1.1 Inbreeding is one
of the biggest problems captive degus face, particularly as they
mostly originated from only 10 individuals. Many congenital defects and
heritable illnesses are passed on at a much greater rate through
inbreeding, and this can lead to what is known as 'inbreeding
depression'. Inbreeding is highly frowned upon when it comes to
breeding degus, and because it is so important, proving your degus are
outbred scores you more points than any other section.
1.2 The most common diseases and illnesses that captive degus
suffer from are those that have heritable components, or that can be
passed from parents to pups via DNA. Since it is so important for the
health of future generations of degus, proving that your degus are
bred from healthy individuals also scores highly in the standard. At
the end of the day, we're trying to eliminate these defects from the
degu gene pool, and so we want to reward those breeders that do well
in breeding healthy degus.
2. Phenotype/Visual Appearance
2.1 Eyes: A good sign of health in most animals are clear, open,
discharge-free eyes. Since degus are also prone to diabetes, and
cataracts are often linked to this illness, we must make sure they
aren't present. Since a degu with cataracts is likely to either have
diabetes or inherited them through poor breeding, we have made this
pass an essential requirement.
2.2 Nose: A runny nose is usually a sign that something isn't quite
right in a degu; most commonly it indicates respiratory problems,
allergies, sinus or tooth deformities. Since these can potentially be
passed on to offspring, we have made this pass essential.
2.3 Coat: Another indicator of health is a glossy, dirt-free coat.
Breeders should be taking good care of their degus, feeding them
correctly and letting them dust-bathe, as well as keeping them
entertained. Bald patches are quite often a sign of poor psychological
health, as many bored degus develop habits called 'stereotypies' such
as fur-pulling. We have made this pass essential since most degus
should have a healthy coat, and of course this must be agouti in
colour to qualify for the agouti standard! We will eventually
introduce separate standards for other coat colours, such as the blue
2.4 Tail: One of the degus most unique features. We realise degus
can lose their tails through accidents without detriment to their
health or genetics, which is why this is not an essential pass, but we
prefer to see them intact.
2.5 Fore/hind paws: These are examined both on the top and on the
bottom. By checking the pads for ulcers we are looking for bumblefoot,
which is easy to prevent and shows your degus are being cared for
well. Again by checking for bald patches we can assess health. We
realise that fingers and toes can also be accidentally lost, and since
even if a degu is born with a few missing toes, we consider that it is
not so detrimental and have not made this an essential pass.
2.6 Whiskers: Degus need these to investigate objects and assess
space. Degus having whiskers that are short in comparison to their
body can indicate recent rapid weight gain or trimming, both of which
are frowned upon. Sparse whiskers can also indicate other problems,
but this is not an essential pass and is usually an easy point to
2.7 Teeth: One of the most problematic areas of physical health for
the degu, and the most commonly passed on between generations. This is
so important we have made this an essential pass. By examining molar
length we get a fair indication of the length of molar teeth further
back in the mouth that can't be examined. Checking for malocclusion
simply means checking the incisors line up and are wearing
evenly/symmetrically. Enamel hypoplasia is easily seen if one tooth is
white/pale in comparison to the others (although this condition is
often self-reversing). Teeth need to have bright orange enamel, as
pale or white teeth usually indicate very poor health. Of course the
alignment of molar teeth is also congenital and can cause great pain
to degus, so it is essential your degu has not had to have molar work
2.8 Ears: Needed to hear with and regulate body temperature to some
extent, but this is not an essential pass. We're looking for entire,
upright ears that are healthy.
2.9 Conformation: How the body is put together. Since
musculoskeletal deformities are usually quite apparent this is easy to
assess, but important enough for both the health of the degu and any
offspring that it's an essential pass. We also check that all the
limbs are functional, and that the degu is coordinated and not
suffering from neurological conditions that affect this.
3.1 Age- Degus are still developing right up until
adulthood, which is why we can only assess them once they're fully
developed. We take 58 weeks as the cut-off between juvenility and
adulthood. We also reward older degus that still qualify, since
longevity and life span issues need work in the degu. More points are
awarded to degus over five years old for this reason (note- we
calculate age from the DOB on the degu's registration certificate).
This is an essential pass.
3.2 Weight- Healthy, adult degus should fall within
the 'ideal weight' range of 220-250 g. This is a reasonable range to
allow for variations in weight over time, but it will be taken from
the weight of the degu on the day of assessment. Degus over 250 g are
classed as obese which is not good for their health, or that of their
offspring, and degus under 220 g are underweight which could be for
several reasons, such as illness or teeth problems. In any case, this
is an essential pass.
3.3 Respiration- wheezing and sneezing are classic
signs of respiratory conditions such as infection and allergies. Since
your degu should be in top condition, we've made this an essential
4. Behaviour and Character
4.1 Healthy degus should be alert and active, going
about day-to-day activities in their normal housing. We realise degus
aren't always full of beans, but there is a difference between a
resting degu and a lethargic degu. As long as your degu isn't sitting
hunched in a corner with ruffled fur on the day of assessment (this is
a clear sign of illness), they will pass. It's an essential pass, too.
4.2 Character can be judged in degus that take an
interest in what's going and aren't shy of new things (neophobic).
Wile it is desirable that your degu expresses an interest in things,
shyness isn't detrimental to the degu, so this is not an essential
4.3 Breeders should strive toward breeding degus
that are going to fit in well with captive life. For most degus, this
will mean frequent contact with humans, and handling regularly. While
we realise some degus may be initially cautious of being handled by an
unfamiliar person, they are intelligent enough to know that biting is
painful and will more than likely lead to them being handled less. We
need to see more degus that can cope with captive life as this will
benefit their welfare, so this is an essential pass.
4.4 Intelligence is something that comes naturally
to a degu, but it is difficult to assess. We'll need to ask you some
questions about the training you have done with them, and if possible
demonstrate it to us. Part of a degu's charm is their intelligent
nature, and we'd like to keep that in future generations. However, as
it is so hard to assess, this is not an essential pass.