Petcare: Degu

Degu facts:

  • Degu are classified as rodentia
  • Degu originated in Chile
  • Degu's are diurnal rather than nocturnal, so you won’t have to stay up at night-time to watch them work and play
  • Degu teeth continue to grow all their life
  • Degu's need a dust bath several times a week in special sand not water
  • Degu are herbivores 
  • Degu young are called pups

Feeding your Degu:

Feeding the correct food to your degu is essential for maintaining good health. Fibrous feed is required for normal digestive function and for dental wear. In the wild a degu diet would be high in fibre so it’s essential the diet you feed them supplies them with this fibre.
Degu should be fed twice a day, dividing their daily requirements into two meals and feeding morning and evening and only refilling the bowl once empty.
What to feed your degu?
Degu require diets that are high in fibre therefore a high proportion of  their diet should be made up if good quality hay and this should be fed together with a good quality pellet or nugget.
There are various types of degu foods on the market but the best food comes in pellet/nugget form:-
Pellets/nuggets - a single tasty pellet/nugget that's easy to digest, contains all the goodness in every mouthful thus preventing the potential to selectively feed. Mr Johnson's Supreme chinchilla & degu food is a pellet full of all the essential nutriants your degu will need when fed with good quality hay.

 

Introducing your degu to new foods:

Your degu diet should never be changed suddenly. Abrupt changes in their diet could trigger digestive upsets, especially in babies or degu that are stressed (for example if they have moved to a new home). If you want to change their diet, it is recommended that this change takes place gradually over a 10 day period. This can be done by mixing small quantities of the new food in with their existing food, while reducing their existing food proportionally until the food is fully changed over.

Hay, fresh greens & water:

Unlimited access to good quality hay is essential as part of a healthy diet for degu's. Hay not only meets a basic nutritional requirement, but it helps to keep your pet occupied, reducing boredom and hence helping to prevent some behavioural problems. Eating lots of grass and hay, which is fiberous helps to wear down a degu's front teeth. If they become too long they can have difficulties with eating. It also provides the correct type of fibre needed to maintain healthy gut movements.
Degu's require good quality hay as a staple part of their daily diet.

Degu can have a small portion of suitable vegetables but too much or the wrong type can be harmful so limit how much they eat each day. Fresh fruit can contain reasonable high levels of natural sugar so should probably be best avoided altogether.
Vegetables - degu's should be fed green vegetables, peas, beans, dandelion and broccoli. Cabbage can cause bloating so should be avoided. All greens should be washed before feeding.

Your degu should have a supply of fresh clean water constantly available and this is best dispensed from a water bottle secured to their cage. The water should be changed daily and bottles cleaned regularly.

Housing, bedding & exercise:

Degu’s should have a sizable cage. For a couple of Degu’s a minimum of 24 inches by 18 inches by 24 inches tall is about the minimum size. Larger is definitely better and large multilevel cages such as those made for ferrets or chinchillas are ideal. The cage should be made of wire since Degu’s are avid chewers. However, the cage must have a solid (not wire) floor and shelves and ledges should also be made of a solid surface since Degu’s are prone to foot problems.


Provide an absorbent layer of pet-safe bedding in the bottom of the cage. A nest box is necessary to give Degu’s a sense of security - a wooden box about 6 by 8 by 6 inches is appropriate and if it has a flat roof the Degu’s can use it as a shelf to sit on. Nesting material (tissues or paper towel, hay, shredded paper) should also be provided.
Degu’s should have a solid surface exercise wheel (11 inches is a good size) in their cage. Thick branches can be added to the cage and will offer both exercise (climbing) and chewing opportunities. Thick cotton ropes can also be used for climbing toys. Using heavy ceramic dishes is a good idea (chew proof), and a water bottle with a sipper tube can be used for water. You may need to get a chew guard for the water bottle.

 

Handling/grooming:

Handling - allow your degu a few days to get used to their new surroundings, when you take them home, without being disturbed. You should then start talking to them quietly so that they get used to your voice. Next, introduce your hand into their cage slowly and perhaps offer a treat. Once they’re comfortable with you, you can pick them up. Hold your pet facing you, close to your chest you with one hand over its back and the other hand supporting its bottom. It’s important that you handle your pets regularly to develop their confidence and maintain your relationship with them. Degu's do wriggle a lot but once they’re at ease with you, they may sit on you and allow you to stroke them.
Never pick a degu up by its tail. This could harm your pet and is very painful.

Grooming & bathing. Several times a week a bath filled with chinchilla sand should be placed in the cage so it may be used as a bath.
This stimulates grooming, keeping the coat clean and shiny. Dust baths should be removed after about half an hour, to prevent them becoming soiled. Light grooming with a rabbit brush will help to build up their trust in you.

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