What should I feed my degus?
As with any pet, degus have specific needs when it comes to food and what they eat plays a huge part in keeping them happy and healthy. It’s important to make sure you are feeding your degus the right foods.
Like all pets, you need to make sure you’re providing for your degus’ five welfare needs – one of which is diet. Just like us, certain foods are bad for your degus or can upset their stomachs so feeding them the right food is really important for their wellbeing and keeping them healthy.
Degus in particular are very sensitive to certain food groups and can’t digest sugar and carbohydrates. They are very prone to getting diabetes (usually caused by bad diet) so feeding them the right food is vital in them having a long and happy life.
Your degus’ everyday diet should have:
- Water. Your degus will need constant access to fresh, clean water from their drinking bottle. You should make sure their water is changed daily, the bottle regularly cleaned and topped-up throughout the day if it starts running low. It’s also a good idea to regularly check that there aren’t any blockages to the water spout.
- Hay. Your degus will need access to hay at all times (ideally a good quality feeding hay such as Timothy Hay or Meadow Hay). Hay will form a big part of your degus’ diet so make sure they have plenty freshly available every day!
- Commercial food. Alongside their hay, your degus will need a small amount of commercial nuggets every day. You should be able to find degu nuggets in some pet shops, but if you’re struggling a mixture of guinea pig and chinchilla pellets will be fine (always check the ingredients first – degus should not eat food with molasses or dried fruit in).
- Leafy veg. A small amount of leafy vegetables to nibble on are great for your degus. Make sure you vary which vegetables you are giving them as some can cause bloat if they eat too much, which is bad for them.
Which vegetables are safe for degus?
There are lots of different veggies that are safe for your degus to eat, but it’s important to vary their diet as some shouldn’t be eaten too regularly.
Safe veggies twice a week
The following can be given to your degus no more than twice a week in small amounts:
- Dried herbs
- Butternut squash
Safe veggies once a week
The following can be given to your degus once a week in small amounts, but be careful as they can cause gas and bloating so don’t feed them too much:
- Brussel sprouts
- Carrot tops (NOT carrots themselves!)
- Dandelion leaves
- Fresh herbs
The occasional treat
If you want to give your degus the occasional treat, no more than once a month, you could feed them a very small amount of the following:
- Sweet potato (not the skins though as these are poisonous to degus)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Sunflower seeds – just a couple at a time!
The above should only be fed to your degus very, very occasionally so they don’t eat too much sugar or carbohydrates. If you choose to buy commercial degu treats, keep an eye on the ingredients as they can often be high in sugar which could make your degus ill.
What should I avoid feeding my degus?
There are a few things you’ll need to make sure you don’t feel your degus. Don’t feed your degus any of the following and always check ingredients:
- Food containing molasses
- Rabbit food (often contains wrong nutrients and sometimes has ingredients toxic to degus)
- Fruit (the occasional bit of apple is OK but anything else should be avoided)
- Sweet potato skins
- Hamster and gerbil foods (too high in protein for degus)
- Human foods (unless listed above, human food can easily be toxic to degus!).
Remember to introduce foods to your degus slowly to avoid upsetting their stomachs.
You may see your degus eating their own poop – this is completely normal and an important way for them to get the nutrients they need and keep a healthy digestive system.
Keep an eye on your degus’ eating and drinking habits. If you notice any changes in their behaviour, speak to your vet. Your vet will also be able to advise you on any diet related questions you may have about your degus.
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