Take a closer look at your pets’ diet in 2019 – degus
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.
DID YOU KNOW?
Wild degus live in groups of up to 100, where they dig complex burrows to hide from predators, complete with nests and food stores.
A low-fat, low-sugar diet
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.
DID YOU KNOW?
The degu is a member of the Octodontidae family of rodents. They’re in the sub-order caviomorpha, which means they’re related to guinea pigs and chinchillas, although recent studies show that they may actually be closer in relation to rabbits.
Why wood is good
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.
DID YOU KNOW?
Unlike many small furries, degus are diurnal, which means they are active during the day.
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:
- Scattering their daily pellets ration around their cage and exercise area instead of feeding from a bowl. This is also a really good way to ensure that everyone gets their fair share.
- Hide hay, pellets and greens in paper bags, cardboard tubes and boxes.
- Try out some special activity toys suitable for small animals, such as puzzle boards and feeding balls.
DID YOU KNOW?
Degus teeth are naturally a yellow-orange colour. White teeth can be a sign of illness.
Tasty treats to help you bond
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.
Strange but true – how degus get the nutrients they need
- Degus need to keep their digestive systems busy with a mix of two kinds of fibre moving through the gut at all times – these are known as digestible fibre and indigestible fibre. This is because they can’t get enough nutrition from fibre when it passes through their gut the first time, so they pass it through a second time.
- Indigestible fibre is moved through their digestive system and excreted as separate, round, hard droppings. This type of fibre keeps the digestive system moving and their appetite stimulated.
- Digestible fibre is moved up into an organ called the caecum – which is like a giant appendix. Good bacteria in the caecum ferment the fibre, making it easy to digest. This emerges in the form of clumps of sticky droppings called caecotrophs.
- Degus then re-eat the caecotrophs directly from their bottom and the essential nutrients are then absorbed when the digestible fibre passes through for the second time.
- So, although it might seem rather strange to us humans, if your degus are eating their sticky droppings, it’s a very good sign!
The importance of water
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.
Happy and healthy?
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.
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