Do Degus Eat Apples in the Wild?
Degus live in a semi-arid shrubland called “matorral” on the western slopes of the Andes.https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Octodon_degus/#habitat This region’s climate is called Mediterranean, meaning it has rainy winters and dry summers.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.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
The matorral region has mostly shrubland, such as hard-leaved shrubs and small trees, cactus, and bromeliads.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.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:
|Nutrient||Amount (per 100 grams)|
|Vitamin C||4 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.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.https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/rodents/degus/diet The PDSA also recommends avoiding fruit, except the occasional apple.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.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.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.
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.
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.
Want to Learn More?
If you’re interested in learning more about degus as pets, please read the following articles: