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Standard of breeding of the Octodon degus

The use of standard for the breeding of the degus allows the establishment of healthy lines, trying to limit the genetic problems and while preserving the physical appearance of the wild degus. This tool is important especially with the emergence of new colors of dresses, in order to prevent inbreeding and the consolidation of diseases with congenital character.

The WorldofDegus.com website strongly encourages all its readers to prefer adoption to buying from a pet store. However, setting up a breeding standard can help regulate health problems and avoid physical deformities in the degus. It is a tool for breeders.

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!

The standard of breeding of the Octodon degus

This standard is inspired by the tool set up by the site Degutopia, improved and enriched in view of the current knowledge on the degus. 

Genetics

Genetics is one of the essential points of the work of a “good” breeder. He must take into account the history of diseases, while avoiding the reproduction of animals having links of relationship in order to allow the species to “evolve” in a beneficial way.

Octodon degus in gestation

Kinship

In a general way, it is advisable not to reproduce its degus with close individuals, and to enrich regularly the breeding with external lines chosen with care. The acquisition of new offspring allows to maintain a strong genetic variability. The ideal is then to cross individuals at random or belonging to foreign strains.

In all cases, the reproduced degus must not be inbred with another related degus such as:

  • its parents,
  • its grandparents,
  • its half-brothers or half-sisters,
  • its brothers or sisters,
  • its uncles and aunts.

Diseases

In order to limit the spread of hereditary diseases, it is advisable to remove from reproduction any individual with the slightest sign of a potentially genetic disease, to avoid risk factors. The degus is particularly sensitive to dental pathologies, diabetes and cataract. Thus any individual carrying these diseases must be withdrawn from the breeding: 

  • dental pathologies (any type),
  • cancer,
  • cataract / diabetes,
  • cardiac malformations,
  • functional malformations,
  • respiratory problems.

In general, it is advisable to limit the breeding to healthy animals, without any health problem1

Physiology

Age

The degus put to the reproduction must be completely adult, that is to say between 58 weeks and 1 year and half. Animals that are too old should be removed from breeding, ideally at 2 to 2.5 years of age, the average age in the wild2 3.

Weight

The ideal weight of the octodon should be between 200g and 250g4. Overweight or too thin degus should not be kept as breeders.

Litters

Baby agouti degu

The number of litters should not exceed 2 to 3 in the octodon’s lifetime, which is the average number of litters per female octodon in the wild5 4.

Behavior and character

The behavior of the degus is an important factor to take into account during the breeding. it is thus advisable to pay attention to each individual and to select “positive” character traits:

  • the degus must have an alert and active behavior,
  • the degu must be curious, explore and be interested in its environment,
  • the relationship of the degus with humans must be friendly, without biting when the degu is handled correctly,
  • the degu must be intelligent and simple to educate,
  • it must be “well coded” towards its congeners and have lived with its mother until the age of 60 days minimum. Ideally, the degus is raised by a group of degus close to the natural social organization (1-2 males and up to 6 females).

Illustration by ValoniaArt

General appearance

Head

The degus must have a rather strong head compared to the rest of the body, of overall oval shape.

Eyes

Eye of an Octodon degus – Photo by Michelle Loftus

The eyes of the degus should be wide open, medium sized, with a slight almond shape. The iris should be dark brown, with an almond-shaped pupil. The degus should be free of eye disease or vision defects.

Muzzle

It should be well formed, with well defined nostrils and a clear vertical separation leading to the lips.

Teeth

The degus’s teeth should be well orange, of equal size and not too long. The animal must NEVER have had any dental problems to be able to reproduce, to avoid genetic diseases.

Vibrissae

Must be of a length appropriate to the size of the body (not too short) and fairly full (not too sparse).

Ears

Ears should be well shaped, rounded, short furred and notched. They should measure between 3 and 4cm. The ears of the degus should not be deformed or drooping and should not show any sign of disease or mites.

Body of a octodon degus

Body

The degus should have a slightly rounded body. Its limbs must be intact and functional, free of deformities. Likewise, it should have a skeletal and body structure without deformity and a normal gait. The coat must be free of mites or baldness, it must be healthy and shiny, without having excessive sebum.

Front paws

Front paw of a degus

The front legs of the degus should have 4 full toes and a trace of a fifth toe, none of these limbs should show deformity. The pads must be healthy. In general, the legs must be completely covered with fur and show no mites or skin problems.

PatteHind leg of a degusarrière d’un octodon

Hind legs

The rear legs of the degus should have 4 intact toes and a small dewclaw, and should not show any deformity. The pads should be sound. In general, the paws should be completely covered with fur and should not show any trace of mites or skin problems.

Tail

Octodon degus tail with tuft

It should be between 12 and 15 cm long with a bushy and well furnished feathering. Mixed colors are allowed, regardless of the dress.

Colors

In recent years, many colors have appeared through breeding. These have been obtained through crossbreeding, bringing out new genes. It is necessary to pay attention in a general way to the dresses, which are often considered as “prettier” than the original color of the degus, the agouti, because they can hide important problems. Indeed, it is possible that hybridizations require a certain inbreeding, which harms the species. Moreover, the degus only chosen on a physical criterion can give lines having many health problems, related to the lack of selection in the breeding.

Agouti

Octodon degus en gestation

This is the natural color of the degus, composed of 60% brown fur and 40% black fur. Variations of lighter or darker colors may be allowed. There should be no traces of white fur, only tolerated on the vibrissae and the toupee.

Champagne agouti

Often called blue mutation, this is a variation of the agouti with browner fur tending to cream color, making the animals a little lighter. The degus should not be variegated. The color should be uniform.

Sand

The coat should be almost reddish, orange like a pumpkin, quite light while carrying some black fur, kept from the agouti, more present especially around the muzzle. The rest of the body should be uniform.

Cream

This is a mutation derived from the champagne agouti, with a cream and sandy coat, with very few black hairs. Overall, the coat is very similar to sable, while being much lighter. The color should stand out from the sand and remain uniform.

Blue

Celestine, gray Octodon degus – Photo by Lomano Gonzalez

This color probably originated to enhance natural camouflage and has developed over time. This mutation also gave rise to the black degus. The blue color remains fairly light, but more pronounced than the champagne agouti.

Black

Appearing after the selection of the darkest blue individuals, black degus are covered with very dark fur from head to toe. The parts without fur, like the ears must also be black or dark.

White

There are no “true” white degus, because of the absence of albino individuals, either in the wild or in captivity. White degus have completely white fur, because the pigment does not reach the fur. Individuals can have darker parts, especially around the eyes, ears and lower back, tending to gray/black.

Lilac

Very light gray, the coat should also be uniform and well differentiated from blue.

Patched

The degus can be variegated with other coats, i.e. have white spots on a “full” coat. It is important to note that the variegation has only 2 different colors.

Two agouti patched degus – Photo by Michelle Loftus

Sources

  1. ELEVAGE ET REPRODUCTION DES RONGEURS MYOMORPHES DOMESTIQUES EN FRANCE[]
  2. Effects of vertebrate predation on a caviomorph rodent, the degu (Octodon degus), in a semiarid thorn scrub community in Chile[]
  3. Octodon degus -Charles A. Woods and David K. Boraker[]
  4. UN NOUVEL ANIMAL DE COMPAGNIE : L’OCTODON, OCTODON DEGUS[][]
  5. Octodon Degus: an Animal Model That Benefits Translational Medicine[]

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