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Bottle or water bowl for the degus?

Octodon degus qui boit à un biberon - Photo par Déborah

Octodon degus drinking – Photo by Déborah

The availability of water at all times is essential for the health of the Octodon degus. One of the questions that arises most when it comes to the layout of the cage is the choice of water container: bowl or bottle. The bowl is often preferred, the argument being the so-called “natural” side of this accessory, as opposed to the bottle, which would not. However, both solutions are suitable for the degus on a daily basis.

The degus, an animal adapted to the drought

The degus is an animal naturally used to live in an arid or semi-arid environment. In some areas of Chile, where the degus lives, summers are hot and dry, and winters cold and rainy. It is to face these sometimes extreme variations that the degus shows physiological adaptations to conserve water as well as possible. It is even able to survive nearly 14 days without drinking1 ! The Octodon degus drinks on average only 10ml of water in summer and up to 40ml in winter, when the water is abundant, thanks in particular to the absorbed plants2. To do this, it changes its concentration, depending on the season, of aquaporin-2 (AQP-2)3. This is a family of proteins that play a role in transporting water across membranes. This shows that the degus adapts in the summer when water is a scarce resource, and changes the way it consumes water when it is abundant. The degus gets the vast majority of its water from its diet, it actually drinks very little. In summer, it compensates for the lack of water by increasing its intake of acacia leaves (Vachellia caven)3.

Please note that this article was translated with the help of DeepL. If you notice any mistakes, please send us an email at octodons.lesite@gmail.com! Thank you for your help!
Octodon degus prenant une pause le vendredi - Photo par Jonas Šileika (Ne pas donner d'alcool à vos octodons!)

Octodon degus taking a break on Friday – Photo by Jonas Šileika
(Do not give alcohol to your degus!)

Which waterer for the degus?

Although it can survive in a dry environment, the degus in captivity does not always find the moisture it needs in its diet. With a dry diet, it drinks about 23ml of water per day2. It is therefore essential to offer him water at will4. There are two ways to provide water ad libitum: the water bowl or the bottle. Both have advantages and disadvantages and except for some special cases, both are suitable for degus, which do not show any preferences4.

The water bowl

Often presented as THE natural solution to water your pet, the water bowl is very popular. However, drinking from the bowl is not more natural for the degus, which gets all the moisture it needs from its food. The water bowl can be offered to the degus, but it must respect certain criteria:

  • A thin rim, to prevent the degus from having trouble reaching the water;
  • A good fixation (or an important weight), to avoid that it falls down;
  • A daily maintenance: the water bowl tends to be soiled and the water is often dirtier. It is essential to clean it every day and to replace the contents;
  • A resistant material, plastic, should be discarded to allow a better maintenance.
  • Moreover, the water bowl is to be excluded during litters, in particular to avoid the risks of drowning. It can be put at disposal when the degus are big enough to climb it if they would fall in it.

Generally speaking, the quality of water in a feeding bowl is worse than in a bottle, which makes daily cleaning an essential task. It should be washed every day with soap and water, ideally with a small brush to limit bacterial deposits and regularly boiled.

Specific cases

In some very specific cases, the bowl is to be preferred to the bottle, in particular in case of renal insufficiency5 or in the degus having problems of movements. However, it is interesting to propose then both methods and to opt for a rather low bowl, to limit the risks of drowning.

Octodon degus qui boit à un biberon

Octodon degus drinking from a bottle – Photo by Déborah

The water bottle

The bottle is a safe way to give water to your degus. Generally, it is a simpler way to give water to your octodon, which avoids soiling and allows you to avoid daily water shortages. In general, water quality is better in a bottle6, if it is kept clean. However, the bottle should also be cleaned regularly with a brush. Like the bowl, the bottle must meet several criteria: 

  • Good quality: to avoid leaks.
  • A good water flow: the degus must not make a great effort to drink.
  • Easily cleanable: if possible dismountable or accessible to wash its “spout”.
  • An adapted attachment: solid and resistant.
  • An ideal position: the degus should not have to “twist” to drink

To choose a bottle that will last, we recommend looking at online reviews. However, please note that we have been using the Zolux bottle with the stopper opening for years without any problems.

Comparison

  Biberon Gamelle
Best water quality O X
Most important quantity of water drunk7 O X
Best quality of material X O
Easy to maintain X O
“Natural” method X X
Suitable for degus4 O O

The choice is simply up to the owner, depending on personal criteria, the amount of time spent on cage maintenance, and the way his degus drink. There is no best or dangerous solution5 4, it is even possible to offer both a bottle and a bowl and to advise according to the behavior of the degu!

Sources

  1. Quality testing of autoclaved rodent drinking water during short-term and long-term storage[]
  2. Untersuchungen an Degus zur Futter- und Wasseraufnahme sowie zur Verdaulichkeit von Nährstoffen[][]
  3. The water economy of South American desert rodents: From integrative to molecular physiological ecology[][]
  4. Drinking preferences in chinchillas (Chinchilla laniger), degus (Octodon degu) and guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus)[][][][]
  5. The Laboratory Rabbit, Guinea Pig, Hamster, and Other Rodents[][]
  6. Water nipples or water bowls for weaned piglets: Effect on water intake, performance, and plasma osmolality[]
  7. The preference for water nipples vs. water bowls in pregnant ewes[]

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