After an operation to file down the teeth or remove a root, it is important that the degu has a diet tailored to its calcium needs and the ability to chew properly to prevent relapses1. here are several tricks to implement to avoid improper dental overgrowth. This involves first changing their diet and then addressing their lifestyle, especially behavioral issues.
For animals with physical trauma (broken jaw, etc.), limiting tooth growth is more complex due to altered natural friction. However, offering regular filing by a veterinarian, along with foods to maintain good dental health, can be beneficial.
How to feed a degu with dental problems
Dental pathologies can have various causes such as trauma, genetic defects, or poor nutrition2. Dental issues affect up to 76% of degus in veterinary consultations3 , making it the most common ailment for these small rodents. The primary cause of this disease remains nutrition, especially the lack of calcium and an imbalanced calcium-to-phosphorus ratio4. Dietary fibers also play a crucial role in the degu’s dental health5.
Weight regain in the degu
Initially, it is essential for the animal to have a body mass suitable for its morphology. Captive degus should weigh between 170g and 300g. To help the degu regain normal weight, it is possible, after consulting with a veterinarian, to administer convalescent foods 6 7. If the animal accepts eating on its own, you can leave it on this diet until it regains its normal weight. It is important during this weight regain phase to weigh the degu daily to check if the diet is effective.
The two most suitable brands are the herbivore lines of Oxbow’s Critical Care and Lafeber’s EmerAid. These are rich in fibers and provide a minimum amount of calcium.
Calcium and fiber intake
It is necessary to provide at least 1% calcium in the degu’s diet. This helps maintain healthy teeth and ensures even growth. Additionally, phosphorus should not exceed 0.5%, with a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of at least 2:12 4. To achieve this, choose a food brand that meets the animal’s needs. Several options are available: switch to an SAB diet, which contains plants and a few seeds but can be restrictive, or opt for a brand that offers pellets tailored to the degu’s needs. In case of regular relapses, pellets can be a good option even though they limit chewing because they prevent the degu from sorting. Cunipic Naturaliss Chinchilla & Degus Complet, Versele-laga Crispy Pellets Chinchilla & Degus, and Vadigran Terra degu – Dègue have fiber and calcium levels suitable for the animal.
Fibers & hays
Fiber helps maintain good digestive health and has an abrasive effect on the teeth5. Therefore, when presented in the form of plants (dried or fresh) or hay, fiber helps maintain the natural wear of the teeth9. It is necessary to provide a large amount of fiber to the degu. This involves a suitable diet and a sufficient supply of hay. The hay should be species-appropriate and presented in an appetizing manner. For degus in poor condition, you can choose hay richer in calcium than average, at least initially, to promote proper teeth growth. Otherwise, grass hay, meadow hay, or Timothy hay are suitable for the degu.
Chewing plays a crucial role in the natural wear of the degu’s teeth. Therefore, hay and plants with long stems or leaves are essential daily offerings, providing the degu with calcium-rich and long-stemmed vegetation.
Composition of the diet
Once the basics of nutrition are understood, namely an appropriate calcium level for the species and fiber intake, creating a diet for a degu with dental problems is not very complicated.
To achieve this, you should limit your degu’s pellet intake. The pellet mix should contain the necessary nutrients for the rodent, at least 1% calcium with a maximum of 0.5% phosphorus. Degus consume an average of 20g of rations per day. By closely monitoring weight loss and encouraging the animal to chew more, you can limit pellet intake to force the degu to consume more hay or plants. Hay should be offered to the animal at all times and be very appetizing for it to be consumed as much as possible. Scatter it throughout the cage so that the degu always has something to chew on.
Finally, plants should be offered as a supplement to the diet. Choose calcium-rich plants during your selection. If your degu is accustomed and it does not make them sick, fresh plants can be offered10. Otherwise, add dried plants daily. Remember to select the largest and longest leaves and stems possible. All mixes containing only crushed plant ends should be avoided. The goal here is to encourage regular and long chewing to maintain even wear, especially of molars and premolars.
If your animal is picky or has regular relapses, there is a rabbit supplement that can be given regularly to the degu: Selective Naturals Fibafirst from Supreme Science. The pellet shape allows for optimal tooth wear, and it provides some calcium to the diet. Supplemented with hay richer in calcium, this will allow the degu to chew properly and limit tooth overgrowth.
Crude protein 14.0%, Crude fibre 30.0%, Crude oils and fats 3.5%, Crude ash 7.5%, Calcium 0.8%, Phosphorus 0.4%, Sodium 0.4%
Vitamin A 15000 IU, Vitamin D3 1500 IU, Vitamin E 60mg, Ferrous sulphate monohydrate 152mg, Calcium iodate anhydrous 1.5 mg, Copper sulphate pentahydrate 20 mg, Manganese oxide 38mg, Zinc oxide 62mg, Sodium selenite 0.2mg
Minimizing Behavioral Problems
Behavioral problems can also exacerbate dental pathologies. Indeed, some degus gnaw on the bars of their cages throughout the day. This not only harms their incisors but also limits their chewing time or food-searching behavior. It is often a way for the animal to express a need that cannot be fulfilled in daily life11. Therefore, it is necessary to study the behavior of your animals, for example, by recording them at different times of the day to understand what triggers behavioral issues. It is also important to provide regular enrichments and remove food bowls to encourage food searching.
Regular Veterinary Follow-up
Finally, it is important to have regular veterinary follow-ups with medical imaging8 (endoscopy, X-rays, etc.) to check the condition of the teeth and adjust treatments as needed, either through dietary changes or more frequent filing.
- Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents Clinical Medicine and Surgery by Katherine Quesenberry, Christoph Mans, Connie Orcutt
- Impact of pelleted diets with different mineral compositions on the crown size of mandibular cheek teeth and mandibular relative density in degus (Octodon degus)
- Diseases in pet degus: A retrospective study in 300 animals
- Impact of a high-phosphorus diet on the sonographic and CT appearance of kidneys in degus, and possible concurrence with dental problems
- Nutrition and Behavior of Degus (Octodon degus)
- Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents, Clinical Medicine and Surgery
- How to provide nutrition to rabbits in the critical care setting
- Anatomy and Disorders of the Oral Cavity of Chinchillas and Degus
- Dentistry in Hypselodont Small Animals: Guinea-pigs, Degus and Chinchillas
- Feeding and Digesting Fiber and Tannins by an Herbivorous Rodent, Octodon degas (Rodentia: Caviomorpha)
- Les stéréotypies des animaux élevés en captivité : étude bibliographique