Degu food advice-what should and shouldn’t your degu be eating?


The majority of a degu’s diet should consist of good quality hay, such as Timothy Hay or Meadow Hay.

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Dietary fibre makes up to 60% of a wild degu’s diet.  The remainder of their diet consists of the natural vegetation found on the plains and mountains of Chile – which form part of their natural habitat.

What do domesticated degus like to eat?

  • Hay: The majority of a degu’s diet should consist of good quality hay, such as Timothy Hay or Meadow Hay.

    Hay should not be brown, green, as green hay can cause bloating.  Pink or white hay should be thrown away as it’s a sign of mould.

  • Guinea pig or degu specific food:  You can give these to your degu, as they contain all the necessary vitamins and minerals suitable for your pet.  Ensure they contain no molasses or sugar as these can lead to diabetes.  You can buy some dried degu food from Jollyes.

    Provide 10g a day, but do not provide freely, as your degu will eat these instead of the hay.  Hay is important as it wears down your degu’s teeth and helps maintain a healthy gut.

  • Alfalfa hay:  You can mix this in with your degu’s hay, however this should only be occasionally. Alfala Hay is high in protein and can lead to health problems if over eaten.
  • Fresh water:  Your degu’s water should be refreshed everyday.

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What vitamins and minerals does my degu need?

Degus will need a balanced diet, with a range of vitamins and minerals. These include:

  • Calcium and Phosporous: Your degu’s food should provide a Calcium to Phosphorus ratio of around 2:1. The incorrect ratio can lead to calcification of the kidneys, and dental problems (such as overgrown teeth and roots).
  • Vitamin C: Although it’s thought that degus may naturally produce their own vitamin C, it’s still a good idea to ensure it’s in their diet.  Check their hard feed as it may already be present – sometimes it’s listed as absorbic acid.  If not, you can provide it through broccoli, red peppers, parsley and rosehips.

    Don’t add vitamin C to your degu’s water supply as you can’t regulate the consumption, and it degrades quickly when exposed to oxygen.


Why is my degu eating his own poo?

Degus coprophosise, which is when they eat their own poo.  They do this to benefit twice from the food they’ve eaten, as the faeces are high in short chain fatty acids and microbes. They tend to eat more of the faeces they produce at night (around 87%).  Degus also tend to eat more of their faeces when food is in short supply as it will help to maintain their gut function. 

Degu food list

1. Feed once or twice a week on rotation as they can cause bloating

Asparagus Carrot tops Dandelion leaves
Broccoli Cauliflower Fresh herbs
Brussels sprout Celery Fresh grass
Cabbage Courgette Green beans
These vegetables can lead to gas and bloating, so should be fed in moderation.  Digestion issues occur because your degu’s body can’t fully digest the food in the small intestine. It’s then passed to the large intestine, where it mixes with the bacteria in your degus gut as part of the digestion process. This causes gas.

2. Feed once or twice a week:

Beetroot Dried herbs Pumpkin
Butternut squash Marigold flowers Radish

3.  Feed once a month as they are either high in sugar or carbohydrates:

Apple Cherry tomatoes Peas Sweet potato
Carrots Cucumber Sweetcorn/corn on the cob
You can give these foods once a month. These foods are either high in sugar or carbohydrates, which can be harmful for your degu if fed too frequently due to the increased risk of diabetes.

4. Treats that you can feed your degu

Sunflower seeds Pumpkin seeds
Peanuts Wholenuts
These treats should be fed sparingly as they are high in fat and protein and can lead to health problems such as liver and kidney damage.

How many treats can I feed my degu?

You can feed your degu smaller seeds a few times a week – however ensure you only provide one or two at a time.

Larger nuts should only be fed once a week, one nut at a time.



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What food should I avoid giving my degu?

  • Fruit – degus are prone to diabetes and eating fruit can lead to blood glucose spikes which their bodies need to process. This can put a strain on their bodies.  Although some websites say that you can feed fruit very occasionally, ultimately it may be better to avoid it.
  • Rabbit food or mix – you should avoid these, as they may contain coccidiostat a substance that’s added to rabbit food in order to prevent the parasite coccodian.  Coccidiostat is toxic to degus.

    Rabbit food  also doesn’t contain the correct amount of vitamins and minerals.

  • Molasses and raisins – you should avoid feeding your degu these due to their high sugar content.
  • Hamster and Gerbil food – these contain a lot of seeds that are high in protein. Too much protein can make your degu ill, so these foods shouldn’t be fed to your pet.
  • Degu pellets that contain mollasses  this is due to the high sugar content of molasses, which can be harmful for your pet.

How much food should I give my degu?

Degu are prey animals and like to know when they’re going to eat.  Hay should always be readily available; however you should provide the remainder of his dried food at a regular time.

You can either choose to give him his dried food once a day (around a 10g portion) or twice a day (2 x 5g portions).  
Remember, dried foods don’t contain all the vitamins and minerals your degu needs. Vegetables can help provide these.
You should chop vegetables up into small pieces, approximately the size of your thumbnail. Provide a mixture of veg in the bowl – it can cover the bottom of the bowl. 

You can also mix in herbs, fresh or dried, as degus love these.  You can also try rolled oats.

Why is my degu not eating?

When your degu’s struggling to eat, and he’s losing weight, it can be a very worrying time. There can be a range of causes for this. Some of these are listed below:

Your degu may have spurs:

If your degu’s not eating it could be due to spurs.  These are sharp edges that occur usually on the molars. They occur when the teeth don’t align properly, and as a result they don’t wear down easily.  This results in the sharp edges. They can cut your degu’s mouth, and be very painful.  If your degu has these, they’ll need to be filed down by a vet.

Your degu may have diabetes:

Loss of appetite can be as a result of diabetes.  Other symptoms of diabetes can be increased drinking, urinating and cataracts.

Degus are genetically predisposed to diabetes, and sadly insulin injections may not work.  The best way to help to prevent diabetes is to feed lots of hay and very little, or no sugary foods.

Sugary foods can result in blood glucose spikes in your degu’s body.

Some degu pellets may contain molasses – these are very high in sugar, and should be avoided.

You should also ensure your degu gets lots of exercise as being overweight can increase the risk of diabetes.

What is diabetes in a degu?

The more common diabetes in degus is diabetes mellitus. This occurs when the body produces very little or no insulin, or the insulin stops working effectively.  Insulin processes glucose in your degu’s body.

A lack of insulin results in your degu’s blood sugar level rising to an exceptionally high level, called hyperglycaemia.  Diabetes can be fatal – and should be diagnosed by your vet.

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Alternatively you can call us on 0345 982 5505

How much do degus drink?

On average two to three healthy adult degus should be consuming 1000 ml of water a month.

Degus will eat anything – so don’t be fooled

Degus don’t distinguish between food that is good or bad for them. You shouldn’t rely on your degu to avoid food that’s toxic. They can and will eat it, and could make themselves sick.

And finally….

Like with humans, the wrong kind of food can impact on a degu’s health.  And like with humans, they do like their food, even if it’s bad for them. Ensure you provide a balanced diet, with plenty of hay. And try to avoid those sugary treats!


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Tamara Labelle
24 January 2017

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