How Long Does a Degu Live in the Wild and in Captivity?

The degu is a rodent that doesn’t have a short lifespan like other small rodents. In fact, the lifespan of degus is among the highest of the pet rodents. When you’re interested in getting a degu or when you already have one, you’ll want to know how long a degu lives. The lifespan of a pet plays an important role when preparing for a pet.

How long does a degu live? Degus in captivity have a longer lifespan than degus in the wild. In general, degus in captivity will live between 5 and 9 years. There are several factors that will influence the lifespan, such as genetics, care, and diet. In the wild, degus will live between 1 and 4 years.

A degu is a long-term commitment and you’ll need to be prepared to care for your degus for almost a decade. But when you decide to get degus you won’t be disappointed. These little rodents are great to watch and can get affectionate when bonded. You’ll want them around for as long as possible and this article is all about that.

In this article, you’ll learn what the lifespan of degus in the wild and in captivity is. You’ll learn what factors have an influence on the lifespan and how they influence it. Finally, you’ll get some tips and tricks to extend the lifespan of your degus so they can live a long and healthy life.

Degu Lifespan in the Wild

Wild degus have a shorter lifespan than degus that are held in captivity. In general, a wild degu will live between 1 and 4 years and most of them will die in the very first years. The degu lifespan in the wild is shortened by the many dangers they’re exposed to such as predators, diseases, and ingestion of pesticides from farms.

Degu Lifespan in Captivity

The lifespan of a captive or pet degu is a lot longer and usually is between 5 and 9 years, which is a lot longer than most pet rodents. This means that a degu is a long-term commitment. So when you’re planning to buy a degu you’ll need to consider whether or not your life is ready and settled for such a commitment.

Although a pet degu won’t be exposed to the dangers of predators or pesticides, they can get sick. But the main dangers in captivity that might lead to a short lifespan are improper care and a bad diet. I’ll explore both of these below in a second.

Important Factors

The most important factors that will determine the lifespan of your degu are:

  • genetic predisposition
  • the way you care for your degus
  • the diet of your degus


Genetic predisposition to certain health issues is one of the main factors that determine the lifespan of any animal, including your degu. Degus are known to be prone to certain health issues and diseases. It’s best to be aware that your degu is susceptible to these health problems so you can try to limit the possibility of them coming up.


Degus are very susceptible to get diabetes. The cells of the pancreas will stop using or producing insulin and your degu will urinate a lot more and will also drink more. Diabetes can also be the cause of other health issues, like eye problems.

Alzheimer’s disease

Degus are sometimes used as lab animals because of their use in research on diabetes. But they’re also used to study the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Degus experience similar degenerative changes in the cortex that are caused by their longer lifespan. The progression of this disease in degus is similar to that of humans. Wild degus won’t experience this disease. But since pet degus live a lot longer than wild degus, a lot of them will eventually develop Alzheimer’s like symptoms.


A lot of older degus develop cataracts, which is a lesion on the lens of the eye also known as a cloudy lens. It’s not entirely known what causes these cataracts but the main suspects are diabetes, an improper diet, and genetic predisposition.


Just as humans, degus can also develop cancers and some of them are possibly inherited.


The lifespan of your degu will be reduced when it doesn’t receive the proper care it deserves. To live a healthy and long life your degu will need:

  • companionship
  • appropriate housing
  • a well-balanced diet (which I’ll take about later)
  • toys and accessories
  • proper handling
  • regular visits to the vet


Degus are social creatures that live in groups in the wild. A common mistake that new degu owners will make is to get only one degu and keep it as a solitary animal. When you keep only one degu, you create a risky situation. Your degu will have a high risk of stress and boredom which will eventually lead to a shorter lifespan.

So don’t make the mistake of getting only one degu and get at least a pair or even better a small group of degus. This will only have benefits and will stimulate the natural behavior of your degus.

Appropriate housing

Another common mistake that new degu owners make is getting small and inappropriate housing. Degus need a fairly large amount of space to climb and run around and not all kinds of rodent cages are suitable for degus. Get a large enough enclosure with a proper substrate and bedding that’s suitable for degus.

Toys and accessories

Toys and accessories will keep your degus busy and will prevent them from getting bored. You should definitely invest in chew toys to wear down the teeth of your degus. Degu teeth will grow continuously and degus need to chew to prevent dental problems.

Proper handling

Degus are smart and curious animals but contrary to other pet rodents they usually don’t like being picked up and handled. They do like to walk freely on your body from your arm to your shoulder but this is a more “advanced” handling technique. When you try to handle your degus too much or try to force them to be pet, this can cause stress and a shorter lifespan. So please don’t force anything and learn how to handle degus.

Health problems and vet visits

Degus can get a few “common” health problems that can usually be avoided. These health problems are:

  • dental problems
  • skin problems
  • parasites
  • bumblefoot
  • gastrointestinal problems

When you notice signs of health issues, seek the help of an experienced vet. It’s also best to get your degus a checkup each year.


Another important factor that has an influence on the lifespan of a degu is the diet. Luckily this is the factor that you can adjust yourself. A well-balanced diet will keep your degu healthy as long as possible and will prevent the development of a lot of diseases.

Degus require a low-protein and high-fiber herbivore diet. Wil degus will eat grasses, seeds, and shrubs but pet degus sometimes aren’t given the necessary nutrients and eat too many treats.

The main diet of pets degus should of hay, pellet food, and fresh vegetables. You can give the occasional treat to your degus but will need to limit this because most treats are high in fat and sugar content. This can lead to obesity and diabetes in your degus. Vitamin and mineral supplements are – in general – not needed, but can help prevent diseases.

Tips and Tricks for a Long Degu Lifespan

Although pet degus already have a long lifespan, you can take some measures to extend the lifespan of your little pet. Follow these 10 tips and tricks to enhance your degu’s life so it can live a long and healthy life:

  • get your degu from a reputable breeder or pet store that can give more information about the lineage of the degu
  • feed your degu a well-balanced diet with hay and avoid high-sugar foods and treats
  • find an experienced vet that can help you when your degu gets sick or injured
  • get your degu the company of another degu or get a (small) group of degus
  • handle your degu properly and let them come to you
  • interact with your degus daily to bond with them and make them part of your life
  • never grab your degu by its tail as this will cause an instinctive defense mechanism
  • make sure that your degu has a large enough enclosure
  • provide enough toys and accessories in their cage to prevent stress and boredom
  • never force your degu to swim or give it a water bath

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