Degus are burrowing Chilean rodents that make excellent pets. They are curious, social, and diurnal (awake during the day), which boosts their pet appeal. Although Degus are great nappers, once they adjust to your schedule, you’ll often have them coming to greet you and looking to get belly rubs or play.
They crave exercise and social interaction. This article contains what you need to know about caring for a Degu.
Cage and Accessories
Degus requires a large cage. A cage measuring at least 24 inches x 18 inches x 24 inches should accommodate twp Degus. The larger the cage, the better. A multilevel cage specially designed for china’s or ferrets are ideal. The surfaces shouldn’t be wire slats but solid.
These pets are avid chewers. Ensure the enclosure is made of metal or wire; Degus can eat their way through plastic and wood. The enclosure must have a nesting box that replicates the burrows they’re used to digging in the wild.
We recommend a 6-inch x 6-inch wooden box that has a flat roof for sitting. Nesting material should be provided in the form of hay, shredded paper, paper towels, or tissue. Paper-based bedding is absorbent and safer when changed out regularly.
- As with several other small animals, you want to avoid using pine or cedar shavings due to their toxic scent.
- Ensure to provide a solid-surface (11-inch diameter) exercise wheel. Thick branches can also make excellent playscapes for climbing coupled with cotton ropes.
- Due to their avid chewing, these chewing opportunities keep their teeth healthy and thwart boredom. Ensure to provide various chew toys and woodblocks specially designed for rodents and change them out regularly. Willow toys and balls made for parrots and rabbits should also work. A salt or mineral black made for rodents is another good distraction while providing the Degu with extra nutrients.
- Regular dust baths are also needed to keep your Degu’s coat and skin in good condition. Give them a shallow bowl containing one or two inches of bath sand or animal bath dust. Leave it in their cage for about 30 minutes to give it enough time to roll around. Dust baths should be repeated twice each week.
Degus eat a diet low in carbohydrate and high in roughage. Hence, a good Degu diet should be a combination of a rodent block and high-quality guinea pig or chinchilla pellets. Ensure always to provide nutrient-rich grass, such as alfalfa, hay, or Timothy.
Offer fresh vegetables, such as green beans, carrots, sweet potato (uncooked, peeled), and leaf greens (parsley, dandelion leaves, spinach) every day. You can also include small quantities of special herbs like the Rosewood Natures Salad in the pet’s hay to improve palatability.
For occasional treats, offer your Degu peanuts, whole nuts in shells (not too much since it contains high-fat), and sunflower seeds.
Avoid offering your pet cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage. Degus can’t handle any excess of these veggies. You also want to avoid feeding fruit due to their high sugar content.
Provide your Degu with clean, fresh water every time. You can use a ceramic dish (heavy) for a water bottle or a water bowl with a tube (metal) that features a chew guard.
Common Health Problems
While these pets are generally healthy, they can be prone to a few conditions:
- Bumblefoot: A bacterial infection that results in foot sores. Antibiotics treatment is required.
- Diabetes: The Degu’s natural insulin resistance makes them susceptible to diabetes. Two major signs of the disease are cataract development and fat rolls.
- Respiratory conditions: Keep their cage clean to prevent unhygienic conditions that result in illnesses.
- Skin conditions: Always offer them a dust bath to prevent dry skin.
- Dental and mouth disease: Provide chewable pet-safe toys to prevent tooth spurs and painful mouth conditions.
Handling and Training
Taming a Degu using positive reinforcement and treats is the key to ensuring they enjoy being handled. A high-value treat is particularly useful when training your Degus, but don’t forget to use them sparingly!
You can use nuts (some Degus can learn recall by shaking them), though they contain high fats. Be patient and have fun while training them, as some Degus can learn faster than others.
Handling and training go hand in hand. Ensure to perform a health check at least every week, and note that the more your pet is desensitized to handling, the easier it becomes!
- Is underneath its tail clean? – If your Degu drops its tail when threatened or scared, don’t attempt to pick it up by its tail.
- Are its nails and toes overgrown? Are they clean?
- Do its legs move freely without any stiffness or staggering?
- Are its teeth present and not overgrown? Its front 2 incisor teeth are usually covered in bright orange enamel.
- After stroking its ears, are they clean and smooth?
- Is its nose clean without discharge?
- Is its fur clean without parasites or bald patches?
- Are the eyes clear and bright? – Discolored or milky eyes could indicate a serious disease.
- When you blow in its fur, is the skin healthy and not flaky, dry, or red.
- When you feel their body, does it feel fat enough? The body shouldn’t feel bony or bloated.
- Listen to its chest. Is its breathing almost silent without any wheezing?
Cleaning the Cage
Cleaning your Degu’s cage will depend on the cage organization, type of bedding, and cage type. To clean the cage, remove your pet from the cage, and take out accessories and soiled bedding. You can reuse the bedding if you notice some of it isn’t soiled.
Wipe down trays and surfaces with white vinegar and water and ensure they are dry. The white vinegar to water ratio should be 50:50. Wipe the accessories and the wheel.
Add fresh bedding. Wipe the accessories dry and put them back. Clean the food bowl and water bottle, and put in some food and fresh, clean water.
Degus requires lots of attention, time, and care. Ensure you’re prepared to provide for their needs. With proper care, you can have Degu companions for life!