Degu Husbandry and Care

Last Review Date: January 15, 2021


Purpose:

The purpose of this Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is to outline the daily care and husbandry practices required for Octadon degus housed in Laboratory Animal Resources at the University of Montana.

Background:

  • Degus are desert rodents that are highly social. Degus are very verbal and communicative among themselves.
  • Degus become sexually mature around 3-6 months of age.  The gestation period is 90 days and litters can be from 1-9 young with an average litter size of 5. They are born fully furred with eyes open (precocious).
  • Degus will bite when threatened or uncomfortable, therefore exercise care when handling.
  • Never attempt to pick a degu up by the tail or to pull on their tail, as it will pull off and will not regrow. This is a defense mechanism.

Materials/Equipment:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) includes lab coats and gloves.  Masks and goggles are available for personnel with allergies.
  • Dust bath once weekly 
  • Complete Degu Diet (Exotic Nutrition) - TEKLAD 2041 Guinea Pig diet
  • Timothy hay
  • Whole oats: added to Guinea Pig diet (5 lb whole oats mixed with 50 lb Guinea pig diet)
  • Wood chew blocks (for malocclusion)
  • Enrichment (PVC, Shepherd houses, large TP rolls)
  • Teklad - Tek Fresh Laboratory Animal Bedding
  • Nylabones
  • Cage clips to secure cage doors

New Litters

  • When a new litter is born, record the date of birth on the breeding card on the cage and wean date placed on the front of the breeding card
  • Avoid cage change and animal handling for 5 days to minimize stress and improve litter survival
  • Wean litters when 6-weeks old

Missing or Escaped Degus

  • Degus will escape their cage if the opportunity presents itself
  • Care must be taken to avoid escape during cage changes
  • If an animal escapes
    1. Ensure the room door is closed
    2. Allow the degu (s) to settle quietly in a corner or under a rack
    3. Wear protective gloves when picking up an escapee
    4. Ask another staff member to assist if needed
    5. When the animal is caught, transfer it back into its cage
    6. Place a note on the cage to alert staff to watch for any abnormal behavior as a result of the escape

Sentinel Degu

  • A degu will be designated as a sentinel.  The animals will not be euthanized but will undergo a saphenous bleed semiannually.

Husbandry

  • Observe animals for signs of disease, illness, or injury
  • Refill any low water bottles from the sink located inside the room
  • Replenish pelleted degu feed in hoppers of larger boxes and add one scoop (1/2  cup) on the bottom of the smaller boxes per animal (i.e., 2 animals in box = 2 scoops
  • Daily enrichment provided
    1. One handful of loose timothy hay per box
  • Sweep and mop
    1. Mop with Peroxigard concentrate on M, W, F (64:1)
    2. Mop with water only on T, Th
  • Fill out a box and animal count on the dry erase board located inside the room
  • Record high/low temps and humidity’s and fill out daily log
  • Before exiting the room check each cage hopper to confirm they are sitting on the tops of the boxes correctly and the trap doors located on the tops of the large box hoppers are fastened correctly.

Tuesday Cage Change

  • Observe animals for signs of disease, illness or injury
    1. Change out playpen cages only.  
    2. Cages are noted for rotation through playpens.  Rotate the next marked box into the playpen.
    3. Do a spot clean on the boxes the degu are being moved from.  Mark which group was in the box on a sticky note and place on the front of the box and place the box on the counter
  • Replenish pelleted degu feed as described in the daily routine
  • Enrichment provided
    1. Timothy hay; a small handful
  • Sweep and mop as described in the daily routine
  • Fill out a box and animal count on dry erase board
  • Record high/low temps and humidity’s and fill out daily log 

Friday Complete Cage Change, Bedding Change, or Spot Clean

  • Complete cage change
1.  Change out boxes, hoppers, food containers, water bottles, cage cards
     and/or large tubes or huts while degu are in the dust bath

2.  Replenish pelleted degu feed as described in the daily routine

3.  Provide enrichment (which may include)

       a.  handful of Timothy hay

b.  wooden blocks
c.  tubes or huts
4.  Observe animals for signs of disease, illness, or injury while handling them
  • Bedding change
1.  Change out boxes while degus are in dust bath; add new bottles or water
2.  Use same hopper and cage card holder
3.  Add degu feed
4.  Add Timothy hay
5.  Add enrichment
6.  Observe animals for signs of disease, illness, or injury while handling them
  • Dust bath
1.  Fill a large bowl with 5 scoops of dust bath; add more later if needed
2.  Place Degu’s in the dust bath while changing the cage(males first, females
     second, and breeders  last). For the playpens, push the bedding aside in an area
     in the middle of the cage floor and add a scoop of dust bath to the center
  • Spot cleaning
1.  While degus are in the bath, scoop out the dirty bedding in the housing box and
     place into a garbage bag and replenish bedding
2.  Top off the water bottle
3.  Place degu back into the fresh cage
4.  Replenish pelleted degu feed
5.  Provide enrichment as needed
  • Sweep and mop as described in the daily routine
  • Fill out the box and animal count on dry erase board
  • Record high/low temps and humidity’s and fill out daily log

Weekends

  • Same as the daily routine
  • Sweep up any hay etc. as these guys are pretty messy
  • No mopping on the weekends

Monthly

  • Perform USDA health check during the last week of the month cage change. Document animal health in designated Degu Health Check notebook (notebook kept in degu housing room)
  • Complete monthly All Surface Clean (ASC)