To be happy, healthy and active, Degus need a particular diet of Degu Food, Timothy hay, alfalfa bales, fresh, clean water and one or two fresh vegetable pieces a day to get all the nutrition they need. Below we go into more detail about which ones and give suggestions on where and what to buy. Remember that providing the right food in the right quantities is vital, as in a caged environment, they can not seek out their food, and can not call for you when they are hungry.
Buying your pet was the easy part, building the cage was simple, now the next 5-10 years of feeding, preparing, cleaning and looking after is where you start demonstrating why you are responsible enough to own one of these magnificent animals.
- 1 Staple Diet
- 2 Timothy Hay as Food & Bedding
- 3 Water
- 4 Treats
- 5 Degu intolerance of Sugar and Diabetes & Diabetes
- 6 Commercial Degu food
- 7 List of Safe Food
- 8 Conclusion & Final Thoughts
- 9 References
Wherever possible you should provide your Degu with specially designed Degu food. Degus have an intolerance for sugar, the slightest over-feeding could lead them to diabetes and make them gravely ill, so attention must be paid to the labels to check the sugar content. Food should be fed twice a day, during the morning and after the sleep in the late evening.
Guinea Pig and Other Animal Food
Guinea Pig pellets are suitable for Degus, as they help provide some of the vitamins Degus can not produce, but every effort should be made to have the correct food. Finding proper Degu food is very easy with the internet and home delivery options of most pet stores. You should avoid Chinchilla food, and all others should not be given. If your Degu becomes overweight, give them fewer pellets and more hay.
Degu Feed should be kept in a ceramic or metal dish, as they are heavier than plastic and nibble-proof (and so Degu safe), and to some extent will not tip over. It is recommended and a lot easier and kinder for your pet for you to purchase these nuggets from the online store than to give other mixes intended for chinchillas, guinea pigs, and other animals. Dedicated food is designed specifically for Degus by the leading breeders, and with constant offers on prices and delivery, you can not go wrong.
Sunseed Vita Degu Food
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Supreme Petfoods Degu Formula
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Timothy Hay as Food & Bedding
Timothy hay should be in the degu food diet to provide fiber. Timothy Hay is the only hay you should feed your Degu, which is often available in small cubes.
We recommend, you attach a small cage to the side of your hamsters home (a rectangular bird feeder cage with 1 cm mesh is not only cheap but good) and fill it with the hay.
Hay is a crucial part of the Degus diet, and a fresh, plentiful supply needs to be ensured at all times. This hay provides a lot of the Degu’s fiber, which is vital for the proper operation of the Degu’s digestive system and is seen by many breeders as more important to get right than the staple food.
In my cage, I have hay in 2 positions, one at the top of the cage, where I sometimes add treats like pumpkin seeds and nuts to help attract the Degus to it and one at the bottom of the cage next to the nest box.
Hay as Bedding
Hay also doubles up as extra bedding during the cold nights, where my Degus will pull out and drag any extra bedding they want into the nest box. My hay holders are rectangular metal cages designed to hold cake for birds that were around $2 each from the local DIY store.
Hay Needs a Place to be kept to keep it clean and where your Degus will find it. This Hay Ball provides not only a holder, but also a toy and game. Obviously, being made of plastic, your pets would need to be supervised while playing with it.
We Recommend you have one bottle of water with a long metal sipping tube hanging to the outside of your cage on each level. You should not use water bowls as they can be easily tipped and are more prone to bacterial infection via contact with urine and cage rubbish e.g. bedding.
Your bottles should be cleaned out and provided with fresh water preferable once a day, although once a week is not too bad. If possible the water should have added vitamin C, but only from a pet specific source e.g. pet water drops. Do not add your own additives as they are not designed for animals and may have an adverse effect due to the concentration or amount per drop.
Glass vs Plastic Bottles
You could buy cheap water bottles, but if your Degus get into the habit of chewing what they can get at, you’ll be replacing them every week, even if they are outside the cage. it is much easier and cost efficient to give them glass bottles, or if you are DIY handy, create an enclosure out of mesh to keep them out of it.
Home Ingredient DIY Treats
Degus love treats, as do we all, although some rules need to be applied to keep your Degus healthy and happy. Treats must contain as little sugar as possible to prevent diabetes and other health problems. Any fruit and vegetables must be completely dried until no moisture remains, with a few exceptions. Do not feed your Degus chemically treated.
You should give your Degu no more than one treat a day, to prevent over digestion of sugar, and put them off their staple diet of Degu nuggets and hay which is vital for growth and well-being. (imagine giving a baby chocolate for a day then trying to get then to eat bland tasting processed baby food, same rules apply)
The treat should be no bigger than the size of your thumbnail.
Hiding treats in various areas around your cage will not only be fun for Degus but will also help them live out the scavenging behaviors they would demonstrate in the wild.
Shop Bought Treats for Degus
Where possible, provide your Degu with treats designed specifically for their dietary requirements. Unlike other rodents, Degus can only tolerate most fruit and vegetables in tiny amounts due to their sugar intolerance. Zoo Plus currently have the JR Farm Range and Pet Supermarket have the Naturals range in full of treats designed for Degus. Listed below are a few of the possibilities, which are my Degu’s favorites and are often on good offers.
Degus are Herbivores Animals
Degus are strictly herbivorous animals, and in the wild, they mostly feed on wild grasses, leaves and shrubs. They do also like some seeds this type of feeding has adapted the degu to a high fiber intake. In captivity, owners can feed their pets commercial degu food. Degus perform coprophagy (re-ingestion of feces) like some other herbivores such as rabbits to extract more nutrition from their diet. Feeding the correct food to your pet degu is essential for maintaining good health. Fibrous food is required for normal digestive function and to wear down their continuously growing teeth. You should feed your pet commercial degu food twice a day and their food should be in a heavy ceramic bowl to avoid it being tipped over and spoiled.
According to research from the science field, the natural diet of the Degu consists of:
- 42% Various types of Grass
- 15% Herbs
- 10% Seeds
- 23% Leaves, Roots and Flowers
- 2% Bark from Trees
- 8% Fresh Vegetables
Degu intolerance of Sugar and Diabetes & Diabetes
Degus are highly prone to diabetes due to their intolerance of dietary sugar. Foods containing sugars or simple carbohydrates should be fed very very sparingly as a treat. The odd piece of fruit or sultana will not kill them. The main symptom of diabetes is a cataract in their eyes. Other symptoms include excessive drinking of water and weight gain.
Commercial Degu food
There is a great variety of commercial Degu food available to purchase from pet stores or online. They mostly contain only pellets and nuggets that are easy to digest containing all the nutritional needs that a pet Degu needs to be healthy. A good quality Degu feed needs to be supplemented with fresh vegetables, but don’t go over the top with the veg to prevent diarrhea or stomach upsets.
Degus need an unlimited supply of good quality hay as part of their diet. Not only does the hay meet nutritional requirements but it gives them something to do helping to remove boredom and behavioral problems. The fibrous feed is an excellent way to also prevents to wear down the degus ever growing teeth and maintain healthy digestion. If you have no access to specialized degu food. You can use Chinchilla or Guinea pig food as a base. Just be sure to remove any sweetcorn or other sugary pieces.
List of Safe Food
- Carrot Wood Roll
- Plain Porridge Oats
- Shredded wheat
- Wholemeal toasted bread
- Crisp breads
- Melba Toast
- Rose petals and buds
- Sunflower petals
- Dandelion Leaves
- Green Oat Leaves
- Nettle Leaves
- Hawthorn Leaves
- Strawberry Leaves
- Raspberry Leaves
- Plantain Leaves
- Hay cubes
- Sunflower Seed
- Pumpkin Seed
- Brazil Nut
Nuts can be given whole in the shell, to provide entertainment for your pets as they break through to the treat within. I have found on occasion with walnuts and hazelnuts that you need to make a small break, and you can start them off giving them the nutshell to hold on to and let them know a treat awaits inside.
Conclusion & Final Thoughts
As more research is done into the effect of different degu foods, treats may no longer be considered safe. We will try to stay updated with this, although if you are aware of any treats stated incorrectly, please contact us in the comments section and we will strive to provide the correct information possible. DeguPets would also like to point out that, although it is inevitable due to unknown effects, we are strictly against animal testing and clinical trials, and would like to remind all readers not to take the risk of feeding an unknown treat to your Degus, leave the research to the professionals.