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Infectious canine hepatitis in red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in wildlife rescue centres in the UK
  1. D. Walker, BSc(Hons), BVM&S, MSc, MRCVS1,
  2. E. Abbondati, DVM, MRCVS1,
  3. A. L. Cox, BVMS, MSc, FRCPath, MRCVS2,
  4. G. B. B. Mitchell, BVMS, PhD3,
  5. R. Pizzi, BVSc, MSc, DZooMed, DipECZM, MANZCVS, FRES, FRGS, FRSB, MRCVS4,
  6. C. P. Sharp, BSc(Hons), PhD1 and
  7. A. W. Philbey, BVSc(Hons), PhD, FRCPath, MANZCVS(Path), FHEA, MRCVS1
  1. 1Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush, Edinburgh EH25 9RG, UK
  2. 2Veterinary Services, SAC Consulting, Scotland's Rural College (SRUC), Edinburgh EH26 0QE, UK
  3. 3Veterinary Services, SAC Consulting, Scotland's Rural College (SRUC), Auchincruive, Ayr KA6 5AE, UK
  4. 4Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, National Wildlife Rescue Centre, Fishcross, Clackmannanshire FK10 3AN, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence: adrian.philbey{at}


Outbreaks of infectious canine hepatitis are described in red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) at two wildlife rescue centres in the UK. Disease occurred in two-month-old to four-month-old juvenile foxes, which were held in small enclosures in groups of three to eight animals. The foxes died or were euthanased after a short clinical course, sometimes including neurological signs and jaundice, with a high case fatality rate. Four red foxes submitted for postmortem examination had enlarged, congested livers, with rounded borders and mild accentuation of the lobular pattern. On histological examination, there was random, multifocal to massive hepatic necrosis, along with multifocal vasculitis in the central nervous system (CNS) and mild, multifocal glomerulonephritis. Intranuclear inclusion bodies, typical of canine adenovirus type 1 (CAV-1) infection, were present in hepatocytes, vascular endothelial cells in the CNS, renal glomeruli and renal tubular epithelial cells. CAV-1 was detected in tissues from affected foxes by PCR and sequencing. Congregation of juvenile foxes in wildlife rescue centres is likely to be a risk factor for transmission of CAV-1. Preventive measures in wildlife centres should be implemented to prevent the spread of the virus among conspecifics and to other susceptible species.

  • Wildlife
  • Viruses
  • Disease investigation
  • Molecular techniques
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