Help! It's A Degu! Exploring the World of Hystricomorph Rodents

The charming and interactive nature of degus makes them popular pets among small mammal enthusiasts. However, their unique needs and healthcare requirements often pose challenges for veterinary professionals. To address these challenges, The Webinar Vet, in collaboration with Burgess Excel, proudly presented the enlightening webinar "Help! It's A Degu!" hosted by Madonna Livingstone. Let's dive into the insights shared during this invaluable session.

Understanding Degus:

Degus, a hystricomorph rodent species, are known for their social behaviour and longevity, with captive lifespans ranging from 5 to 9 years. Highly affectionate and interactive, degus require adequate social interaction and physical stimulation to thrive. Madonna emphasized the importance of providing spacious enclosures, solid flooring, and enrichment tools like wheels and digging substrates to promote their well-being.

Nutritional Needs:

A balanced diet is crucial for degus, consisting of high-quality hay, pellets, and occasional treats like pumpkin seeds. Madonna recommended incorporating interactive feeding methods to stimulate natural foraging behaviours, enhancing both physical and mental health.

Healthcare Considerations:

Madonna provided valuable insights into sexing degus, dental care, pain management, and common health issues such as dental disease and diabetes mellitus. Dental disease, affecting 60% of degus over the age of 2, requires proactive management to prevent complications. Madonna highlighted the importance of regular clinical examinations, pain assessment, and tailored treatment plans for optimal outcomes.

Clinical Management:

Clinical examination and diagnostic imaging play pivotal roles in diagnosing and treating degu health issues. Madonna shared practical tips for handling and examining degus, emphasizing the need for gentle restraint and thorough assessment techniques. Analgesia and surgical interventions require careful consideration due to the lack of licensed medications for degus.


Attendees praised Madonna's expertise and the webinar's informative content:

- "Everything was good. Keep it up."

- "Thank you to Dr Livingstone and Burgess not only for excellent information but also for promoting good husbandry of the little peoples."

- "Webinar with Madonna are always a hit!"

- "Excellent, informative webinar, thank you."

- "This was a fantastic webinar. I learned so much that I never knew or had considered in degus. I can't wait to pass on what I have learned to my team members. Thank you Madonna, and thank you Burgess for sponsoring this."

"Help! It's A Degu!" provided invaluable insights into the unique healthcare needs of these charming rodents. Madonna Livingstone's expertise, combined with Burgess Excel's sponsorship, ensured an enriching learning experience for veterinary professionals. As we continue to enhance our understanding of degu care, we empower ourselves to provide the best possible support for these beloved pets.


Q&A with Madonna Livingstone

During the "Help! It's A Degu!" webinar, attendees had the opportunity to engage with Madonna Livingstone, gaining further insights into the unique healthcare needs of degus. Here are some of the questions posed by participants, along with Madonna's expert responses:

Question: What was the minimum area requirement for degus?

Madonna's Answer: A minimum sized enclosure of 1m x 0.85m x 1m for 2 degus.

Question: Can you recommend a food brand which has safe treats for degus?

Madonna's Answer: Burgess Chinchilla Pellets are safe for degus. Fresh herbs such as basil or coriander are safe, as well as occasional pumpkin seeds. Avoid treats containing sugar, molasses, or honey.

Question: Do degus shed skin cells on the tail, or is hyperkeratosis possible there?

Madonna's Answer: Their tail is covered in fur, but hyperkeratosis is possible.

Question: Is glucose testing a must for degus?

Madonna's Answer: It is strongly recommended if they present with cataracts.

Question: How about amitriptyline for wind-up pain in degus?

Madonna's Answer: Amitriptyline can be used to help break the cycle of self-injurious behaviour. Care should be taken if currently dosed with tramadol to avoid serotonin storm.

Question: What kind of pain scoring method is used for degus?

Madonna's Answer: There is no pain ethogram in degus, so pain scoring is based on full clinical examination and response to spinal palpation and range of movement.

Question: What is the dosage for paracetamol in degus?

Madonna's Answer: 25-50 mg/kg q 8-12hrs PO.

Question: Can dental diseases be prevented by diet in degus?

Madonna's Answer: Diet plays a significant role in dental disease prevention, but chronic pain also contributes. A good radiographic atlas book for small exotic mammals is recommended for further guidance.

Question: Why use isoflurane and not sevoflurane for degus?

Madonna's Answer: Personal preference and licensing considerations in the UK.

Question: How to premedicate degus for abdomen surgery?

Madonna's Answer: Oral analgesics can be given pre-operatively, along with occasional oral transmucosal buprenorphine.


Stay tuned for future webinars and educational opportunities from The Webinar Vet and Burgess excel, dedicated to promoting excellence in veterinary care for all species.

Help! It’s A Degu!

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