These sociable, speedy rodents have very different needs from other small furries and providing the correct diet is an essential part of keeping them healthy and happy
Posted: 31 July 2019
In the wild, degus – who are native to northern and central Chile and live high up in the Andes mountain range – survive on grass and other green vegetation, bark and seeds. In fact, compared to other rodents, degus need to consume large amounts of fibre – at Burgess, we refer to them as ‘fibrevores’.
That’s why hay should make up a large part of their diet. Each day, you need to provide a minimum of their body size in high quality feeding hay to enable their digestive systems to function properly. Chomping on plenty of fresh, tasty hay will also help your degus’ dental health by keeping their continuously growing teeth at the correct length and shape.
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Degus can’t digest or metabolise sugar and carbohydrates and they’re very prone to diabetes. That’s why they need a low-fat, low-sugar diet. Avoid high fat foods such peanuts and sunflower seeds, along with foods that are high in sugar, such as fruits.
Foods formulated for other species such as rabbits, hamsters and gerbils are also not suitable for degus. Neither are chinchilla muesli mixes that contain dried fruit – these can result in selective feeding, where pets just pick out the unhealthy bits and leave the rest, leading to an imbalanced diet.
However, Burgess Excel Chinchilla Nuggets are suitable for degus. Naturally high in beneficial fibre and rich in vitamins – including Vitamin C for healthy skin, coat and gums, Vitamin A to maintain healthy eyesight and Vitamin E to maintain a healthy immune system – an egg cup-size portion daily (per degu) will provide all the nutrients they need.
Along with their hay and nuggets, your degus will also enjoy a small daily handful of fresh greens such as dandelion leaves, broccoli, alfalfa, basil and parsley.
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Providing your degus with some untreated softwood twigs will give them hours of gnawing fun. Good wood choices are apple, dogwood, hawthorn, hazelnut, pear, poplar and quince. Before you give them any softwood branches to chew, give them a good wash to make sure they are safe for your pets to nibble on and bake them on a low heat for an hour.
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As degus are active in the day and would naturally spend lots of time foraging, digging and chewing, it’s important to encourage these behaviours. Keep them busy by filling a box with hay for them to dig into and munch on. Make this extra interesting by adding a handful of Excel Country Garden Herbs or Excel Mountain Meadow Herbs to their feeding hay. Also try:
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Occasional treats – such as a sliver of cucumber or tiny cube of sweet potato – can be great to encourage your degus to take food from your hand. Excel Gnaw Sticks provide great environmental enrichment, keeping these friendly fibrevores occupied and boosting their emotional health.
Fresh, clean water must always be available – without water, degus become seriously ill. Keep their bottle spotlessly clean and change the water daily. Ensure that your degus can reach and drink from the bottle with ease.
Always keep an eye on how much your degus eat and drink. If you notice that your pets’ eating/drinking habits change or the droppings get smaller or are no longer being produced, contact your vet straight away.
Add some degus to your day
Looking for smart and sociable small furries who love to interact with humans and provide hours of entertainment in daylight hours with their endless energy? Then you’ll find degus an absolute delight!
Bonding with your small pets
Hand-feeding is a great way to build a closer bond with small animals. It takes time to build trust, but when your little friend finally feels confident enough to take a treat from your hand, it’s a special moment.
It’s all about the hay
For degus, hay is an essential component of their diet – and not any old hay will do, as Burgess in-house vet Dr Suzanne Moyes explains…
Why the grass is always greener on the Burgess Excel side
Not all grass is the same. At Burgess, we believe in producing grass with the highest possible nutritional value, grown in a way that supports British farmers and gives the environment a helping hand
Sources: rspca.org.uk, bluecross.org