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Neutering degus

Octodon degus sterilization or castration is used to limit reproduction in this rodent. It involves the removal of reproductive capacity, often surgically and permanently. Castration is now widespread for males, to regulate certain aggressive behaviors between males, particularly in the presence of females. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to consider before having a degus neutered01

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Advantages and disadvantages of sterilization/castration of degus

Before making a decision regarding this medical procedure on a degus, it’s important to be properly informed about the advantages and disadvantages of neutering a degu. You should also discuss the matter with your veterinarian, in order to validate your choice with a professional.

Illustration by ly_boo

Benefits of neutering

  • Preventing reproduction between degus: the main advantage of sterilization is to stop reproduction. This avoids unwanted litters, as well as the management of pregnancies and babies, which are often difficult to place.
  • Reduced aggressive behavior: sterilization can help reduce aggressive behavior, especially in males. Sterilized males are generally less prone to territorial conflicts and aggression in search of females.
  • Better social compatibility: sterilized males often get on better with their fellow dogs, making group cohabitation easier and minimizing conflicts.
  • Elimination of pregnancy risks: for females, sterilization eliminates the risks associated with pregnancy and parturition. This can be crucial to their health and well-being, as degus have up to a 50% chance of restarting an estrous cycle within a week of giving birth02 (in captivity).
  • Prevention of certain diseases: sterilization can reduce the risk of certain reproductive diseases, such as uterine infections in females or certain cancers.

Disadvantages of neutering

  • Anesthesia and associated risks: sterilization requires general anesthesia, which always entails risks, especially for small rodents such as Octodon degus.
  • Behavioral changes: sterilization can lead to behavioral changes due to hormonal fluctuations. These changes may or may not be temporary.
  • Effects on growth and development: early sterilization of young degus may affect their growth, development and even adult behavior. Its brain development and circadian cycle may be altered, with adverse consequences for the degus’s long-term health.
  • Weight gain: male degus have a tendency to gain weight following castration. For the sake of their health, you should keep a close eye on their diet and not let them exceed 300g.
  • Irreversible surgery: neutering is an irreversible procedure. Once the reproductive organs have been removed, there is no turning back.
  • Procedural stress: surgery and the post-sterilization recovery period can be stressful for degus, influencing their general well-being. However, this is often a very temporary condition.
  • The need for an experienced veterinarian: sterilizing small rodents like Octodon degus requires the expertise of a veterinarian experienced in this field, and familiar with the specificities of the species.
The Octodon degus does not become an adult until 53 to 55 weeks of age, i.e. after just over a year03. Spaying or neutering your pet before the age of one can have a major impact on its physical and mental growth, notably by halting its brain development and circadian functions. This can have a detrimental long-term impact on the animal's health. We recommend neutering/castration only at the end of this period.


Female degus are rarely sterilized, as the operation is often more complex and time-consuming than for males04. It is often performed to treat certain pathologies, such as cancer.
One of the methods described is a ventral incision along the midline from the umbilicus to a point at the center of the ileal orifice. The intestinal tract is voluminous, and gentle retraction of the cecum with a sterile, moistened cotton swab enables the uterus to be identified. The procedure then proceeds in the same way as for domestic mammals, although the use of ligature clips facilitates hemostasis of the ovarian pedicle and reduces the duration of the operation. The cervix can be ligated using a transfixing ligature, and all ligation sites must be carefully checked for haemorrhage before closure of the body wall, subcutaneous tissues and skin in three layers.

⚠️Female sterilization⚠️


Male castration is a lighter surgical procedure than female castration05. Bilateral preputial plasty is most often used for castration. Light pressure on the caudal abdomen places the testes in an inguinal position, and incisions are made on each testicle. Adipose tissue may be abundant, and careful dissection is required to visualize the testicle. Alternatively, an abdominal approach can be used, with a single midline abdominal incision to access both testes in the abdomen. The caudal attachments are dissected and the testes can be exteriorized and the spermatic cord ligated. The abdomen is closed in three layers as for ovariohysterectomy06.

⚠️Male neutering⚠️

Post-operative care

You should follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for post-operative care to the letter. Generally, animals are placed on anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving medication for a few days. The cage should be cleaned daily to avoid the risk of infection, and sand removed for a few days to prevent it accumulating on the wound.

It should also be borne in mind that neutered males may still have viable sperm in their bodies for several days/weeks after the operation. It is necessary to wait a minimum of 10-15 days before placing the male with a female, although to date there are no studies to determine how long it takes for the degus to develop azoospermia.

Jeunes octodons en train de téter leur mère
Young degus suckling their mother


Sterilization or castration of degus is becoming increasingly popular among veterinary surgeons, to prevent animal-to-animal breeding. It is a surgical procedure that can also be carried out to treat a health problem. It is advisable to take the time to discuss the matter with a competent veterinarian before making the final decision. The operation is never without risk, but groups of degus with one male and a few females are often more stable.


  1. La stérilisation des rongeurs : étude rétrospective au moyen d’un questionnaire[]
  2. Husbandry and Breeding in the Octodon degu (Molina 1782)[]
  3. Pubertal development of sex differences in circadian function: an animal model[]
  4. Successful Management of a Case of Pregnancy Failure in a Degu (Octodon degus)[]
  5. Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery[]

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