This was posted to an email group - I am posting here with permission from the author.
Hello all, I wanted to get this health alert out to the community.
Oscar, my degu, just had a visit to the vet. While there, the vet and I had
a long discussion about his food.
Long story short: alfalfa hay and alfalfa-based pellets are bad for our
degus' health. Alfalfa is too high in unavailable calcium, which will
eventually cause kidney damage.
Now, I knew that alfalfa hay was bad, but it had never occurred to me to
think of the pellets, and the fact that they are alfalfa-based. My vet
recommended taking Oscar off of any alfalfa-based food.
Feed your degus low-calcium green veggies; this should be the major element
of their diet. Some good veggies include:
Bad veggies include:
My vet actually gave me a list of which veggies were best and which were
worst, but I can't find it right now- as soon as I locate it, I'll type it
out and send it to the lists. There are the ones I remember, though.
The idea is to feed a degu low calcium, green, fibrous vegetables. (I'm
sure you all know, to avoid sugar as well, as sugary foods lead to diabetes
in degus.) Otherwise, their kidneys have to filter out that calcium, which
can cause severe damage. My vet (an exotics specialist) told me that the
majority of pet rodents die of kidney failure, which is a gruesome and
painful way to go.
I switched my degu to a different diet, and not only did he put back on the
weight he had lost, but his demeanor totally changed- he is back to his
perky self. Right now, I feed him romaine lettuce, broccoli, and green
beans, with the occasional asparagus stalk or green onion for variety, and a
chunk of sweet potato or a peanut as the occasional treat..
You don't have to take your degu completely off of pellets: we found a brand
of pellets that is exactly the same as the Kay-Tee brand we were using
before, except based on timothy instead of alfalfa. They are from Oxbow Hay
Company, and the web site is at http://www.oxbowhay.com.
I still give my
degu these pellets, but in honesty he much prefers the fresh veggies- he
leaves the pellets for nibbling, not for meals.
I hope this helps your degus live longer, healthier lives. If you have any
questions, feel free to email me.
good luck to you all!