Red Fox #12-1052

Red Fox, #12-1052
Species Name (EN): 
Species Name (LA): 
Admission Date: 
July 22, 2012
Release Date: 
October 3, 2012
Location of Rescue: 
Spotsylvania County, Virginia
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Fractured femur
Released October 2012
Patient Status: 
Patient Archive

On July 22, the Wildlife Center admitted a juvenile Red Fox from a permitted rehabilitator in Spotsylvania County. The rehabilitator received the fox earlier this spring as a healthy orphan. On July 21, as the rehabilitator was administering medication to the fox, the young male fox managed to escape the rehabilitator’s grasp and jumped off of a table. The rehabilitator was able to quickly recover the fox, though the fox was limping and very painful on his left hind leg.

When the fox arrived at the Center on July 22, Center veterinary intern Dr. Dana Tedesco anesthetized the fox for a set of radiographs. She was able to confirm a femur fracture in the fox’s left hind leg. The fracture was well aligned and not near the joint, making this an excellent surgical candidate. Blood work was performed, and Dr. Dana began planning the surgery.

On the afternoon of July 24, Dr. Dana and diagnostic intern Julia prepped the fox for surgery. Julia anesthetized the fox and shaved his left hind leg while carefully monitoring the fox’s heart rate and breathing. Once fully prepped, the fox was taken into the Center’s surgical suite. Dr. Dave McRuer, the Center’s veterinary director, scrubbed in to assist Dr. Dana.

In a dog, this fracture would be a fairly straightforward fix – it’s likely that plates or special wire would be used to stabilize the fracture internally. Because this is a wild fox, and not a domestic pet, Dr. Dana knew that leaving metal plates in the animal would not be an option. She also wanted to reduce the necessity of a second surgery, which would only lengthen the healing period and add additional stress to the fox.

With that in mind, Dr. Dana inserted a large intramedullary pin into the fox’s broken femur to stabilize and align the fracture. She used absorbable suture material to provide additional stabilization to the fracture. Once the metal pin was in place, additional radiographs were taken to confirm placement. Dr. Dana inserted several small pins into each end of the fractured bone; the pins were then secured together outside of the fox’s leg with an external fixator [external frame].

The fox recovered well from the two-hour surgery and was carefully monitored in the days following the procedure. One week after surgery, the fox was transferred to the permitted rehabilitator for continued supportive care and monitoring. The rehabilitator will bring the fox back to the Wildlife Center every two weeks for follow-up radiographs.

Additional photos of fox surgery:

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October 8, 2012

In early October, the permitted rehabilitator caring for Red Fox #12-1052 consulted with Dr. Dana and showed her a video of the fox in an outdoor enclosure. Based on the discussion, and the rehabilitator's observations, Dr. Dana decided that the fox did not need to come to the Wildlife Center for additional radiographs. It was very clear by its behavior that the Red Fox made a complete recovery.

With clearance Dr. Dana, the rehabilitator released the Red Fox in the Culpeper County area with several other Red Foxes.

September 12, 2012
Red Fox pin removal

Red Fox #12-1052 returned to the Wildlife Center on September 5 for radiographs and an assessment by Dr. Dana. The radiographs showed that the fractured femur had a good alignment – and a nice boney callus bridging the fracture site. Dr. Dana felt comfortable pulling the pins that were stabilizing the fracture – so the fox is now hardware free!

Dr. Dana prescribed an additional week of antibiotics, as it still looked as though one of the pin sites was mildly infected. Otherwise, the fox appeared to be in good condition.   The fox returned to the permitted rehabilitator who has been caring for it, and will still remain in a small enclosure for additional cage rest. Dr. Dana also instructed the permitted rehabilitator to place an e-collar on the fox for at least a week to help protect the healing leg. The fox will return to the Wildlife Center in two to three weeks for additional radiographs.


August 28, 2012

The Red Fox returned to the Wildlife Center on August 23 for additional radiographs. Dr. Rich examined the images and found that while the fracture will still well-aligned, the callous over the fracture had some mild changes. Judging by some of the discharge around the pin sites, there appeared to be mild infection around the surgical site. Dr. Rich started the fox on an additional course of antibiotics.

While the fracture is still stable, the additional pins were not quite ready to be removed on August 23. The fox will return to the Wildlife Center in two weeks’ time for additional radiographs and assessment.

August 9, 2012

Red Fox #12-1052 returned to the Wildlife Center on Tuesday, August 7 for a follow-up examination with Dr. Dana. The fox was anesthetized for a complete physical examination and a set of radiographs. Dr. Dana reports that the fox is healing well and “the incision has healed beautifully! We actually had a hard time finding it.” She noted that the fracture, pins, and external fixator are solidly in place. The radiographs show that a callus is growing nicely over the fracture site.

Dr. Dana started the “dynamic destabilization” process — beginning to slowly remove some parts of the fixator. Dr. Dana left all of the hardware in place, and simply cut the intramedullary pin (IM pin) at the point where it inserts into the fixator’s connecting bar. Dr. Dana explains that “this slightly increases the instability of the construct, stimulating bone healing by increasing the load on the fracture callus.”

The fox will return to the Wildlife Center in two weeks for additional monitoring and radiographs.

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