Degu Health FAQ

>Questions relating to the internal and external physiology of the degu<

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Are degus camouflaged?  Yes. Wild degus are a similar colour to their surrounding environment. This makes it much harder for predators such as birds of prey to spot them so easily when they are standing still. However, the degu's ventral (belly) fur is highly UV reflective, allowing them to signal to each other from the ground. Since many raptors can see UV, it is beneficial for the degu to have UV fur underneath, where it is hidden from view from above, and they can choose when to expose it.
When my degus were only 5/6 weeks old, they had these markings on their noses that helped me tell them apart. Then within the last month both have disappeared and looked almost identical.... but in the past week or so, they each have new markings appearing on their noses/snout area that are different than one another. Is this a winter coat they are starting to get, or what is going on?! Thanks for the help! The markings that appear and disappear on the hair of their snouts are to do with coat shedding, as you say. Degus shed up to twice a year, but don't always shed their summer coat- this shed is a lot more subtle than the winter coat shed in summer, but it does happen. Anyway, the markings on the nose- these appear due to the order in which the coat is shed. The order is largely dependant on the areas they are able to scratch, so you may first notice shedding around the shoulders and sides. Another of the first areas to go is the hair on the snout- up to wherever they can't scratch (the top of the head). In fact, the top of the head and the small of the back above the tail are the last areas to be shed. So, you have a short coat growing in the areas where your degu scratches, and longer (old) coat where they can't. The line you see appear as a dark band is the border between the short and long coat. this is shown as a dark line because of the agouti structure of degu's fur- dark grey underneath and a light brown tip. We usually see only the light brown colour, but the markings appear during shedding as the grey fur is revealed by the different coat lengths. Phew!

As you probably know, shedding is very useful for telling identical degus apart, but you just can't rely on it!!

I have two female degus that I just recently got and have noticed there are bumps on their feet. It doesn't seem to bother them and doesn't look like its irritated. I noticed that both of them have the bumps in the same spots so I was wondering if they have bumps to begin with, thanks in advance for any help. These 'bumps' on their feet are called pads. You are probably more familiar with seeing pads on other animals such as a cat's paws- they're the fleshy areas you see poking out from the fur. It's the same in degus and other caviomorphs, only without being surrounded by fur.

These pads appear where there is contact of the paw with the ground and act as pressure cushions for the bones of the toes to help provide resistance to impact/damage when walking, running and jumping (etc).

You're absolutely right to check the pads for sores regularly, as this is a condition called 'bumblefoot' (pododermatitis). Bumblefoot occurs where the pads are subjected to continual, intense pressure such as that generated by walking/standing on wire mesh for long periods of time. For that reason it is essential to cover over mesh areas of your degus' cage that are frequently used (such as ramps and shelves).

One of my three degus has eyes that appear a bit bigger than the others, but other than looking a little odd she's perfectly fine and it seems she can see well. Is there something wrong? Well I think it's probably that some of our degus have more protrusive eyes due to subtle anatomical differences. If their eye sockets are slightly shallower it will cause the eyes to protrude slightly more than usual, allowing the conjunctiva (white membranes between the cornea and sclera) to become visible. Hence the reason you can't see the conjunctiva all the time. It's the same in animals that are afraid- it is said you can see the 'whites of their eyes' which basically shows their eyes are open wider allowing conjunctiva to be exposed. Of course the other alternative is glaucoma, a build up of fluid pressure inside the eye, but this leads to other symptoms which it sounds like are not present in your degu.
I was wondering, what are the normal signs to look at for to see if my degus are healthy? They have lovely orange teeth which I read is a good sign. The things to check for in a healthy degu include orange teeth (as you've spotted), clear, bright eyes, a shiny, smooth coat, alertness, good appetite and activity. If you notice your degus are hunched up, with ruffled fur and not interested in their surroundings, it can be a sign of illness and you should get them checked over by an experienced degu vet. Please remember that a degu's fur appears ruffled when they are cold, so make sure the room temperature is not too low.
One of my degus is fatter than his brother and has developed a lump quarter the way down his tail ..Should I take him to the vet or is it just something that happens to degus? I only feed them Gerty Guinea Pig food and I always check on them so what could have happened? This is not common in degus, but it can happen. I would suggest that the lump is caused by one of three things:

1. Injury- the tail has been injured somehow (for example by a bite from the other degu, or being caught in something such as a wheel). This would cause a swelling to appear at the injury site. If there is no wound apparent, it may have been caused by blunt trauma and the tail may be broken or fractured.

2. Infection- often follows injury. The tail will become swollen and inflamed around the site of infection, also known as an abscess. Your degu will need antibiotics and the lump may be lanced by a vet.

3. Tumour- the lump is a cancerous growth. This may have been brought on by injury, or a genetic problem, but the good news is it is located on the tail and should be easily removed.

In any case, I advise you get the lump looked at by a vet. They will be able to make an accurate diagnosis and give appropriate treatment. As long as you get it checked out soon, I don't think this is a big problem and your degu should be fine.

I am a student at university studying animal management. One of my assignment questions is "how would you treat a degu with a de-gloving injury to its tail"? I don't seem to be able to find out what treatment would be advised. Can you help please? Of course I'll help! If the degu's tail is completely de-gloved, I personally would not treat it at all. The exposed ligaments are likely to bleed immediately after de-gloving, but this stops within 10 minutes and begins to dry. After 3-7 days, the ligaments dry out completely and become shriveled, after which time the degu (or a cagemate!) chews off the dried tendons and vertebrae. Since this type of injury occurs naturally in the wild as a degu's antipredatory defense, it is best to let nature take it's course and the degu will deal with it itself. The only time I would intervene is if part of the tail became infected during this process. In this case, I would treat the area with saline solution twice daily until healed. In the worst case, a course of antibiotics may be required, but the tail is usually remarkably quick in healing itself and I personally have never seen a de-gloving case become infected.

There is a page on de-gloving that has some references you might want to take a look at (if you haven't already).

I noticed one of my degus is getting a bit plumper. I thought it might be their diet but my other degu still looks relatively thin. What kind of size do male degus tend to grow to?
There are several possible causes of a large size difference between degus, which I will list for you so you can see which one is most likely to be the case with your degus. As always, if you have any further questions or need more advice please don't hesitate to get in touch!
1. Pregnancy- Sadly many pet shops seem unable to correctly sex degus and this frequently leads to male/female degus being mistakenly sold together. Male and female degus housed together will breed at this time of year, so I would strongly advise you double check that you have two males and not a male and a female. Sexing degus is easy when you know what to look for, full details and pictures can be found on Degutopia's website under the 'appearance and biology' section. If you need a hand with this let me know.
2. Age difference- If your two degus are of slightly different ages, they are likely to grow at different rates. Degus do not reach full adulthood (and thus full weight/size) until they are just over 1 year old (58 weeks), so if one of your degus is older than the other they are likely to remain different weights until they are both fully adult.
3. Genetic difference- Sometimes degus can have slightly different genes even if they are brothers from the same litter. Different genes can cause things like different metabolic rates (i.e. how fast your degus use energy during the day) which will affect their growth and weight gain. So just as with humans, some degus can eat a lot and not put on any weight, while others can eat a little but become overweight, particularly if they don't get enough exercise. Also, degus that are the runt of a litter are very often much smaller and lighter than healthier pups, so it could be that one of your degus was a runt at birth and will remain small through adulthood.
4. Difference in activity- This can be linked to the above, but often some degus are more active than others and they need your help to keep them entertained! Make sure you're able to let your degus out of their cage in a secure play area (the stairs make great exercise areas!) for at least half an hour every day. Degus need to expend a lot of energy to keep them fit and healthy, so providing them with a solid, spoke free running wheel inside the cage is essential (make sure one degu isn't stopping the other from using it).
5. Dominance and food intake- A very dominant degu can prevent a subordinate degu from eating as much as they need to during mealtimes, especially if they don't have their own bowls. Watch the degus when they get fed and make sure the larger degu isn't pushing out the smaller degu and stopping them from getting enough food. It is usually advised to give each degu their own feed dish at mealtimes to stop this sort of 'food bullying' from happening, so each degu gets their fair share. Also don't give your degus constant access to hard feed as overeating is a common cause of obesity in degus, which can have dramatic health consequences. It is advised to feed a degu over 6 months old 8-10 g of hard feed per day only but always give them constant access to hay. See the diet section on Degutopia's site for more information.
6. Health problems- Problems with the way the body processes food (particularly the kidney and liver) can often affect how efficiently the body burns calories after eating. These problems can cause the body to turn more nutrition into fat to store energy rather than using the energy straight away. It can also affect things like how much protein and fat passes through the body or is absorbed and stored by the body. If you're worried about this, a visit to the vet will help get the bottom of any problem. Sometimes the answer is as simple as hormonal imbalance.
These are the basic areas you should look into in order to investigate the problem further. I should point out that both male and female degus reach a similar size and weight in adulthood, i.e. there is no sexual dimorphism. Adult degus grow to about the size of an adult human's open palm (not including the tail), however by far the best indicator of size and growth is a degu's weight. A healthy, adult degu should ideally weight 220 - 250 g, degus younger than 58 weeks should weigh less accordingly. We advise weighing your degus regularly each month to keep track of their weight and as a useful indicator for any potential problems (since a change in weight is often the first sign of a problem).
Do degus avoid eating things that are bad for them- like sugar? No. Degus will eat anything (and everything!) they can get their paws on. This includes sugary things and even toxic substances. Why do they do this? Well, they don't know that that particular thing could cause them harm or even kill them, just that it smells edible and is rewarding to them when they eat it. Humans also eat things that are bad for them- such as clotted cream and tobacco...
Do degus eat cheese? Degus will (try to) eat almost anything. However, you should NOT give them cheese as it is high in fat, salt, protein and milk sugars that your degu is not adapted to digest properly and could cause them harm.
We have been using Supapet's  Reggie Rat formula for degu food with additions of weekly veggies. Is this OK as a healthy diet? I wouldn't recommend feeding a rat diet to your degus. It's very high in protein that degus only have an 85% digestive capacity for and doesn't contain added vitamin C which it is beneficial in the degu diet. I would recommend instead that you switch to the 'Gerty guinea pig' diet which is ideal.
Hello, I was hoping I could get some good suggestions for training treats. I've been using yogurt drops, but I'm afraid of the sugar content. Id feel better using something more suitable. Everyday I give my girl, Roxy a treat out of my hand to start training her to be more hand friendly. She wasn't handled as a baby, and I rescued her a few months ago. Her mate died and I think she is lonely, so I want to provide her with some human companionship. Definitely not a good idea to use yogurt drops as a training aid on a regular basis as you're right, they contain sugar and may also contain lactose.

I find that the best training treats are cereals such as natural puffed rice or rolled oats. These go a long way and don't fill your degus up too quickly. You could also try using small bits of cracker or a crispbread, but make sure you check the salt content first.

For more tips on training and treats, visit the training section of Degutopia.

I have read that to change the degu's food it should be done slowly, I normally feed them Vitacraft Degu Menu but the shop has gone out of stock, and I can not find it any where else. I am almost out of the Vitacraft Degu Menu- I have guinea pig pellets and chinchilla pellets that I could give them for a week until the shop gets more in stock. would this be ok as I can not lay hands on any more? You're right, you shouldn't suddenly switch your degus diet from one type to another, or even from one brand to another as this can upset the digestive balance of your degu's guts, which is largely caused by even slight variations in nutritive content upsetting the intestinal microfloral population. But in this case you don't have much alternative. My advice would be to mix the little original diet you have left with some of the pellets, but increase the amount of hay they are fed. If your degus are fed hay ad lib. then this is not necessary. This will enable you to cut down their diet for a week until your feed is back in stock, without causing any major intestinal imbalance. You could even try mixing in a small amount of natural oats with their temporary diet to make it go further, but remember that oats are a good energy source, so don't overfeed them unless your degus can run it off!!
I would like to give my degus sweet potatoes but I need to know if I should cook them first and how do I cook them? Or do I just peel them and give them raw. I have 6 degus so about how much sweet potato do I give? You don't need to cook the sweet potatoes before giving it to your degus. I would only give your degus a small amount, I would say cut the potato into cubes and give them a few cubes each once or twice per week. Overfeeding of potatoes can cause gastrointestinal bloating in your degus if overfed.

But degus do love sweet potatoes, and it's a great treat for them! for a list of other vegies degus can have see the veg guide.

Hey! I bought my very first pair of female Degus yesterday and am pretty excited :o) I have been doing a lot of reading on them (mostly on the internet), and today read that I shouldn't feed them anything with Molasses in it. I knew they shouldn't have sugar (or much of it), but didn't think to look on the Guinea Pig and Chinchilla food since the people at the pet store told me which ones to buy. Today I looked on both bags, and both of them contain Molasses in it way down in the list of ingredients and now I am all annoyed that I was sold the wrong things!!! Can I continue giving them this until the bags run out or should I go back and buy completely new food? Well done in reading up about degus- its surprising how many 'experts' don't give you the right information. You're right, degus can't have sugar containing foods on a regular basis due to the way their metabolism works. Molasses is a sugar containing substance (similar to treacle) that is frequently added to animal feeds (especially common in horse feed) to make it more palatable. Degus must NOT be fed a diet containing molasses as the constant consumption of dietary sugar can cause them to develop diabetes, which can also lead to other complications such as cataracts and will almost certainly reduce their life span. You should STOP feeding them this diet and switch to one without sugar as soon as possible.

As a side note, it is possible to feed your degus the OCCASIONAL bit of fruit, even though fruit contains sugar. This is because research has shown that degus ARE able to metabolise sugar to a certain extent. But if in doubt, I would leave it out completely.

My Degus really don't seem to be interested in veggies. When I got them, there were on a hamster diet. Now they're eating a guinea pig/chinchilla mix, with hay. But I can't seem to get them into veggies. I feed all my animals fresh fruit and veggies, and would like to get the degus eating it. (not so much fruit). What kinds of veggies do they tend to enjoy? Thanks. Degus often aren't great fans of fresh veggies as in the wild their diet consists mainly of shrub leaves, herbs and forbs. However, they do seem to have a preference for veggies such as Savoy cabbage (small amounts), green/runner beans, carrots and spring onions. This may purely be a taste preference thing, or it may be that these particular veggies contain essential nutrients, thus provoking a motivational eating response. You can also feed your degus on small bits of apple once a week (at the most), as degus love it and if fed in small quantities is perfectly safe (see research in the health section). My degus also enjoy cauliflower and broccoli stems, and the odd cube of sweet potato.
Where I bought my Degus, The lady said to feed them Chinchilla food and Guinea Pig food mixed, so that's what I've been feeding them. And on your site it said to only feed them Guinea Pig food. What should I do? Hi there, Don't worry. I personally only feed my degus guinea pig food, but you can give a mix of guinea and chin food if you take into account what's in it. Firstly, make sure to check the ingredients list of both for molasses. This is a sugary substance and must not be fed to degus, so make sure it's not added to the feeds. Secondly, I would only use chinchilla pellets and not chinchilla mix. This is because chinchilla mix often contains dried fruit which should not be fed to your degus on a regular basis. If in doubt, check the ingredients list. As long as you stick to the 'rules' above, you should be fine! Remember that as long as your degus are fed a balanced diet, it really doesn't matter whether you feed them guinea pig food or chinchilla food, or even both. Hope this helps you out! 
My son has just become the proud owner of 4 new degus - mum, dad and 2 babies - the 2 babies I have found are boys so now the poor mum is all alone in a cage on her own but right next to the boys and their dad. I have been reading up quite a lot on the internet about these little creatures, as I, like most people out there, had never heard of them before. My question is regarding food. When we brought them home I bought some chinchilla pellets to feed them but I have today bought some guinea pig nuggets. I note from your site that you cannot give food containing molasses but have read the ingredients on the nuggets and they are as follows:- wheat, grass meal, soya peas, oat bran, now comes the tricky one which has totally thrown me - unmolassed sugar beet pulp and other ingredients. Is this safe to feed the degus? Food is always a tricky one with degus, you have to be quite careful about what's in it. It's best to find a food that's safe and the degus like and stick with it, but of course until a company manufactures a degu feed, we just have to take what we can find! You're absolutely right to check the ingredients and I can see why they've confused you! 'Sugar beet' is a staple crop commonly used in the feed industry. As the name suggests, sugar beet does indeed contain sugar. HOWEVER, sugar beet PULP does NOT contain sugar. The pulp is the fibrous material that is left after the beet has been soaked and the sugar extracted. The pulp is very high in fibre and a good source of energy. As it does not contain sugar, it is safe to give to your degus. I would advise, however, that you feed this sparingly as the dehydrated pulp can expand inside the gut when rehydrated, which can cause constipation. I would recommend feeding a ratio of 2:1 chin pellets: this gp food. Remember that the amount of hard feed given in total per day should be very small- about one tablespoon of feed per degu per day. This of course should be supplemented with as much hay as your degus can eat. If you're still worried about diet, I can recommend some brands that are available here in the UK. Supreme Petfood's Gerty Guinea Pig mix is good, as are some of the degu specific diets. We feed our degus a mixture of both these feeds for a well balanced diet and a touch of variety.
My daughter has 2 degus Nibbles is 1 year old and Curly approx 2 year old. The older of the 2 had very overgrown teeth and infected gums, the first vet we went to gave antibiotics and said he would probably be dead within 2 weeks so not to bother (cruel person) we then visited a second vet who immediately took Curly in and within 24 hours had cleaned his gums and filed down his teeth, given antibiotics and we fetched him back home. He wouldn't eat and when we went back he had a throat abscess. This cleared and he started to take rescue food and then started on ordinary food. He has lost loads of weight, and despite visits to the vet he is still not eating properly or putting weight on. We have got some more rescue food but he is hardly taking any of it. He looks like he is eating but after he finishes hardly anything has been taken. Could his teeth still be too long? Do you have any suggestions? Were we too late in discovering the problem as we had our grandson staying (2yr old) and thought Curly was just keeping out of his way. We don't want to lose him but after the last experience with local vet we now wonder if they could have been saved by going to the new vet. Can you help? Sorry to hear about your problem. It sounds a lot to me like your degu still has a very sore mouth and gums. This could be due to the ulceration and infection caused by the laceration prior to the operation not clearing up properly for one of two reasons: Are you still giving your degu antibiotics? If you're not I suggest (this might sound a little strange!) that you sniff your degu's mouth. If there is a foul smell there is infection present that needs to be treated in order for the mouth to heal properly. The second option is that the degu's molar teeth (the cheek teeth that you can't see) are overgrown. Degus molar teeth continuously grow as the incisors do, and if not kept short can overgrow and become sharp, lacerating the sides of the mouth, a condition known as bruxism (for more information please visit the illness section). Your degu is not eating because of the pain, and in effect may be making it worse for itself- if all it can eat is soggy diet then it can't keep it's molar teeth short. Unfortunately there is little you can do to make the degu eat- the reward of eating is negated by the pain felt when doing so. If it were me, I would take your degu to a vet with degu experience and ask about starting a course of antibiotics and possibly booking in to have a tooth examination under anaesthetic- it is near impossible examining an awake degu's molar teeth. Have the teeth filed if necessary and continue with the soggy diet. However try to 'wean' your degu onto hard food as soon as possible to prevent overgrowth reoccurring. Perhaps ask your vet about a mild analgesic or something similar to numb your degu's mouth slightly to get them to start eating.

This is going to be tricky to sort out as it's like a vicious cycle, but you will notice immediately when your degu starts eating and putting on weight. I would strongly advise your weigh your degu regularly and record the weight- do this daily where possible until your degu starts to recover.

As for vets, I know how hard it can be to find a good degu vet, and you have to have the confidence (like you did) to challenge one vet's opinion by going to another. But for the sake of our furry little friends it's all worth it in the end.
Do degu's need their teeth clipped on a regular basis? I might get their teeth clipped while I'm at this awesome vet. Degu incisors wear naturally as they eat and chew and should not require clipping. On rare occasions, there may be a problem with the way your degus teeth line up, causing them to grow unevenly. It is better to get your degus molar teeth (back teeth) checked while you are at the vets, as these are much harder to check on a regular basis. Your vet can then file them down as necessary to prevent bruxism occurring (see the teeth section of the ILLNESS page).
I have a pair of young degus (approx 3 months old) and I had a degu years ago, and know that their teeth are supposed be a yellowish/orange color. Well one of my lil cuties has the  yellowish teeth and the other does not. They are a very pale yellow, almost white color. Is this normal?  Young degus tend to develop the orange colouration of their teeth after a couple of months post weaning, before which they are a pale yellow in colour. At three months old, I would have thought your degus teeth would have turned orange already, although it can take up to 6 months. It sounds as though one degu is beginning to change, but the other is not. This is either due to differences in the development rate of the two degus, a nutritive deficiency, or illness. Hopefully, it will be the case of the former. To make certain it is not a dietary deficiency, ensure your degus are being fed a good quality guinea pig or degu mix with added vitamin C and iron. This should also be supplemented with fresh vegetables weekly (and hay daily), it may also help to supplement them with iron and antioxidant rich veg like parsley, red pepper, broccoli, rosehips and carrot. You might also try giving your degus a mineral stone to lick. To check that your degus are both healthy,  watch them closely for signs of change in behaviour such as increased  drinking, lethargy or inactivity as these are early indicators of disease. With luck, your degus teeth should become noticeably more orange in the next month or so. Remember that if one degu's teeth have turned orange and the other still has white teeth, it's worthwhile getting them checked over by an experienced degu vet just to ensure that they aren't showing any signs of illness.
One of my degus teeth are orange at the front but whitish at the back? is this normal? A healthy degu's teeth should appear orange in colour, but it is only the enamel that is coloured- the rest of the tooth is creamy white. As you have seen, this will appear as orange on the front surface of the tooth and white behind. It's perfectly normal.
Just wanted some advice really. I've got two male degus around 7 months old. I've just noticed that one of them has 1 white tooth - the other 3 front teeth are orange. I've read that this is a sign of a serious illness yet he seems fine - he's playing, eating and drinking. I've booked him in to the vet on Tuesday morning but is there anything I can do for him? I would say that it is very unlikely that your degu is seriously ill- white teeth are often only linked to serious illness if ALL the teeth are white, rather than just one. I would say that there is a completely separate reason behind this one tooth being white, so don't panic! To give you the basics on how degu teeth work: Degu teeth are orange at the front because the cells that produce tooth enamel take up an enzyme that is orange in colour (these cells are called ameloblasts- more info can be found here). If these cells become damaged in some way, then they stop producing enamel, resulting in the tooth appearing white. The enamel production may start again at a later date or it may be permanent, but it doesn't really affect the degu's health. The most common way for ameloblasts to become damaged is if the degu has a fall and hits it's teeth on something hard. This could happen, for example, after a fall in the cage, or even if the degu runs into something by accident, such as a table leg, etc. The other possibility is that there is disruption caused by tumor growth, but this would be visible inside the degu's mouth, and the degu would be showing signs of being unwell/having trouble eating and drinking. It's worth having his teeth checked by the vet to make sure they're not overgrowing, too. On the whole, it sounds like your degu will be fine, although it's hard to say if the tooth will revert to normal or not. Don't cancel you vet appointment, it's a good idea to give him a health check just to put your mind at rest. If you would like to read more about this condition (it's called ENAMEL HYPOPLASIA), you can visit the illness section.
Thanks for the response to my previous question (about fur chewing- see the behaviour FAQ). In the meantime, is there any sort of salve that we might be able to use to prevent infection and/or pain on the part of his leg that is bleeding? Something that wouldn't be harmful
to him when he chews it (because we know he will)?
I recommend using a mild moisturising baby lotion or E45 cream on the chewed areas. It will really help to soften the skin and encourage re- growth of the hair after chewing stops. Apply a small amount once per day and rub it in until it's absorbed. With yours, I would say it would be beneficial for you to bathe the sore areas in saline solution prior to applying any moisturiser to prevent infection. However, on fresh or open wounds you should just use saline and not apply any creams. More information about making saline solution can be found in the illness section. Alternatively you could use dilute TCP or dilute iodine as an antibacterial wash, but remember not to go crazy with strong solutions like these and dry off any excess after application as you don't want your degu to ingest them (when they chew at the area).
I have 3 male degu's they are brothers.. Well about 2 hours ago 1 of them got hurt.. He was bleeding on his back paw ... I stopped it with corn starch... He is by himself right now, but he seems lonely.. I knew they are very social and do not like to be alone.. Should I put him back with his brothers or keep him separate tonight? You did the right thing to separate them until the bleeding has stopped. After that it should be fine to put the degu back in with his brothers as long as he isn't having trouble walking or appears to be in pain. If he's in pain, or is lethargic, sitting hunched up in the corner and unresponsive, take your degu to the vet immediately.

If not, remember to monitor your degu closely over the next days until the wound starts to heal. Bathe it daily in saline solution to prevent infection and encourage healing. Remember that removing your degu from his brothers is stressful for him and will slow the healing process, so put him back as soon as you can.

Need help! We have 2 degu's - brothers. They're always fighting over the wheel. (We have a plastic wheel with the metal support). We heard a loud squeal and one of them now can't use his right foot/side at all. He's lopsided! Is it broken? How do I tell? The 2 of them are "arguing" - every time the healthy one goes to check on the injured one, there's a lot of "talk" going on. He won't come to me either. He's hiding under a log.
What do we do?
Please, please take your injured degu to a vet as soon as you can. It's possible that your degu has broken his leg. If he is still limping/unable to bear weight on the leg, you need to take him as soon as you can- if he isn't responding to you touching his foot it could be that he has damaged the nerves in his leg or worse still is losing the circulation to the leg. A vet should be able to sort it out, but if you leave it the leg could start to become gangrenous and if this happens it may have to be amputated. Your degu is hiding as this is a stress response- an obvious sign that he is in pain. You need to seek professional advice about this from a qualified vet who has looked at the leg.
I need help very badly, I have a very sick degu. No vet anywhere to be found. Her teeth grew up too much and she is in extreme pain. Last night I had her out and noticed the problem was worse then I thought; behind her top teeth is quite a mess. I will spare you the details but she also has a huge mass of what I believe is infection. I had the poor baby cuddled all night but I had to cut the tooth due to the very severe damage it was causing. She now does nothing. I am worried sick she wont make it. She ate well last night but now has not touched food or water all day. I have 8 other girls and I can't bare to lose her.  I'm really sorry to hear that and will do my best to help, but you need to act quickly because she sounds very poorly. Of course my first advice would be to take her to a vet as soon as you can, as they will give her drugs for the pain and some antibiotics to clear the infection. Until you are able to get to a vet, here's what I suggest you do:

1. Make your degu as comfortable as possible. She will be in pain, tired and stressed, so avoid handling her too much but don't separate her from the group. Having company will really help her out. Give her plenty of bedding and make sure she's not cold or shivering- if she is, try putting the cage on a hot water bottle (don't put it in the cage- you don't want the degus to chew it or burn themselves).

2. Keep a close eye on her mouth and teeth. If there is an abscess in her mouth, the vet may need to lance it to release the infection and allow her to eat properly. Lancing involves draining out the infection from under the skin. Remember that degus teeth grow very fast, so you may need to trim them again soon.

3. Make sure she has access to food and water. Make up some really soft food for her to eat such as oats/porridge, or bran mashed with a little water. 

4. Monitor her eating/drinking habits and her behaviour closely. Keep a record of it all so you can check. Also it's a great idea to weigh her every day, so you can see if she's getting worse or better, and record this, too.

5. Don't panic. You can help her much better with a clear head, and remember to rationalise your actions. Talking to her calmly will help keep her calm. However, she does sound very poorly, so it's important to prepare yourself for the worst, but above all be strong and know you are doing all you can. I know how hard it is to see your pet who you love go through this, but if you act quickly and calmly, you can do the very best you can to help her and make her comfortable.

QUESTION- Respiratory, Sinus & Allergy ANSWER
About a month ago I got two baby degus. I was really happy to have them but after four days one started to get a runny nose so I rang the breeder. We had a chat about bedding and food which he thought I was doing all the right things so he decided the best thing was to let him 'sort himself out' as he had been taken from his mum and was in a new environment. A week passed and he still had a runny nose, so I decided to give him antibiotics to be on the safe side. One week on, still the same. I have put him on paper bedding and dust extracted hay. The only things left in the cage are his food (giunea pig food and vegetables) plus his wood hut and brother. His brother is fine so please help me, what is possibly wrong with this animal? The poor thing has had a runny nose for over a month and I feel this might be serious. Please can you help this sweet animal, local vets are not used to treating them. It sounds like your breeder suspected a respiratory infection/irritation which is why he advised you to switch bedding and to dust extracted hay. This condition could have been caused by this initially, but here's the possibilities of what it sounds like it could be:

1. Pneumonia- your degu has a respiratory infection that may have been triggered by dust particles initially, or he may have had it much longer through inhaling milk while he was weaning. Since it's not clearing up, he's having trouble fighting off the infection and will need a course of antibiotics to help him clear it up. If it is pneumonia, the discharge will be clear to yellowish, and you will hear wheezing/clicking noises when he breathes. You need to take him to the vet and they may take an x-ray of his lungs, or just prescribe the antibiotics.

2. Sinus problem- this is quite common in degus, one or both sinus ducts may become blocked and this can lead to a build up of infection. Discharge usually comes out through the tear duct, giving the degu a 'gammy eye', and is yellow to dark red or even pink in colour. This could be a possibility- your vet will prescribe antibiotics and the degu may have his sinuses flushed if the problem reoccurs.

3. Bruxism- your degu could have a tooth problem caused by malocclusion. This usually becomes apparent by trouble eating and drooling- you will see a clear liquid (saliva) coming from the degu's mouth and nose. This condition is caused by a lack of alignment of the teeth, particularly the back teeth (molars), which results in a sharp edge forming that cuts the degu's cheek. Your vet will need to examine your degus molars, which will involve anaesthesia to get a proper look. They will then be able to file down any sharp edges/burrs to allow the cheek laceration to heal and your degu will be able to start eating properly again. If it is found to be bruxism, unfortunately this will be a recurring problem and his teeth may need regular checkups/filing. I think the best thing for you to do is to take him to a vet, armed with these possibilities and talk it over with the vet. Even if they don't have degu experience, you will find they are able to treat all the above conditions and will be able to diagnose your degu and find the best treatment for him. I really think you should take him sooner rather than later as if he does need antibiotics, you need to get him started on them straight away to give him a good chance of recovery.

I have a 4 years old male degu who has just lost his brother who had a bacterial infection. He has now lost a patch of hair on his back. I've taken him to the vet as it looks as if he is trying to scratch all the time. The vet thinks it is lice and has seen him on several occasions to give him a solution to kill the lice, however it is not going away and I don't think the vet has much idea about degus. I've also tried a saline solution but to no effect. Could this just be stress?

Also he has started to sneeze or what I think is sneezing quite regularly (every minute or so) but his eyes are not watering or nose running. All of this is concerning me. And it does not help having a vet that does not really know the physiology. His behaviour has not changed a great deal and is still as active as ever. He has always been in the best of health.

It sounds to me like he has an allergy to something. This would certainly explain the scratching, hair loss and sneezing. The tricky part is going to be finding the allergen that is causing him irritation! You're going to need to work at it methodically. Firstly, I suggest you remove anything from his cage that is new (i.e. prior to the development of these symptoms). The most common allergen for degus is the bedding. Degus can develop allergies to sawdust/pine shavings over long periods of time, so even if he has had shavings for a long while I would always recommend changing bedding first of all. Don't change to other wood shavings (I would avoid wood completely as the dust alone can aggravate respiratory allergies), instead try one of the alternatives. Some common alternatives include recycled newspaper (also branded as 'Carefresh'), shredded plain paper (you can often find this in the equine industry), or corncob bedding. One of our degus has a sawdust allergy so I changed them all to a brand of chopped straw, which is excellent and he has no more problems. Over here in the UK (not sure where you are) the chopped straw is made by the 'Supreme Petfoods' brand who make Gerty Guinea Pig feed.

Leave these changes with him for at least two weeks. If you don't notice an improvement in him, you need to change something else to eliminate that. The next thing I would look to is the diet. Some degus can have allergies to certain foods, just like humans. It may be that one brand uses something slightly different compared to another, but since you can't always tell what manufacturers put into their feeds, you'll have to swap and change. Remember that it's important to phase in any new diet over the course of a week to allow your degu's digestion time to adapt accordingly, this is essential. Once your degu is started on the new diet, leave it another two weeks to look for changes.

The other major allergy area is cleaning mediums- a lot of people overlook this. Degus can be very sensitive to cleaning products like washing up liquid, so try and change what you use to clean his cage with. Avoid washing liquids completely and instead try a mild disinfectant diluted in hot water. Again, leave it for two weeks before switching to different brands.

All in all, it's going to take a while to find out what is causing this. Persevere and you will find it, remember that the little changes all add up.

I can also recommend supplementing his food once a month with evening primrose oil. This is fantastic for dry skin and might soothe the itchy areas. You could also apply it directly to the skin once a week. In the meantime, things you might like to try asking your vet to check for you are mites- I think he's unlikely to have mites, but it's worth covering all possibilities. This will involve the vet taking a skin scraping from his bald patch.

Incidentally, stress often brings out these allergies in degus and makes them worse than they might have been before. The loss of his brother may have affected him in such a way that the raised stress brought out the condition. I would say that if you make these changes, over time as he learns to cope with his new situation, he will gradually improve.

In the wild, does anything eat degus?!  Wild degus are preyed upon most frequently by black-chested buzzards, Culpeo foxes and owls. Historically, it has recently been shown that humans have even eaten degus!
One of my girls passed away yesterday morning and I now have just one degu remaining.

I have read information on Degutopia regarding a degu living alone and have been giving her loads of attention yesterday and today.

However, I am worried that I may not recognise if she starts to become depressed.

I would appreciate any advice regarding the warning signs I need to look out for - if she is not happy living alone then I will need to find some company for her. Thanks in advance.

I'm sorry to hear that. Of course your degu will notice the absence of their friend straight away, so you're doing absolutely the right thing by giving them more attention straight away. I would also suggest you give your degu some new toys to play with to keep them occupied.

It's quite hard to tell if your degu is becoming depressed. The signs of depression include lethargy, huddling in a corner, lack of movement, loss of appetite and disinterest in playing/interacting with you when let out.

I would suggest you keep on giving lots of attention, let them out more, give them some new toys and perhaps introduce some new training to their playtime to keep them occupied. Watch for the signs of depression and your degu should be fine. You may notice that your degu starts actively seeking more attention from you and spends more time with you than before- this is perfectly normal.

I've seen a lot of different figures on life expectance for degus. A lot say 5-6 years but I've seen figures up to 10years+.

Anyone got any ideas on this? Pumpkin is pushing 5 now and it would be nice to know if she is a senior citizen or just a middle aged lady!!


A lot of research I've read gives the average life expectancy of a captive degu as 6-8 years. Other studies give the expectancy of wild degus as 8-10 years with some reaching 15 in captivity! They seem to hypothesise that this difference between wild and captive degus is due to the poor genetic history that our pets have been bred from. So I suppose that the life expectancy of a pet degu would vary (amongst other factors of which stress plays a major role) depending on their genetic lineage. I guess it would be useful to know what age their parents reached to get a good picture, but this isn't always (if ever) possible!

If you would like to contribute to some research, Degutopia is currently investigating degu longevity. Complete our online form to tell us about your degu's age.

I am getting a degu for my birthday [3 days!] but my mom is scared that if it bites her she will get a disease. Is this true? If so, What kinds of diseases can you get? Good choice! Don't worry, pet degus don't carry diseases, and even wild degus only carry diseases that don't commonly affect humans (not zoonoses). Unless your degu is wild, you can tell your mum that they are germ free! Obviously degus can and do get ill, but the most common diseases they suffer from are things like diabetes and cataracts, which are not contagious (even to other degus!). As a side note, degus very rarely bite. In fact, degus only bite when they feel very threatened and even then it rarely breaks the skin- they're very gentle animals. You may even find your degu grooms you from time to time- this is a soft nibbling of the skin, which doesn't hurt at all- they do it to each other. Before you get your degu (not long now!), can I please ask you not to get only one. Degus are very social animals and can become depressed and ill if housed alone. Please get at least a pair of degus- these should be littermates and the same sex. I often get asked if it's OK to house two males together- it's fine as long as they're brothers or have grown up together. Happy birthday in advance, your new degus will give you lots of happy memories! If you would like any further advice, don't hesitate to e-mail me, I'm always here to help! Perhaps you would like to join Degutopia's group for advice and tips from other degu owners? Once you've got your degus, why not register them (free!) and receive a certificate.
Hi, we have a 3 month old male degu who so far has been doing really well and seems very attached to us, particularly to my son. Anyway, just a few minutes ago, little Gooey pooped out a brownish worm, and then proceeded to consume said worm. My son is in hysterics about this, and with it being Thanksgiving, we're not sure if we'd be able to get in touch with a vet. Do you have any experience with such a thing? Is it possible to give him de-worming medication? We live in a small town, but we purchased the degu from a very reputable pet shop and were planning to get more degus from the same shop at Christmas. I don't think our local vets would know much about degus. We'd really appreciate any help and suggestions you can offer. Degus very rarely get worms, however once they have them they can be stuck with them for quite some time until treated. Well done for spotting it, if left unnoticed, degus can become quite ill with a heavy parasite burden, but if caught in time you can plan treatment. Internal parasites, particularly worms are highly contagious between degus, and your degu probably caught them from one of his brothers at the pet shop. It's a good idea to inform the pet shop once your degu has seen the vet. Before you go to the vet, I recommend (if possible) you try to obtain another sample of the worm (before your degu eats it!), or some faecal pellets to give to the vet. This will allow the vet to determine exactly what kind of worm it is, for example if it is a nematode, etc, and they can then decide which wormer to give. Hope this helps you out, good luck with sample hunting!
Do you know about hepatitis in degu? I have lost both my degus, one died and the other one had to be put to sleep. They were brothers and they were three and a half years old. The first one became unwell and its ears turned yellow, so I took it straight to a vet, but it died at the vet. His brother became unwell one month after and they gave him antibiotics and fluids for 7 days but the day after his treatment stopped he went down hill and had to be put to sleep. The first degu I had a autopsy done and they found his liver a 'funny' colour. I was too upset to have the second one done. Now, did these animal have viral hepatitis? Do they get that? Or was it their food? I always feed them correctly. I would be most grateful if you have any knowledge on hepatitis, I did witness the first degu lick some water off the floor before I could retrieve him also I gave them a calcium block with contain fish shell could these have been the reason? I'm sorry to hear that. I don't know a lot about hepatitis in the degu as it's not actually that common. I can say that the calcium block you gave is unlikely to be the cause as calcium is not really involved with the liver- the fish shell is only there to provide the calcium and not a lot else. Since both your degus were brothers I would say the most likely explanation is they had a genetic disease that caused them both to develop liver failure. The fact that they both became ill at similar times is strongly indicative that it was a genetic problem. Is there any way you can get in touch with owners of the rest of the litter or the parents of your degus? It might be worth finding out their background to see if any of their siblings suffered the same fate. It's more than likely that your degus were a directly inbred litter and this was one mutation that developed as a result. It's so hard trying to determine our degus backgrounds- this is why I'm developing the degu registration scheme to try and prevent this kind of thing from occurring. I applaud you for having an autopsy done on your first degu, I know it can be very heartbreaking but it's best to be sure. Unfortunately liver failure can develop without any outward symptoms and only show itself when in the most advanced stages- lethargy, dehydration and yellow skin. Degus are so furry the yellow skin is only immediately apparent in the ears- caused because the yellow chemical bilirubin is not metabolised correctly. I'm afraid the only thing we can do to stop this sort of thing from happening is pay more attention to how we breed degus and stop inbreeding from occurring. I'm glad you brought this to my attention, I can add it to the list of the many defects that registration will help to iron out. With help from people like you Degutopia can stop our degus from suffering and improve their lives greatly. Thanks, and sympathy.
I have a 4 year old male degu that has pneumonia. Prognosis is not good but I am trying to get oral antibiotics into him. The vet recommended crushing the pill and mixing it with jam, however my degu turned his nose up to that! I was wondering if you would have any suggestions about how I can get him to take the antibiotic. Hmmm I'm a little unsure as to why your vet thought it best to give the pill in jam- degus sugar intake needs to be carefully controlled and something as sweet as jam could cause no end of problems to your degu's system. It's a good job he doesn't like it! I also think it's a little odd that the vet prescribed a solid antibiotic rather than a liquid one- this is much easier to get inside picky degus!

What I suggest you try first is crushing the tablet into a fine powder. You can then mix this with some natural oats (the ones you make porridge out of). He should go for this, most degus are crazy about oats! If not, try mixing the oats with water into a paste. You could also try this with bran. If neither of these work, I suggest you go back to the vet, tell them that your degu refuses the solid antibiotic and ask them to give you a liquid antibiotic instead. Ask specifically for 'Baytril 2.5% oral solution', this is very common and safe for degu use. Liquid antibiotics are MUCH easier to administer. You can either syringe/pipette it directly into your degus mouth, or you can split the dose and apply it to bits of your degu's normal feed- trust me they don't even notice!

Do degus carry any disease and will they be ok near a dog and five birds in the house (well not next to them but on a different floor) my mother is actually concerned for her birds but just wants to make sure the birds will be ok. Domestic degus do not carry diseases that can be transferred to other animals or humans (zoonoses). Occasionally, and very rarely, degus can have a disease that will affect other degus in the cage (as with most animals), but this will never affect you or your mum's birds! Your mum has absolutely nothing to worry about!

Do you have a degu health/physiology question that you would like answered? Degutopia can help! Send your questions to us and we may even post them here!