Information for current and future keepers of the popular rodent - the common degu.

Diseases and Issues

A common disease of degus – apathy, aversion to food and life

If the degu does not want to eat and drink (the weight loss is due to the fact that he has not eaten for the second day) and if the degu is apathetic, slightly fed and constantly snoozing and does not want to eat, then it is necessary to go to the vet IMMEDIATELY. These symptoms are universal signs of donkey disease, it could be anything. An octodon in this condition has been sick longer and any delay can cause the condition to worsen to the point of death. Therefore, in this condition, I recommend going to the vet immediately and requesting the next 4 injections:

  • antibiotics – it is better to give them preventively and not to wait for anything, in octodons the course of the disease is very fast and the described condition is already very bad. Not all antibiotics are suitable for donkeys and many vets don’t know that. Based on my own experience and consultations with rodent experts from Brno Veterinary University, I recommend to use an antibiotic like enrofloxacin 15 mg/kg, which for example for a common specific drug Baytril 0,5% makes the dose approx. 0.7 ml/day (in case of using a 5% solution the dose is 0.1 ml/day). Tell your vet this information so that he does not inject inappropriate antibiotics e.g. Betamox or amoxicillin type antibiotics etc. They are toxic to octodons as well as guinea pigs! You will need an injection of antibiotics every day until the octodon is well and for at least 3 days in a row (5 days or more is better), antibiotics must not be taken as a single dose. Insist on injecting the antibiotics, giving them in the mouth is not very effective (as soon the octodon will be very defensive) and in the water it makes no sense at all.
  • saline – replace water and food for 24 hours. A dehydrated donkey cannot defend itself. Again, repeat the injection daily until you are sure the degu is drinking on its own. In addition to this, I recommend giving the degu boiled, cooled water (or request the saline from the vet at home as well) into the mouth several times a day. Get the smallest syringe without a tip from the vet, stick the syringe into the muzzle with the corner of your mouth behind the front teeth, point the syringe at the back of the muzzle at an angle and lightly! squeeze. Just a little, it must not inject all the way into the lungs. The syringe must be inserted all the way to the back of the muzzle and must be angled so that the fluid flows into the throat and not out. Then let the degu fog the hinge, this is a swallowing reflex (as long as he has it, he has a chance). Then repeat again. Degu must not dehydrate! As a food for a very exhausted degu, I recommend baby carrot snack (e.g. First Spoon from Hami, costs about 20Kč). Degus like it so much that even a very exhausted degu will lick it, it gives him water and energy.
  • vitamins – no need to elaborate
  • glucose to strengthen the body (sometimes it is already in the injection of vitamins)

So with an degu in this condition, don’t wait for anything and go to the vet, otherwise it may be too late. Also watch if your octodon has diarrhea (this could happen if the vet uses inappropriate antibiotics), if so, you need to put him on a special octodon prebiotic treatment (mash fresh poop of a healthy octodon into a little liquid, there is no better prebiotic and administer in the mouth several times a day). But if you ask for the antibiotic enrofloxacin specifically, it won’t happen.

Diseases of degus

Genetic diseases – cataracts (usually in older degus)

  • Cause: it is the result of diabetes and this is mainly the result of inbreeding between relatives of degus, sometimes also poor diet.
  • Prevention: Don’t let two related octodons mate.
  • Treatment: unfortunately there is no cure, but it is good to put a strict diet in place so that the cause – diabetes – does not get worse, and then the donkey can live a long time even with cataracts. They tolerate the impaired vision very well.


  • Cause: A lot of sugar or fat in the diet, sometimes the cause is congenital.
  • Consequence.
  • Prevention: Don’t feed them too much of a diet containing a lot of sugars and fats, for more see the Food section
  • Treatment: proper diet, again see the Food section

Tumors (usually also in older degus)

  • Cause: These tumors are benign, and cancer has reportedly never been observed in degus. The frequency of these tumors may be due to inbreeding between related octodons at the time the first pair of octodons were imported from Chile.
  • Consequence: the superficial tumours tend to be large and clearly visible – the octodons appear to be painless.
  • Prevention: occasional feeding of soy products.
  • Treatment: If you can find a doctor who has experience with small animals, cutting out the tumor can save the donkey’s life.

Liver problems (mainly affects females of childbearing age)

  • Cause: poor, unhealthy diet, too much fat in the diet.
  • Consequence: rapid changes in weight.
  • Prevention: Don’t feed your degu often sunflower seeds, peanuts and other fatty foods.

Parasites – rotzoans

  • Cause: They can catch them from other animals (mice, rats), sometimes from hay.
  • Consequence: they often scratch themselves, they have large bald spots.
  • Treatment: disinfectants are available, e.g. Frontline (after the first spray it should improve within 10 days, if not, apply a spray after 1 month). Arpalit is unsuitable!

Rhinitis – if not treated, pneumonia follows

  • Consequence: since the degu cannot blow his nose, his nose is full, runny, and you can hear it when he breathes
  • Treatment: go to a vet so that he can give your donkey antibiotics in time.


  • Cause: Most often due to a fight with another degu.
  • Treatment: usually heals itself within a few days. However, if the injury is too large or deep, or takes longer than a week to heal, take him to the vet.

Broken leg

  • Cause: as in humans – e.g. he landed awkwardly during a jump.
  • Consequence: sometimes you may not notice at first, but try not to step on the foot.
  • Treatment: The fracture heals itself in about a month, you can’t put it in a cast, an degu would take it off. I’ve even known a case where the leg died in the cast. During the time the bone is healing, you should try to prevent the degu from climbing and jumping so that the leg heals properly.


  • Cause: Most often because they have eaten too much lettuce or other fruit or vegetables (probably chemical sprays have been used on them).
  • Consequence: instead of solid poop, the octodon excretes mushy droppings, which you will notice (and probably smell) in the cage.
  • Prevention: Do not give your donkey any fresh food, only hay, pellets or dry bread.
  • Treatment.


  • Cause: Hard to say, could be from food.
  • Consequence: the degu is not vomiting, he is lethargic, dejected. The condition is rapidly(!) deteriorating.
  • Treatment. If there is no improvement within a few hours, seek a vet immediately, donkeys have a fast metabolism and every hour can play a role.

Neutering an octodon

They say the success rate is about 30%, so we were worried and went to our vet first and asked about his experience. He told us that he had operated on about 100-150 octuplets and that about 10 did not survive. But he said it’s a lot to do with whether he has a disease. But that the mortality rate as such is exactly the same as, say, a cat or a dog. So it probably depends on the skill of the doctor. Otherwise, in Prague it costs 600,- to castrate an degu, it takes a little over an hour, they give it to you at home. What is important! Until he is fully able to walk after anaesthesia, you have to keep him warm, as his temperature drops very quickly. But I’m sure an experienced doctor can tell you that.