Optimal Diet for Degus: What to Feed Your Pet

An illustration of a degu happily eating a balanced diet consisting of hay, fresh vegetables, and specialty pellets in a bright, cozy setting.

Optimal Diet for Degus: What to Feed Your Pet

Optimizing the diet for your degu is crucial not just for their survival but for their overall well-being. These small, sociable rodents from Chile have specific dietary needs that differ significantly from other common pets. To ensure a happy, healthy, and long life for your degu, you must get their diet right. This article provides a comprehensive guide on what to feed your pet degu and how to do it correctly.

Understanding Degu Dietary Needs

Degus are herbivores with a diet in the wild that consists predominantly of grasses and leaves. This means their captive diet should be high in fibers and very low in sugars and fats. A high sugar intake, for example, can lead to diabetes, a common health issue in degus. Their need for a diet high in fiber also means that degus require a constant supply of hay, which aids in digestion and dental health.

Essential Components of a Degu Diet


Hay is not just a component of a degu diet; it is the cornerstone. Providing an unlimited supply of high-quality hay such as Timothy hay or Meadow hay is essential. Hay fulfills the need for fiber and helps with the natural wearing down of degus’ continuously growing teeth.


In addition to hay, specific degu-formulated pellets should make up a portion of their daily diet. These pellets are specially designed to meet the nutritional needs of your degu, ensuring they get the right balance of vitamins and minerals. However, it’s crucial to choose pellets formulated explicitly for degus, as pellets for other animals may contain harmful levels of sugar and other ingredients unsuitable for degus.

Fresh Vegetables

Fresh vegetables offer important nutrients and variety to a degu’s diet. Suitable vegetables include leafy greens like kale, dandelion greens, and parsley. However, it’s important to introduce any new vegetables slowly and in small amounts to avoid digestive upset. Also, be mindful of vegetables high in sugar, such as carrots, which should only be offered sparingly as a treat.

Seeds, Nuts, and Fruit

Seeds, nuts, and fruits can be part of a degu’s diet but only in very small amounts due to their high fat and sugar content. These should be considered treats rather than regular diet components. Suitable options include pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds given sparingly.

What to Avoid Feeding Your Degu

Equally important as knowing what to feed your degu is understanding what foods to avoid. High-sugar fruits, sugary treats, and high-fat foods can lead to health issues, including obesity and diabetes. Furthermore, some seemingly harmless foods can be toxic to degus, such as chocolate, avocado, and anything containing caffeine or the artificial sweetener xylitol.

Feeding Schedule and Tips

Maintaining a consistent feeding schedule helps keep your degu’s digestive system healthy. Morning and evening feedings, consisting of fresh hay, a measured amount of pellets, and occasional fresh vegetables, are recommended. Also, clean, fresh water should be available at all times. Monitoring your degu’s food intake and adjusting portions based on their weight and health condition is essential for preventing obesity and other health issues.

FAQs about Degu Diet

How often should I feed my degu fresh food?

Fresh food like vegetables should be fed daily to provide variety and essential nutrients to your degu’s diet. However, it’s crucial to monitor the quantities as overfeeding fresh food can lead to digestive issues. The bulk of their diet should still consist of hay and degu-specific pellets.

Can degus eat rabbit pellets?

While degus can technically eat rabbit pellets, they are not ideal. Rabbit pellets often contain ingredients that are not suitable for degus, such as high levels of sugar. It’s best to stick with pellets specifically formulated for degus to ensure they receive the right nutrients without the risk of health issues.

What treats are safe for my degu?

Safe treats for degus include small amounts of seeds, such as pumpkin or sunflower seeds, and very occasional pieces of high-fiber fruits like apples. However, these should be given sparingly and constitute a very small portion of their diet to avoid health problems associated with high sugar and fat intake.

How do I know if my degu is overweight?

Identifying an overweight degu involves assessing their overall body condition and consulting with a vet if necessary. A healthy degu should have a visible waist when viewed from above and palpable ribs without excess fat. Regular monitoring of your pet’s weight and adjustments to their diet can help manage and prevent obesity.

Can degus eat dairy products?

Dairy products are not suitable for degus as they are lactose intolerant. Foods like cheese, milk, and yogurt can cause digestive upset and should be avoided. Stick to their natural herbivore diet to ensure they remain healthy and happy.

Is it safe to feed my degu food from the garden?

Feeding your degu fresh food from the garden can be a great way to provide them with nutrients, as long as it is free from pesticides and other chemicals. However, it’s important to research and ensure that the plants are safe for degus. Some common garden plants can be toxic to pets.

How much water does a degu need?

Like all animals, degus require access to clean, fresh water at all times. The exact amount a degu drinks can vary based on diet, activity level, and environmental conditions. Monitor their water intake and ensure their water bottle or bowl is filled daily.

Can degus eat insects?

Although degus are primarily herbivores, in the wild, they might occasionally consume insects. However, in captivity, it is not necessary to include insects in their diet. Their nutritional needs can be fully met with hay, specific pellets, and appropriate fresh food.

Why is my degu not eating?

If your degu is not eating, it could be due to various reasons, including stress, dental problems, or illness. Degus have delicate digestive systems, and any significant change in diet, environment, or routine can affect their appetite. It is crucial to consult a veterinarian if you notice a sudden decrease in your degu’s food intake.

How can I ensure my degu’s diet is balanced?

Ensuring a balanced diet for your degu starts with providing a constant supply of high-quality hay, complemented by degu-specific pellets and a variety of fresh vegetables. Avoid high-sugar and high-fat foods and monitor your degu’s health and weight regularly. Consulting with a veterinarian knowledgeable about degus can also help guide dietary choices and address any specific health concerns.

By understanding and meeting your degu’s dietary needs, you can help ensure they lead a long, healthy, and joyful life. Always consult with a veterinarian knowledgeable in small pets for personalized advice tailored to your degu’s specific needs.


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