Degus need a lot of fibre in their diet to stay healthy. Both their dental health and gastrointestinal health rely on an appropriate intake of fibrous foods, such as hay. Having constant access to fresh, sweet-smelling hay is a key part of the healthy degu diet, and also keeps them from developing behavioural problems which may develop if they cannot act out their natural instinct to graze-feed.
Hay does not meet all of a degu’s dietary requirements however, and degus also need to be fed a high-quality pelleted food twice daily alongside – on average this should be about 10g total per day. Many degus would eat more than this, but this will impact on the amount of hay they consume, which will have a knock-on effect on health. A degu-specific feed is best, but a high-quality guinea pig pellet will also suffice, or a chinchilla pellet (not mix, as these often contain high sugar fruit pieces). These contain all the vitamins and minerals your degu will need, including vitamin C, which is not present in all small animal pellets. Hamster, gerbil and rabbit feeds are all unsuitable for degus; these are often high in protein, which can damage degu kidneys.
As well as their hay and pelleted food degu’s can have treats, such as a small portion of vegetables such as peas, beans, dandelion, leafy greens, red peppers, parsley and broccoli. Avoid cabbage, as this is unsuitable for the degu digestive system. Fruit should also be avoided; sugar is very bad for degus and high sugar foods such as fruit, or dry food with added molasses, should be avoided.
Making any changes to your degu’s diet should be done slowly, introducing the new feed in slowly greater quantities, whilst decreasing any old foods you wish to phase out. This conversation should take 1-2 weeks.
All degus should have fresh, clean water at all times. Water bottles are the best way to do this to keep the water clean, and these need to be regularly changed.