These very friendly little creatures with very special needs come into us, usually with the start of diabetes. Three important things to remember about degus,
Degu’s love human company.
They cannot have any sugar, natural (fruit, carbohydrates) or added, it is extremely dangerous to them and it will kill them.
They shed their tails if you try to pick them up by it!
The degu is a member of the Octodontidae, suborder caviomorpha, which means it could be related to guinea pigs, chinchillas, maybe even the rabbit. In the 1950’s they were brought over from Chile, where they can live in groups of 100 making them very social animals. They live in burrows with a system of nests and food stores, they awake during the day and in the wild they are prey to many other animals giving them a short life span 1-2 years but in captivity their lifespan can be 5-9 years!
Degu’s can withstand the cold and high winds but they cannot tolerate heat, they also dislike damp or wet conditions. If they are being kept in doors then they must be kept away from radiators and direct sunlight, they should also be kept in conditions of 20⁰C, remember they are susceptible to heatstroke.
Degus need plenty of space a rat cage is not big enough! Wire cages are best but you must give them somewhere to burrow, so look around and if necessary adapt what you have to what they need. They need ramps and tunnel but they will gnaw, so this must also be taken into consideration before place equipment in their cages.
Branches from apple or pear trees may help to reduce the equipment from being gnawed quite as quickly, all mesh shelving will need to be covered in with because Degus suffer from bumblefoot, their bedding needs to be changed on a weekly basis because they produce an awful lot of urine and damp bedding can trigger respiratory conditions and skin disease.
Good size cage, with adequate base for burrows, water bottle, wooden shelving, branch to climb, metal wheel without holes to trap their tails, sand bath, good quality specially formulated food, pumice stone, hay & straw for bedding and wood-shaving or shredded cardboard mixed with peat for burrowing in.
Their teeth should be yellow, if they get broken take the degu to the vet for the teeth to be checked, they may need to be clipped of burred until they grow into apposition again. Their eyes should be clear, if cataracts appear they should be tested for diabetes either by blood or urine testing. Diarrhoea is usually due to too much fresh food, so cut back and place the degu on hay only diet. Avoid fatty foods such as sunflower seeds and peanuts, obese animals are ill animals.Tail injuries are, sadly, common in degus because they use their tail as a defence mechanism against predators, so never pick a degu up by its tail, if the tail degloves the degu will need surgery to amputate the tail bone.
I have already said that they a funny
little creatures and one of their funny ways is how they communicate vocally, they recognise their owners and greet you with squeaks, like the guinea pig. They rarely bite and make ideal pets for children but remember they can live up to 9 years and they need companionship the larger the group the happier they are, but unless you want hundreds of degus running around, please keep them in single sexed groups, you may feel that these a rare and you can easily rehomed them but you would be wrong and can you honestly say they will go to a home that knows exactly what they need?
NANNA has lots of degus looking for new homes.
Why not come out and meet some and see how you get on with them, you may be surprised how cute and interesting they are?