Breed Standard
Explanations

 

Below is an explanation for the reasoning behind each section of the degu breed standards. If you need to know why a certain category is part of the standard, or more detail about what we are looking for, this is where to find it.

 

AGOUTI STANDARD Explanation

1. Genetics 

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 degu.

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 gain.

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 done.

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. Physiology

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 pass.

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 pass.

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.

 



Back to the Agouti Standard Page

 

Copyright C.V. Long BSc 2004 - 2009; Reproduction with permission only.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape