Can Degus Swim? Do They Like Water?

Many pets love water and can swim. Most of them require regular baths to remove dirt from their fur. While purchasing a Degu, you might not consider their swimming capabilities or whether they will require regular baths. However, taking home these lovely rodents as pets, it’s essential to learn about your Degu’s relationship with water.

So can degus actually swim? Degus can swim to safety in a small embodiment of water. However, ensure not to be tempted to place them in water. Degus dislike taking a water bath or a swim, and forcing them to have one can result in drowning or health issues.

So Degus don’t like water and may even drown if you force them to swim. You don’t need water or any big effort to keep a Degu clean. You can only use water to clean your Degu in very exceptional cases. Even then, they shouldn’t be put in a water bath.

This article reveals all you need to know about your Degu’s swimming capabilities, why they don’t need and don’t like a water bath, and the risks involved in playing them in water. You’ll also learn how a Degu keeps its body clean without using water.

Swimming Capabilities of Degus

Degus typically live in dry environments. They originate from Central Chile in South America. In the wild, they live in semi-arid areas that mostly contain herbs and grasses and have hard-leaved trees and shrubs.

Central Chile is well-known to have a Mediterranean climate with cold, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The skies in the area are clear, so there are very minimal day-to-day temperature changes. During summer, the region can be as hot as 40 °C. In the winter, the temperature can be as cold as zero degrees Celsius.

Like other rodents that inhabit an arid or semi-arid environment, Degus also have methods of conserving water. Since these small animals reside in semi-arid environments, they are not used to contact with large or small bodies of water.

Can Degus Drown in Water?

Most mammals, from elephants to camels, can swim. While there hasn’t been any extensive research on Degus’ swimming capabilities, they’re capable of swimming. Degus can doggy paddle in water using their small paws.

That doesn’t imply that Degus enjoy being in the water and are natural-born swimmers. In the wild, these rodents rarely encounter large water bodies.

If it happens to get into the water for any reason, it will do its best to come out as soon as possible. It will peddle to the shores and naturally dry its fur by stating out in a hot and dry environment.

Risks When Your Degu Gets Wet

If a Degu gets wet, some risks may be imminent and can prove to be severe. Here are some likely risks that could occur if you bath your Degu with water or allow it to swim:

  • Exposure to cold water can cause your Degu to experience acute pneumonia, a health condition that can be lethal.
  • Water gets rid of your Degu’s natural skin oils, which makes it harder for them to groom their body.
  • If a Degu is exposed to water, it can cause them to develop hypothermia, a condition that causes a hamster to lose its ability to regulate its body temperature.
  • Exposure to water may cause your Degu to be stressed, and they can bite you as a result.

How to Dry a Wet Degu?

As you have read, it’s best to prevent your Degu from having contact with water or swimming. The only exception is allowing them to drink water. If your Degu gets wet, here are a few steps to take immediately:

  • Remove any excess water from their body using a dry, soft towel.
  • Ensure their cage is warm.
  • Dry the Degu’s fur using a (cool setting) hairdryer.
  • Look out for signs of any disease in your Degu while keeping an eye on them for the following week.
  • If you notice that the Degu isn’t eating, sneezes, or loses weight, contact your vet as soon as possible.

How Do Degus Clean Themselves?

You don’t need to groom your degu pets, they will clean themselves just like other rodents.

– Grooming

Just like other rodents, Degus are great at keeping themselves clean and grooming themselves. They usually clean their body and get rid of parasites and dirt from the body by using their saliva.

If you observe that your pet needs some additional help in cleaning itself, ensure not to wash their body with water or wet substance.

– Dust Bath

Using a dust bath is a better way to clean or “wash” your Degu. While Chinchillas require such a bath regularly to clean their fur, Degus require a dust bath every week. You can place sand in a small container or bowl.

Put the bowl or container in your Degu’s cage and remove them once your Degu has completed the dust bath. You can also leave the sand in the cage for longer time, so your pets can access it when they want.

– Using a Washcloth as the Last Resort

There can be some very unusual and extreme cases where a Degu can’t clean itself using the dust bath or by grooming. If you observe that there’s no way your Degu can help itself, you can try using a washcloth.

You can gently apply the washcloth on the Degu as though you’re petting it. After removing the substance or dirt, use a dry, soft towel. Then put the Degu back in a clean and warm cage.

Should You Bath Your Degu if Stinks?

As mentioned before, you should not bath your degus, not even if they stink. Degus don’t stink because they are dirty. Usually their cage stink, because you didn’t clean it for a long time.

I’ve written a guide about why do degus stink and how to combat bad smell, please read it, and don’t bath your degu because it smells.


Degus are lovely animals, and they make excellent pets. While you’re looking to keep them for a long period, ensure to provide them quality food and clean drinking water.

However, you need to note that Degus don’t need plenty of water as they are able to maximize (conserve) their water use. While they’re able to swim like every mammal, Degus aren’t great natural-born swimmers. So you need to do all you can to prevent them from getting wet.

avatar Jane
Jane is an experienced animal care specialist with a focus on rodents and small mammals, with over 10 years of experience in the pet industry. Her articles provide practical guidance on choosing the right pet and managing common health issues. Jane is an advocate for animal welfare and supports organizations dedicated to protecting wildlife. read more...

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