degu facts

Ferret for 5 months sits on the floor near its cage; Shutterstock ID 673946602; Purchase Order: –

History Of Degu – Degu Facts

Degus are lovely, entertaining little creatures. However, if you are thinking about getting a couple, then be warned that they are very messy little devils and they need a special diet. While they can be friendly and easy to handle, those that aren’t can give you a nasty bite!

The background of how degus became household pets is from the 1950s. They were transported to Europe and North America from Chile, where they live from the West Coast to the Andes Mountains.

The primary reason for this transportation was that in the 1950s, degus were used in laboratories for tests relating to Diabetes. This is because degus are naturally diabetic l – they lack the ability to digest the sugar in their food. Even the sugars in an apple can lead to eventual death. See more about their diet in the relevant section.

How Long Do Degus Live?

Never try to catch a degu by his tail. In defense against their natural enemies, degus can loose the end of their tails. The result is a bloody injury, and the end of their tail never grows back again. If left untreated, a degloved tail can get infected.

Degus in captivity often live ten years or even more. The hair is tweed brown colored, the tummy has a cream color, and they have lighter circles around the eyes.

They have long whiskers, and their big ears are dominant. The hind legs are shorter than their forelimbs. Each has five hair-covered fingers that degus often nibble on, so their claws do not grow too long.

The teeth of a healthy degu are yellow or orange colored. The presence of white teeth is an indication of severe underlining disease. Degus’ teeth become orange a couple of weeks after their birth because of the reaction of chlorophyll from green plants with degus’ saliva – this reaction also makes the degus’ saliva orange. Degus are sociable animals, so it is best to keep at least two animals. Never keep one degu, as it will not be happy and will not live as long as it could have if it had a same-sex friend. If kept alone, it could become depressed, and cause it to become aggressive.


Degus are very vocal and have a broad spectrum of sounds, which includes beeps, whistles, and squeaks. Ours tend to squeak at us when it is food time!


 Chinchilla Dust 

It is essential to provide your Degu with a daily dust bath to maintain a healthy coat and to remove old or dead fur, which may otherwise irritate your pet. You should never wet or bathe your Degus in water. Use this dust in a Chinchilla bath.


The Degu is herbivorous. In nature, he eats various plants, bulbs, farm crops, leaves, and bark from trees and bushes. Try to give them similar food. Don’t give degus any sugar and minimal carbohydrates and fats. If you overfeed these foods to degus, you can cause severe problems for them, which are similar to Diabetes.

We feed our degus the following combination of food as advised by our vet: 70% hay (timothy hay is best); 15% hard vegetables – carrots, green beans, etc. – and cucumber and 15% chinchilla pellets. Now and again, we also mix in good quality guinea pig food and uncooked pasta.


Degus like to climb and have fun. An ideal cage would be a three-tier wire cage, like those made and used for chinchillas and rats. However, the wire base should be removed (the cage sits in a metal base) to prevent bumblefoot (see below).

As degus do like to make a mess kicking out hay and bits of food, you can use perspex secured to the lower part of the cage to stop you from having to clean the area outside their cage every ten minutes!

For suitable bedding, we either use a paper-based cat litter or a cardboard bedding such as this or this

In our experience, in some cases, woodshavings/sawdust can cause respiratory problems that can kill.

Also, add a little hay to cover the floor of the aquarium and some paper for nest material. Clean the housing out about once a week. The more degus who live together, the more often you will have to clean it.

If your cage/aquarium is big enough, leave a dish filled with chinchilla dust in there. Like chinchillas, degus need a daily ‘bath’. If their house isn’t big enough, make sure you place their ‘bath’ in there for at least 10 minutes a day.

Because degus are susceptible to various ailments, do ring around and try to find a vet who has plenty of experience with small rodents and is interested in finding out about Degus even if he/she has not seen one before.

It is worth doing this before you need one in an emergency. Degus seem to be generally strong and sturdy little rodents, but there are certain conditions that you should be aware of.



Degus cannot metabolize sugar; therefore, if they overeat of it, they can develop Diabetes. The initial sign of trouble can be seeing your Degu getting very fat. They will start drinking more water than usual and towards the end will lose some weight to become very thin.

Diabetes is always deadly and cannot be treated in small animals. Therefore, don’t feed your Degu any food that contains sugar. 

That includes fruit and raisins. Don’t let your Degu get too fat – it is not kind to feed pet animal treats until it becomes overweight or obese and dies young. If you have a fat degu, you must reduce the number of pellets and cut out all treats than you usually do, letting the animal eat mainly hay.


Having to walk on wire surfaces continually can cause this painful condition. The Degu may have difficulty walking and might show pain while on his feet. Remove wire-mesh bottoms from chinchilla cages and try to provide a solid wheel. See you vet for a suitable treatment.

Liver Disease

If Degus are fed too much fat, they will contract liver problems. These can have similar symptoms to Diabetes in that the animal may drink lots of water and get very thin after being quite fat. Don’t feed your degus too much fatty food, such as sunflower seeds, peanuts, and nuts.

Mouth Disease

Degus are very prone to infections of the mouth. Make sure that the water bottle is kept spotlessly clean.


Because of the small population of Degus in the country, inbreeding inevitably occurs. This can cause many health problems in babies and should be avoided.


Cataracts in Degus are a genetic condition, and the symptoms are greying of the eye and sight problems in older Degus. Degus have whiskers that prevent them from bumping into things and a good sense of smell, and so should manage fine.

Eye Infections

We have had a spate of eye injuries with degus in the past; this has been caused by two things, firstly sand baths. (Make sure you clean out your sand bath daily as they will climb in and kick hay, bedding allsorts into the bath.) This can get into the eye while they bathe.

Secondly – their teeth. If your Degu has recurring eye problems (such as a white discharge) and your vet has looked inside your degus mouth, and his teeth seem fine, an x-ray should be carried out. This way, the vet can see if the root of the teeth is growing upwards and causing pressure on the eye socket.

Degus have what is called an open root – if the back teeth aren’t continuously used (by gnawing and grinding on lots of hard foodstuffs and hay), they keep on growing.

They grow inside the mouth, as well as up towards the eye sockets and down through the jaw (the same as chinchilla and in some cases, guinea pigs).

By giving your degu lots to gnaw on – like hay and hard foods – you are doing your best to keep their teeth healthy – as well as their general health too.