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Degu Information Package


We are extremely proud of our clinic and of our team consisting of over 20 caring and experienced staff. We are dedicated to providing excellence in care for our patients and their families since 1972. Our entire team cares deeply for your pet and will treat them with caring hands and a tender voice; their comfort and well-being is why we are here every day.

We are also very involved in our community through our popular Junior Vet program which has been running since 2003, and wildlife triage that we offer at no cost. We are delighted to be one of the veterinary clinics providing patient care for the Northumberland Humane Society. 

Please check out our website at for more information on these programs and on our clinic and staff. We look forward to being your other family doctor!

Beyond What You See

Both Doctors and Staff have your pet's best interest at heart and strive to make their stay with us as pleasant as possible. We encourage you to accompany your pet to their kennel to allow you the opportunity to see where they will stay and to help them to settle in. Every pet has his or her own separate kennel or run, furnished with a clean, dry, comfy towel or blanket. If your pet has a "special toy” or “security blanket" feel free to bring it in with them.

If your pet is to have a general anesthetic we would like you to know that we minimize the risks by providing exemplary care during their stay. We highly recommend a pre-anesthetic blood screen prior to a general anesthetic. Just as your doctor would run a blood test before your procedure we do the same for your pet. A pre-anesthetic blood test is like an internal physical exam that will check organ function and help identify unknown diseases. For this blood work, we collect a small sample of blood that is sent to an outside lab. Blood work must be submitted at least 24 hours before the procedure.

Veterinarians will do a physical exam the morning of surgery to ensure that your pet is healthy before undergoing general anesthetic. Patients are assessed individually to determine which anesthetics will be safest for them. We have anesthetics available for all ages, from the very young to our senior patients. We also carry anesthetics specific to our work with exotic pets.

The doctors adhere to strict sterile techniques, complete with a cap, mask, sterile gown, and gloves when performing surgery. A separate sterile surgical pack is used for each procedure to avoid infection and cross-contamination. The animals are surgically prepared both at their incision and intravenous sites. This involves first shaving the hair, then cleaning the skin with antibacterial solutions.

Prior to the anesthetic, every animal is placed on intravenous fluids. Intravenous fluids are important to help maintain optimal blood pressure during surgery as well as provide access that will allow us to administer drugs if an anesthetic emergency arises.

While under anesthesia, every pet is connected to a Cardell monitor for carbon dioxide, blood pressure, and heart monitoring. Each pet is provided with a warming blanket to manage its temperature during the anesthetic. As well, our Registered Veterinary Technicians continually assess the animals, during both the anesthetic and recovery periods. During recovery one of our technicians or assistants sit with your pet to comfort them as they recover from the anesthetic.

We are acutely aware of the level of pain of our patients and have very current protocols in place to help manage their pain while in the hospital as well medications for use at home to keep them comfortable.

Uncomplicated surgery cases are discharged the same day. This allows the animal to rest at home, which is usually less stressful for both patient and owner. We do keep some animals overnight if they require bandaging after surgery. We recommend that more complicated cases be transferred to the Animal Emergency Clinic in Whitby for overnight observation.

If you have any questions or would like to tour our facility, please ask any one of our staff members. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome as we strive to provide the best service possible for you and your pet.

Taking Care of Your Degu

The degu (Octodon Degus) is native to the western foothills of the Andes. It is the most prolific mammal in Chile, where it is considered an agricultural pest. Since their importation into the US in 1964, degus have become a popular subject of research in the areas of diabetes, cataracts, and circadian behavior. Studies have shown that degus are social, long-lived and have a low incidence of disease, traits that make them outstanding pets.

Average lifespan: 5-8 years

Maximum lifespan: 10 years

Age sexual maturity: 3-4 months

Breeding season: year-round

Gestation: 87-93 days

Litter size: 1-10 pups

Weaning: 4-6 weeks

Litters per year: 2-3


Degus are rodents belonging to the suborder Hystricognathi (“porcupine-like rodents”) based upon jaw musculature and skull structure. They belong to the family Octodontidae. Octodon refers to the “figure 8” shape of their cheek teeth. Other names for the degu include brush-tailed rat and trumpet-tailed rat.


Degus resemble large gerbils and are dark grayish-brown with a dark brush on the tip of the tail. Their pupils are elliptical. The kidneys produce urine that is normally yellow and thick. They have five toes on each foot.


Degus are diurnal and do not hibernate. They dig elaborate burrows, are highly social and communicate via vocalization and postures. If degus are not given social interaction and physical stimuli, they may become aggressive or self-mutilate. Fighting is rare even when new introductions occur. They enjoy human interaction.


Degus should be provided with a large cage containing shelves, branches, a running wheel and plenty of room to exercise. Wood shavings, recycled paper products and hay are all suitable bedding materials. A dust bath should be provided as for chinchillas. At least two degus should be housed together.


Diet in the wild includes a wide variety of plants, roots, seeds, fruit and livestock droppings. A successful captive diet consists of a mixture of rodent blocks and guinea pig chow along with grass hay. Carrots, sweet potatoes, other vegetables, seeds and peanuts are given as treats. Foods containing sugar (e.g. fruits, raisins, breakfast cereal, honey treat sticks) should be avoided. Note that most pelleted feeds contain molasses, which is used as a binder. Starchy foods may also pose a risk.

Annual Checkup

A complete physical examination, review of diet and husbandry and fecal analysis are recommended on an annual basis.

Methods of Restraint

Degus are usually scooped up with two hands. They may be scruffed or held in an encircling grip for examination. Grasping by the tail should be avoided, as tail degloving easily occurs requiring amputation of the tail. Degus readily learn to step into a net, so this method can also be used.

Editors note: tail degloving involves stripping of the skin of the tail away from the muscle and bone of the tail.


Degus reach puberty at a later age than many rodents. Breeding should begin when the female is 4-9 months of age and body weight is below 250 g. In spite of their long gestation, degus are not born as fully developed as one would expect. The young are born with sparse fur and their eyes open around day 3. both parents huddle over the litter to keep them warm. The pups lie on their backs to suckle while the mother lies on top of them. Pups nurse for about 25 minutes. Male degus participate in raising the pups, so the pair must stay together for successful breeding to take place.

Edited by Susan Horton, DVM