Degus are animals that need hay and high-quality pellets or seed mixes as a staple diet. You should supplement this diet with low-sugar foods such as vegetables and herbs. You might also be tempted to feed your degus fruit such as apples, but can degus eat apples?

Degus can’t eat apples and apple seeds. Fresh, dried, and dehydrated apples contain a lot of sugar. Since degus are susceptible to diabetes, high-sugar foods should be avoided. Apple seeds should also never be fed. These seeds contain amygdalin, which converts to poisonous cyanide in the body.

Although most pocket pets can eat apples, degus are an important exception to this rule. This is because apples contain a lot of sugar and should never be given to degus.

Some sources suggest that you can give apples to degus in small proportions. Although tiny amounts of apple will likely have a minimal impact on the development of diabetes, we don’t recommend giving apples because it will be complicated to estimate the right amount.

Based on our extensive research, we recommend that degu owners never feed apples to degus.

Do Degus Eat Apples in the Wild?

Degus live in a semi-arid shrubland called “matorral” on the western slopes of the Andes.[1]https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Octodon_degus/#habitat This region’s climate is called Mediterranean, meaning it has rainy winters and dry summers.[2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilean_Matorral

The mean annual maximum temperatures in this region are between 20 and 25°C. Rain occurs mainly during the cooler months (April to September). The annual rainfall is below 200-700 mm.[3]Read, J., Sanson, G. and Pérez Trautmann, M.F. (2016), Leaf traits in Chilean matorral: sclerophylly within, among, and beyond matorral, and its environmental determinants. Ecol Evol, 6: … Continue reading

Terpsichores, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The matorral region has mostly shrubland, such as hard-leaved shrubs and small trees, cactus, and bromeliads.[4]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilean_Matorral Apple trees don’t naturally occur in this region of Chile. These trees need enough water to grow. An established tree also needs about one inch (2.5 cm) of rainfall every week to ten days.[5]https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/apples/apple-tree-watering.htm

So, apples aren’t naturally available to degus. However, this doesn’t mean that degus won’t eat apples when you give them. Doing so can be a health risk, especially when you give too much and too many times.

Nutritional Value of Apples (Analysis)

You can find the nutritional value of apples on FoodData Central, a US Department of Agriculture database. Below you can find the most important data:

NutrientAmount (per 100 grams)
Water85.1 g
Protein0.27 g
Fiber2.5 g
Sugars10.6 g
Calcium5 mg
Magnesium5.1 mg
Phosphorus10 mg
Vitamin C4 mg

Why Degus Shouldn’t Eat Apples

Fresh, dried, and dehydrated apples

Although not all degus will develop diabetes, they are more at risk of getting it than other pets. So the general advice is to avoid high-sugar foods such as treats and fruits. Giving such foods can cause diabetes and cataracts.[6]Brown, C., & M. Donnelly, T. (2012). Chapter 27 – Disease Problems of Small Rodents. Στο K. E. Quesenberry & J. W. Carpenter (Επιμ.), Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents (Third … Continue reading

Most reputable sources recommend not feeding fruit to degus. The RSPCA recommends avoiding fruit that contains a lot of sugar, indicating that many fruits are high in sugar.[7]https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/rodents/degus/diet The PDSA also recommends avoiding fruit, except the occasional apple.[8]https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/looking-after-your-pet/small-pets/your-degus-diet PetMD recommends avoiding fruit, without making a distinction between certain fruits.[9]https://www.petmd.com/exotic/care/everything-you-need-know-about-caring-degu

Degus are trendy pets in Germany and Switzerland. The Swiss Animal Protection Society says to avoid fruit because of the risk of diabetes. You should also avoid dried fruit in pellet or seed mixes.[10]https://www.tierschutz.com/publikationen/heimtiere/infothek/kleintiere/degus.pdf

Fresh apples contain 10% sugar, while dried or dehydrated apples usually contain at least 60% sugar or more. Tiny amounts of apple that are given extremely rare will have a minimal impact on the development of diabetes. But, like the above-mentioned sources, I recommend not feeding apples because of the potential risks.

Apple seeds

You should never give apple seeds to degus. These seeds contain the chemical compound amygdalin, which is composed of cyanide and sugar. When your gerbil chews on the seed it will release the cyanide. Cyanide is poisonous and will cause to death of your gerbil quickly, even in small amounts.

Alternative Treats

There are plenty of alternative treats that you can feed to your degus. For example, you can provide vegetables and herbs to your degus, but you can also give certain treats that you can buy in pet stores or online.

When you live in Europe, you can probably get your hands on one of the favorite treats of degus, the ‘crocks’ (Versele Laga Crocks Complete Herbs). These are my go-to treats for my own degus. Although degus would love a crock each day, you should limit it to once every two to three days.

When you don’t live in Europe, you can feed dandelion roots or sunflower seeds (high in fat). You can also probably find meadow loops and woodland loops, which are also loved by degus.

Want to Learn More?

If you’re interested in learning more about degus as pets, please read the following articles:

If you’re interested in getting degus as pets, you should read our beginner’s guide to keeping degus as pets and our degu care guide.

References

References
1 https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Octodon_degus/#habitat
2, 4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilean_Matorral
3 Read, J., Sanson, G. and Pérez Trautmann, M.F. (2016), Leaf traits in Chilean matorral: sclerophylly within, among, and beyond matorral, and its environmental determinants. Ecol Evol, 6: 1430-1446. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.1970
5 https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/apples/apple-tree-watering.htm
6 Brown, C., & M. Donnelly, T. (2012). Chapter 27 – Disease Problems of Small Rodents. Στο K. E. Quesenberry & J. W. Carpenter (Επιμ.), Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents (Third Edition) (Third Edition, σσ. 354–372). doi:10.1016/B978-1-4160-6621-7.00027-0
7 https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/rodents/degus/diet
8 https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/looking-after-your-pet/small-pets/your-degus-diet
9 https://www.petmd.com/exotic/care/everything-you-need-know-about-caring-degu
10 https://www.tierschutz.com/publikationen/heimtiere/infothek/kleintiere/degus.pdf

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