Optimal nutrition is among the cornerstones of health in animals, as it is in all humans. When keeping a small pet like a degu, nutrition is often a challenge because you would not want to under or overfeed it and cause a myriad of health issues.
Overfeeding a degu, for instance, increases its risk of contracting obesity and diabetes, conditions that are not only expensive to manage but are also fatal when not managed on time.
Unfortunately, over and underfeeding are not the only issues you might deal with when keeping a degu. At times, your animal might completely refuse to feed. This means that the degu will lose weight fast and be at a high risk of different conditions or might starve to death.
Below are a few facts to help you understand the typical causes of a loss of appetite in degus so that you can act appropriately if you encounter the same in your pet.
Like humans, a degu will often have a decreased appetite when its body is battling a disease. Here are a few diseases that commonly affect your degu’s appetite and sometimes, its ability to feed:
- Dental malocclusion: In this condition, your degu’s teeth are often crooked, overgrown, or not worn down uniformly. The animal, in this case, might not only have a painful mouth but also chewing difficulty, aspects that make eating a challenge. To manage dental malocclusion, a vet will often recommend trimming of the degu’s teeth to keep them uniform and a high fiber diet to keep the molars from overgrowing.
- Mouth ulcers: This condition is characterized by painful mouth sores, appetite loss, excess salivation, chewing inability, and a smelly mouth. It often follows poor oral hygiene and infected oral lacerations. Antibiotics, regulated molar growth, and frequent feeds are the recommended options when dealing with mouth ulcers.
- Bloating: This is evidenced by a distended stomach, lethargy, and sometimes walking difficulty along with pain. It often follows unsanitary foods, stress, or including excess green vegetable matter in a degu’s diet. Seek a vet’s input immediately, more so if your pet is lethargic.
In degus, constipation is caused by general illness, insufficient intake of water, intestinal parasites, or dehydration. The condition is evidenced by lethargy, ruffled fur, and a hunched appearance.
The degu might seem to strain when defecating, defecate less often or pass stool that looks like small, black, and very hard pellets. Feeding at this time is uncomfortable, and the degu avoids it.
A vet might recommend intravenous fluids in severe cases of constipation though increasing the degu’s water intake and its dietary fiber will often relieve the condition. To prevent constipation in your degu, you should ensure there is enough water in its cage throughout, and include fiber in its diet.
The recommended average water intake for a degu per month is half a liter. Ensuring the cage does not overheat by placing it away from direct sunlight and having it in an air-conditioned room will also prevent constipation by ensuring that your pet does not get too hot.
Stress and Anxiety
Some major lifestyle changes might cause stress and anxiety in degus. Some of the common ones include being introduced to a new cage or cage mates, temperature changes, improper handling by humans, or the addition of a predator animal to their environments.
In these instances, a degu will sometimes become withdrawn, attempt to escape, become aggressive, refuse to feed, or engage in self-destructive habits like plucking its fur.
Giving the animal some time to adapt to change might help overcome its anxiety but if possible, consider removing any threatening stimuli from its environment.
A few pet owners assume that degus will comfortably eat any rodent feed because it belongs to the same species. Others will not give much thought to what they feed their degus, believing the animals can eat anything.
Even so, foods like chocolates, garlic, leeks, onions, those containing caffeine, and rabbit foods are toxic to degus. These contain elements that break down in the small bodies of degus to form harmful compounds.
In most cases, the compounds cause stomach upsets, diarrhea, and vomiting but can also cause death when consumed in large quantities or over a long time. If you notice a changed appetite in your degu, first check the types of foods you are giving it and negate the toxic ones so that the animal is comfortable.
The hormonal changes that a degu goes through when pregnant might also affect its appetite and sometimes the ability to keep food down. If you have housed a male and female in the same cage, the female can easily get pregnant after the breeding season.
In general, the animals breed twice annually, but they can have babies up to four times yearly. If you notice a lack of appetite in your female degu after the breeding season, it might be pregnant.
Visit a vet to get the ideal feeding routine for your degu and so that any diseases contributing to a lack of appetite can be addressed early. This guarantees that you have healthy pups, and the female remains healthy throughout the pregnancy and after birth.
With the above information, you will no longer be a helpless pet owner when you notice that your degu is not feeding as well as it should. However, remember that this information is only general.
It is best to get a vet to check your degu and pick any issues that might be causing the lack of appetite. Unfortunately, some conditions are not easy to pick early enough. Your degu might lose a lot of weight, and its health deteriorates before you realize there is something wrong.
To this end, it is prudent to keep your routine vet appointments. During the appointment, the vet can pick any risk factors that might contribute to a lack of appetite in your pet before they even cause diseases. This way, you can treat them early and protect your beloved degu from all untoward effects.