is a bone that forms part of the side of the skull and protects the middle and inner ear. Eevee’s injuries were accompanied by soft tissue swelling on her right side. Our doctors were unable to realign Eevee’s jaw while she was briefly under anesthesia for radiographs.
Eevee’s anesthesia was uneventful, and we were all pleased when she awakened with an appetite. By this time, Eevee had regained enough strength to be taken off fluids, but the threat of infection was still present. Eevee was kept on antibiotics and pain medications. Despite her injuries, Eevee was doing quite well and eating soft food on her own even though her jaw was not properly aligned.
Since Eevee’s vision in her injured eye was permanently damaged and the eye was displaced from the socket, she would need surgery to have the eye removed. Our doctors kept in constant contact with Eevee’s worried family and explained that while performing surgery to remove the eye, we would try our best to realign Eevee’s jaw.
During this time, Eevee’s family remained cautiously optimistic. They often came to visit her and asked many questions about how to best assist in her recovery. Eevee’s family felt relieved that she was still alive and already eating on her own, especially since prior to arriving at the clinic, they feared that she might have to be euthanized due to the extent of her injuries and the possibility of brain damage.
A few days later, Eevee’s surgery took place. She was given pain medication prior to the procedure, and after she was comfortably numb, she was placed on oxygen and given anesthesia. Once Eevee was blissfully unaware of what was happening and unable to experience any pain or discomfort, her right eye was removed. Our doctors placed hemostatic gauze to prevent excessive bleeding and closed the area with monofilament absorbable sutures.
The removal of Eevee’s eye was a success. However, despite their best efforts, our doctors were unable to realign her jaw. Eevee’s owners were given a referral to a top orthopedic specialist and briefed with all the information our doctors could provide regarding what could potentially be done by the specialist to repair Eevee’s jaw.
We were all ecstatic once we could see that Eevee was well on her way to feeling much better. We still monitored her appetite and behavior because the little fox had lost weight while recovering from her life-threatening ordeal. While she was in our care, Eevee’s dedicated owners supplied us with all of her favorite foods in an effort to entice her to eat.
To lift Eevee’s spirits, we took her to play in exam rooms several times each day, watching her closely because she is very curious by nature and capable of getting into trouble if left unsupervised. We could ascertain that she was feeling much better because Eevee was soon wiggling out of our grasp when we tried to hold her or give her medicine.
Less than a week after her attack, a fox that seemed close to being lost, was finally ready to go home. Eevee’s owners were incredibly excited to take their little fox home. They referred to her as their miracle fox and happily took over giving her medications. Her family monitored her progress and made sure she maintained her weight and continued to grow. Eevee must have been pleased to be home because her appetite improved as soon as she was back in her normal surroundings enjoying cuddling and playing with her owners.
Eevee’s owners kept us updated as they followed our advice and took Eevee to the University of Florida Veterinary Hospital (UF) for a CT Scan which displayed a more detailed image than a regular X-ray. Due to the extent of her injuries, the doctors at UF were amazed that Eevee did not show signs of any neurological damage. The CT scan revealed that Eevee suffered from multiple depressed skull fractures involving her left nasal cavity, right cheek bone and upper jaw bone with some of the fragments impinging on the space in her skull where her brain was located. The injuries were so great that the specialists at UF said it was a miracle that she survived.
Since there were no signs of neurological damage, no additional surgery was recommended. We were all grateful when we received the happy news which stood in stark contrast to the somber mood that had accompanied Eevee’s first visit to our clinic. We love a happy ending, especially when it is so astounding that the word miracle seems to be the only sufficient description.
While Eevee continued to grow and quickly adjusted to seeing the world through only one eye, the difficulties associated with keeping her as a pet did not diminish. Eevee’s owners struggled with behavior issues and often sought advice, for as she grew, Eevee presented many challenges for her well-meaning owners.
Even if they are tame like Eevee, foxes still possess their wild instincts. These innate instincts often lead to behaviors we regard as undesirable such as chewing, stealing objects, digging, climbing, and marking their territory with urine that has an odor much more pungent than that of a dog or cat. Foxes are clever and need mental stimulation and are not naturally predisposed to trust humans or follow commands. Also, some foxes do not tolerate being petted and can be quite aggressive. Their housing and dietary needs are far more complex than that of a dog, and unlike a dog, a fox will not adapt to our environment; we have to adapt our environment to suit the fox.
Months after her attack, Eevee returned to board with us. During her stay, we had to keep Eevee in a kennel that was covered because the tall walls of our regular dog kennels were inadequate to house the crafty little escape artist. We loved seeing Eevee running and jumping and gorging herself on the elaborate meals her family brought for her to enjoy.
Around this time, Eevee’s owners discussed her increased aggression. We recommended spaying Eevee to hopefully decrease the frequency and intensity of some of these episodes. Eevee was fond of stealing objects, and once she absconded with something – whether it was a shoe or an expensive set of headphones – she guarded it and became hostile if her owners tried to retrieve the object. Eevee would growl in warning and sometimes would jump up and bite.
Willing to do whatever it took to make life with Eevee a little easier, her owners returned to our clinic for Eevee’s spay surgery. Eevee was given anesthesia and pain medication. Her surgery left her a bit tired and sore but otherwise fine. We instructed her owners to try to limit her activity and explained how the incision site should appear as she healed. Her owners said they would try their best to keep their little miracle fox from running and jumping but were honest about how difficult that would be.
Eevee recovered from her surgery, and despite the dog attack that nearly ended her life shortly after it began, Eevee has not developed any prejudices against dogs. In fact, aside from her owners, Eevee’s best friends are dogs.
Eevee’s owners have expressed the sentiment that research could never have prepared them for the immense amount of work it takes adapting to having a fox as a family member. Each day is a challenge, but they readily accept the difficulties because they love Eevee and want to give her the best possible life. After her incident, Eevee’s owners had to water down kibble so that she was able to chew it, but as she grew older and the use of her jaw improved, the miracle fox began to eat like a queen. When discussing her diet during one of her visits to the clinic, Eevee’s owners explained, “We buy her a whole rotisserie chicken once a week, and her sides include carrots, snap peas or green beans. Eevee loves vegetables. Cranberries are used for treats.”
Eevee has grown, and so have her needs. Her owners are in the process of seeking a larger enclosure and want people to know that foxes require an outdoor enclosure that is also escape-proof from above. Also, foxes require a lot of attention and exercise to prevent unwanted behaviors that can occur due to boredom and frustration.
Every moment of every day is an exercise in earning her trust and encouraging the formation of a strong bond through positive interactions. Despite the fact that Eevee gets along with doggie siblings, one has to be extremely cautious when an adult fox resides in a home with other pets. Foxes, like any wild animal, can be unpredictable. They are naturally inclined to be opportunistic feeders and might view smaller pets such as birds, fish, rodents, kittens, and even small breed dogs as a viable food source. A fox should never be left unsupervised with other animals. Also, it is not uncommon for adult foxes to dislike other animals without having an obvious reason for the intense, disagreeable reaction. An interesting fact is that dogs will sometimes have an unforeseen negative reaction to foxes which is probably why poor Eevee was originally attacked.
Eevee’s owners made the decision to bring her into their home because they could not abide the thought of a baby fox being abandonded to suffer alone in the harsh elements where she would have likely died. Releasing a fox into the wild is illegal and basically ensures that the fox will not survive, and introducing a tame fox into the wild may also threaten wild populations if the tame fox has any diseases. As a result of the difficulties associated with a fox’s needs and the way these animals form intense bonds, a fox is an animal that is almost impossible to rehome. With this idea in mind, bringing home a fox is a decision that should not be entered into lightly. Even after her spay surgery, Eevee continues to have bouts of aggression and is an unpredictable companion who still marks her territory. Her owners love her in spite of these negative traits, and Eevee is one of the lucky tame foxes because she now has kind and patient owners who are willing to make the many accommodations necessary to house and properly care for a fox.
This little miracle fox just might be the cutest criminal capable of stealing your heart and your shoes, but she is a pet that requires a lot of effort, kindness, patience and unconditional love. Eevee’s story is proof that love makes miracles possible. We are all grateful that she has found such a loving home, and we always enjoy seeing Eevee and her wonderful family when they visit our clinic.