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Degus Care Sheet
Degus (pronounced day-goo) are small (approx. 6 inches in length plus another 6 inches of tail, weighing about 1/2 a pound), rodent-like animals from South America and are closely related to the chinchilla. They look rather like large gerbils, although, degus are not actually rodents at all. They are more closely related to rabbits than gerbils.
Degus come from the lowland, west coast plains of Chile and up through the Andes Mountains. They live in large social colonies much like prairie dogs and they nest and store food under rocks or hedges.
Degus can live to be around 15 years old in the wild, but in captivity their life span is often shortened to about10-12 years because it is hard to replicate their specialized diet of bulbs, twigs, etc. Degus are also prone to cataracts and mouth diseases. Degus are Durarial. They are awake all day but they  take naps throughout the day, they play with each other, and they like to dig. Degus are more vocal, though, rather like guinea pigs. They make a variety of noises including weeping, warbling with happiness, and shrieking when alarmed. Keep your Degu at room temperatures.Kept in an area that is free of drafts and direct sunlight. They are most comfortable at temperatures of between 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit. (18-27 degrees Celsius) The basic rule of thumb is, if you are comfortable without a sweater, they will do just fine.
Housing - We recommend keeping degus in pairs, as degus are highly social animals. For a pair you can also use those large wire cages with ramps often used for chinchillas and ferrets. You should include a water bottle and a food dish. For bedding, use Carefresh or some other non toxic litter, Aspen Shaving work well. You can give the degus cardboard boxes to hide in with tissue paper to make a nest with. Things to chew on like toilet paper rolls are fun to play with and keep their teeth worn down. They chew chew chew! Bird toys work wonders. If the cage is large enough, you can put some non-toxic branches for them to run around on. You can also supply them with a tail-safe wheel to run on. Degus have very fragile tails, you can't pick them up by it like you can with gerbils. A degu has the ability to shed its tail much like a lizards, but a degu's doesn't grow back.

Feeding and Health - Degus have slightly more specialized diets than other common pets firstly because they can't digest sugars. Their species has developed in a part of the world where their foods do not usually contain sugars, and so their bodies have evolved and can not digest the sugar because they've never needed to. They can become diabetic if fed too many sugars, which eventually leads to cataracts. We recommend feeding a Degu diet along with hay. An occasional treat could be pieces of sweet potatoes, a few sunflower seeds, or peanut. Don't give your degus any fruit (or else very minimal amounts) or any other sugar-holding treats. Try to avoid starchy foods also. Some people just stick with the mix and hay diet and don't give treats. Whatever works for you is fine as long as the degu is kept healthy.

Degus are also prone to mouth diseases, their water should be changed daily or at least every couple of days.
Your degu's teeth should be an orange-yellow color, not white. If they are white, he is probably very sick. The coloration is due to the fact that the chlorophyll in the greens that they eat reacts with an enzyme in their bodies and produces an orange organic fluid in their saliva.
Grooming - Degus benefit from a weekly bath in chinchilla dust just like chinchillas do. Simply put some of the dust in a wide dish and let them roll around in it, and their fur and skin will be much healthier and cleaner.

Sexing and Breeding - Deciding the sexes of degus is much harder than other rodents. The most distinguishing characteristic is the spacing between the urethra and the anus. In the female, the urethra and anus are very close together, while in the male a bit of space can be seen between these openings. In mature animals, the male urethra takes on more of a penile shape, while the female urethra is more conical. Female Degus are usually larger than male ones. Degus become sexually mature at the age of 6-9 months, although there have been reported cases of 8-9 week old females being impregnated. Degus have a fairly long gestation period - about 90 days - and the young are born fully furred and with their eyes open. The average litter size is 5 or 6. Both parents help care for the young. Degu pups stop nursing at around 4 weeks, and can usually be safely weaned at 5 or 6 weeks old.

Degus, like gerbils, have a post-partum estrus, which means they can mate as soon as they give birth. If they do not mate at that time, they will probably not come into estrus again until they have weaned the litter
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