What do Degu's look like?

Although the vast majority or Degus look the same, each will have some variation in fur patterns, weight and other characteristics.



A Degu's Fur Degu's fur is naturally a tweed colour which becomes lighter towards the under-belly, although thanks to genetic manipulations and cross-breeding, they can be found in black, blue (metalic bluey-black), tan, white and cream1Woods, C. and Boraker, D. (1975) 'Octodon Degus.' Mammalian Species, 67 (5).. Colour varieties in higher demand and more common in mainland Europe in countries such as Germany, and it is not yet known the health implications of this genetic enginering. The hair is short and soft1Woods, C. and Boraker, D. (1975) 'Octodon Degus.' Mammalian Species, 67 (5).. Some Degus may have white flanks, the area between the ribs and hips, which is believed to be a sign of infertility, although we could not find any research confirming this. Degu's fur can not become wet as it may be become brittle and damaged, other than their water bottle nozzle there should be no sources of water near to them. To help keep their fur dry and to clean them as water is not a option, they should be given access to a sand bath for around 30 minutes every day. Leaving the sand bath too long or giving one too often could also damage the fur.
Degus can sometimes shed their fur once or twice a year, in keeping with the seasons (longer fur in winter, shorter in summer). This happens roughly between March and July in the UK, although this fur shedding has not been experienced by all Degu owners, as compared to the harsh temperatures in their natural desert environment the British seasons (especially considering your pet will be living indoors not underground) are not as drastic and so the need to shed fur may not be needed. Another reason for the observed differences in fur shedding could be evolution and adapting to the constant climate in housing, as over an average person's lifetime a single Degu could be the cause of 50-60 generations of Degus.



A Degu's eye Degu's have dark, big eyes, which are surrounded by a lighter area of fur1Woods, C. and Boraker, D. (1975) 'Octodon degus.' Mammalian Species, 67 (5).. Degus eyes are placed at the sides of the head, helping them be more alert to predators in the wild and dangers in a domestic environment by expanding the field of vision, while still providing a perfect forward view for regular navigation. The eyes are inconsistent with rodents of the same habits i.e. burrowing, who normally have small eyes to avoid damage. The eyes can be subject to illness such as cataracts.



A Degu's Ear The Degus ears are of moderate size, around 3cm in height, dark with little hair, apart from long strands of hair protecting the ear canal. The ears can get grubby very easily, and as they can not groom them themselves, are kept clean by other Degus in the habitat. Without this attention they can become very poorly, as it is very dangerous for humans to clean due to the thinness of the skin. They are shaped to gain as much aural information as possible1Woods, C. and Boraker, D. (1975) 'Octodon degus.' Mammalian Species, 67 (5)., and stick up whenever the Degu hears a sound they feel to be threatening.


04Teeth and Mouth

A Degu's Teeth A Degu's Teeth had a distinctive figure 8 pattern, similar to that of Chinchillas and Guinea Pigs which is why it is classified in the Octodon species. A Degu's front teeth should be a yellow - orange colour1Woods, C. and Boraker, D. (1975) 'Octodon degus.' Mammalian Species, 67 (5). which is believed to be but not verified as being due to the chlorophyll in the greens they eat. White teeth can normally indicate a serious disease and a poor diet. The teeth are constantly growing, causing Degu's to gnaw on everything and anything, so suitable toys and blocks should be provided. All together Degus have a total of 20 teeth, used for chewing, biting and gnawing1Woods, C. and Boraker, D. (1975) 'Octodon degus.' Mammalian Species, 67 (5)..


05Paws and Feet

A Degu's foot A Degu's feet has 5 toes on each paw, front and back, with rear claws curved and covered in brush-like bristles.1Woods, C. and Boraker, D. (1975) 'Octodon degus.' Mammalian Species, 67 (5). One of the toes on each paw is shorter than the others and used in the same manner as a human thumb. If a Degu spends too much time on a mesh wire floor the feet can develop a problem called bumble foot which is very painful, so ledges and flat areas must be provided in your Degu's cage. There are small lumps on the palm of the paws that are used for gripping items such as food when eating. A Degus paws and other features are not consistent with other burrowing animals1Woods, C. and Boraker, D. (1975) 'Octodon degus.' Mammalian Species, 67 (5)..



A Degu's Tail Degus have a tail which grows to around 9cm in length, is scaly to the touch and has a small bushy tip1Woods, C. and Boraker, D. (1975) 'Octodon degus.' Mammalian Species, 67 (5).. As a defence mechanism in the wild, the Degu will shed part of its tail, up to half of the tail, as a way of evading capture when a predator has hold of it. For this reason a Degu should never be handled by the tail, and is better off not being touched at all, as it can be extremely painful, causing a lot of bleeding and distress. This can become infected and will never grow back. If this occurs, usually the Degu will chew and stop the bleeding itself, but a vet visit is always essential. The tail is primarily used for balance when jumping and climbing, and regulating the body temperature by providing an area for heat to escape or be retained.


07Whiskers and Nose

A Degu's Whiskers A Degu's whiskers, like all other animals, are used for exploration when judging gaps and spaces to determine if it can fit through. Whiskers are very sensitive and should not be played with. The area of the brain used in scent detection is well developed providing a good sense of scent1Woods, C. and Boraker, D. (1975) 'Octodon degus.' Mammalian Species, 67 (5).. The nose is hairless, with females believed to have a better sense of smell than the males due to testosterone having an effect of the strength of smell, although this has not been completely verified at the time of writing.



  • Woods, C. and Boraker, D. (1975) 'Octodon degus.' Mammalian Species, 67 (5).
  • My own knowledge/observations
  • Vet Advice

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