Degu: how to take care of it?

Only the species Degu degus is kept in captivity as a pet, sold in pet shops under the name of Degu or Delegate of Chile. Here is some information about the living conditions of this small rodent in your home!

The Degu is a small animal, from 12 to 20 cm, weighing 200 to 300 grams, and having a life span of 5 to 10 years.

A Degu, yes but for whom?

The Degu is a lively animal, which is not very cuddly. It does not really like to be taken in the hands and can scratch or bite strongly. It requires a lot of attention because it often wants to play. For all these reasons, the Degu must be reserved for adults or young adults. If you have children, they may be afraid of it or not be delicate enough with the animal. So be careful!

Where and how to buy your Degu?

The simplest way is to acquire the animal in a pet shop, where professionals will be able to give you information. But beware! The pet shop must comply with strict hygiene rules, otherwise it may supply sick animals. So be sure to look at the state of health of the animals (coat, liveliness, eyes, nose, paws and claws…), the ambient odor, etc. Rodents should not be too numerous in a cage, should not be too big, are generally playing, and their cage should be clean. Do not hesitate to ask questions to the salesmen, they must be able to advise you.

Prefer, if you can, to buy a Degu from a breeder. The breeder must have a certificate of capacity and an authorization from the departmental veterinary services to sell this type of animal. Don’t forget to wait until the Degu is weaned before choosing it, so you can better observe its character.

In both cases, you must obtain a certificate of sale.

Which cage for a Degu?

The Degu is an animal that likes to jump and climb. The cage must therefore be high. It is very lively, so the mesh must be fine enough so that it cannot escape. The cage must be entirely out of metal, because the plastic does not resist to the teeth of the rodent! Aviaries or glass terrariums can also be adapted to house Degu.

The Degu is a gregarious animal and hates solitude, so it is advisable to buy 2 octodons. Plan this from the start when you buy the cage. For a group of 3 or 4 Degu, the following dimensions are recommended: 150 x 110 x 100 cm.

The cage should be placed in a quiet, airy, draughty place, away from light/direct heat (not near a window or radiator). The Degu being very active, especially at night, it is advisable not to place its cage in your room, under penalty of sleepless nights for you! The litter must be changed and the cage cleaned once a week, even if it does not smell. The hygrometry should be about 50%, the air temperature 20-22°C.

The cage must be arranged, generally with a thick bottom of sand or chalk, so that the Degu can dig. A litter made of hemp or shavings must be superimposed on this loose layer. Sand is also a key element for its toilet and the maintenance of its hair, it is thus essential to provide it with a sandbox. He will roll in it to wash himself. The sand allows him to eliminate the excess of sebum on his hair. The sand in the sandbox must be changed every 15 days.

The Degu being a very lively animal, he must be able to do regular physical exercise. You can for example put plants in its cage (especially branches). Don’t forget to check that these plants are not toxic for him! Many toys are also on sale in pet stores. For example, you can buy him burrows or hiding places, which will delight him. You can also provide him with a wheel (one per Degu, about 9 cm wide and 30 cm in diameter). Games and hiding places can also be made with plastic bottles, paper towels, etc… Don’t forget to clean all your pet’s games regularly.

The stones to be gnawed are also essential for the Degu: they enable him to wear out his teeth. The drinker generally consists of a water pipette hung on the bars of the cage, at the right height. This system is preferable to a bowl of water, quickly soiled or overturned. The water should be changed daily. The trough must be fixed in height, to avoid that it is not overturned and that the Degu makes its needs inside.

What food for an Degu?

You must be careful not to overfeed your animal: an overfed and obese animal is not happier! In nature, the Degu consumes about 10 mL of water per 100 g of weight, and 10 to 12 g of food per 100 g of weight. Don’t give it too many treats. It is best to feed your pet in the middle of the day, if possible. Be sure to clean the feeder thoroughly each day before refilling it. Finally, avoid abruptly changing the food, as the digestive flora will be destabilized.

You can find mixtures of seeds and dried fruits in pet stores that will suit your pet’s needs. He must also eat hay, which allows him to wear out his teeth and is essential for good transit. If you feed your Degu correctly, it does not normally need mineral and vitamin supplements, which can sometimes be toxic! Be careful, and if in doubt, ask the pet specialists or your veterinarian for advice. Also avoid giving too many fresh vegetables and fruits, which can disturb its digestive balance (especially salad).

What is the care for an Degu?

Degu is an animal that requires little care.

Normally, its coat should be dry, shiny, not greasy. If this is not the case, look already if its sandbox is well filled.

The claws can sometimes grow too much in captivity, it is then important to cut them (be careful not to cut the vessel that irrigates them!). Ask your veterinarian if you don’t feel like doing this.

You must also regularly monitor your pet’s teeth, which normally should always be at a constant length since they wear out all the time. Cases of dental malocclusion are quite rare in Degu. To optimize tooth wear, don’t forget to leave your pet plenty of hay. If you notice an abnormality in your pet’s teeth (too long, growing inward from the cheek, significant salivation), consult your veterinarian without delay.

The eyes must not run. You can clean them from time to time with saline and a compress (no absorbent cotton that frays).

You should also regularly look inside the ears to detect infections as soon as possible.

The tail is often injured (fights, injuries in the cage bars, etc.). In case of wounds, disinfect regularly, every day, until the wound heals. Do not hesitate to consult your veterinarian

Is my Degu sick?

Here are some signs that should alert you and make you make an appointment with your veterinarian:

Discolored teeth, too long

Excess salivation


Soiled hair, diarrhea

Eye flows

Difficult breathing

Paralysis, lameness



Hair loss

Be aware that the most common diseases of Degu are skin diseases, respiratory disorders, digestive disorders (diarrhea), nervous disorders…

If you have any doubts, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian.