Degu (Octodon degus)
Degus are small, diurnal rodents that are characteristically similar to guinea pigs and chinchillas. These exotic creatures originated in Chile and are remarkably playful and social. Keeping a few of them together is recommended. Keep reading to learn more about degu care!
- Body Size: 5 – 7’’
- Tail Length: 5 – 6’’
- Lifespan: 5 to 8 years
To avoid purchasing a product that encourages your degu to pick out their favorite pieces of food, it is best to purchase plain pellets. Make sure that there are no seeds, nuts, or dried fruit pieces mixed in. These pellets will be the main part of your degu’s diet and are a great choice to ensure optimal degu care. Pellets that are used to feed chinchillas and/or guinea pigs are both great choices to be used as the foundation of your degu’s meal plan. Many degu caregivers use a 50/50 mixture of both chinchilla and guinea pig pellets. You may also choose to provide commercially sold rodents blocks.
Grass hay should be available at all times for your little degu. For optimum degu care, complete the degu’s diet by providing fresh vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Fruit treats should be avoided as degus are highly prone to diabetes. Degus seem to have a sweet tooth for sweet potatoes. If you choose to treat your degu to a piece of sweet potato, make sure that the vegetable is peeled and uncooked. Some other fresh treats can include carrots, celery leaves, dandelion leaves (pesticide-free), grass (pesticide-free), and other leafy greens (try to stay away from the cabbage family). Sunflower seeds and raw peanuts are also common treats. It is best to leave the seeds and nuts in their shell. Gnawing through the shell of these treats is very healthy for the degu’s teeth.
Be careful not to over feed your degu with nuts and seeds (these items have a very high fat content). For the regular meals that consist of pellets, a ceramic food bowl should be provided. The bowl should be heavy enough that it prevents your energetic degu from tipping it over. Feed your degu twice a day; once in the morning and once more in the evening. Your degu should have a constant supply of fresh water. An inverted plastic water bottle with a metallic drinking tube is recommended.
Degus are very energetic animals; they need to have a large cage. A very important part of degu care is providing the proper habitat. Multilevel cages that are typical of chinchillas are an ideal living space for your degu. Since degus are avid chewers, it is recommended that the cage be made of wire. The floor of the cage, however, should have a solid foundation (rather than mesh). A wire cage provides good ventilation and gives your degu more opportunity to climb around. If there are ledges in your cage, these too should have a solid form (no wire). Standing on wire can be extremely painful for your pet. A solid foundation prevents your pet from developing problems with their paws.
An exercise wheel is a must. The wheel should be large to avoid back injuries. A wooden nesting box should be provided in your degu’s cage. The nesting box gives your degu a sense of security. An absorbent layer of bedding, such as wood shavings, should cover the bottom of your degu’s cage.
Commercially sold recycled paper and cardboard, such as CareFresh, can be used for the bedding material. You can also use “homemade” shredded paper. Tissues, paper towels, and hay can also be provided. These softer materials should definitely be incorporated into your degu’s nesting box. Be sure that any material that you decide to use for bedding is not made with any potentially harmful ingredients that can be detrimental to your degu.
Room temperature is fine for degus. The acceptable temperature range is 65 – 75°F.
Final Notes on Degu Care
Your degu’s teeth are constantly growing. Thus, it is extremely important to provide your degu with endless chewing opportunities. To encourage their natural gnawing behavior while also providing tooth care, untreated wood blocks or apple tree branches should be available for your degu. As mentioned before, hay should be available AT ALL TIMES. Not only does hay promote a healthy digestive system, but it will also keep your degu’s teeth worn down. Cardboard toilet and paper towel tubes also make great chewing toys.
If your degu has orange teeth, do not be alarmed! This means they are in very good health.
Like chinchillas, degus need regular dust baths to ensure proper grooming. The dust bath is vital in keeping your degu’s skin and coat in a healthy condition. A dust bath should be provided two to three times per week. The dust bath can be re-used as long as the dust is not soiled. Do not leave the dust bath in the degu’s cage for more than a half hour at a time.
Degus are social pets and love to have the company of other degus.
Hopefully this degu care sheet was helpful. If you have any questions or comments, be sure to post a comment below!
Featured Image Credit: stanhua