Degu Husbandry and Care

Degu Husbandry and Care

Updated: May 3, 2017


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.  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 their tail or 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, booties, and gloves.  Masks and goggles are available for personnel with allergies.
  • Dust bath bowls (1 for each cage) and dust bath – once weekly add 1 scoop (designated scoop) dust per degu
  • 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)
  • Enviro-dri nesting material
  • Nylabones
  • Cage clips for missing wire locks to secure cage tops

New Litters

  • When new litter is born, place a breeding card on cage and record the date of birth and wean date
  • Avoid cage change and animal handling for 5 days to minimize stress and improve litter survival
  • Wean litters when 8-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 quarterly.

Husbandry

  • Observe animals for signs of disease, illness or injury
  • Refill any low water bottles using the water in the carboy located inside the room
  • Replenish pelleted degu feed in hoppers of larger boxes and add one scoop (1 cup) on the bottom of the smaller boxes
  • Daily enrichment provided
    1. One handful of loose timothy hay per box
  • Sweep and mop
    1. Mop with ResCue concentrate on M, W, F (64:1)
    2. Mop with water only on T, Th
  • Fill out 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
  • Bedding change
    1. Change out boxes and bottles only
  • Complete cage change
    1. Change out boxes, hoppers, food containers, water bottles, cage cards and/or large tubes or huts
  • Replenish pelleted degu feed as described in the daily routine
  • Enrichment provided
    1. Timothy hay; small handful
  • Sweep and mop as described in the daily routine
  • Fill out box and animal count on dry erase board
  • Record high/low temps and humidity’s and fill out daily log 

Friday Spot Clean

  • Observe animals for signs of disease, illness or injury
  • Fill stainless steel bowls with one scoop of dust bath per animal (i.e. 3 degus in a cage = 3 scoops)
  • Place bowl with dust bath in the large Rubbermaid container and place degus inside to start their dust bathJ
  • While the degus are in the bath, scoop out the dirty bedding in the housing box and place in a garbage bag then replenish with fresh bedding
  • Change out the water bottle
  • Place degus and the bowl inside the fresh cage (dust bath bowls will remain in cages for 24 hours)
  • Replenish pelleted degu feed as described in the daily routine
  • Enrichment provided
    1. One handful of loose timothy hay per box
  • 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
  • Remove all dust bath bowls
  • Sweep 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)