Neutering Degus

You have one, lonely male and two females that he can only see through the bars. What can you do? Of course you want your degus to be happy, but you don't want them to breed. Degus crave attention and this is often a crucial factor in prolonging their lifespan. Many degu owners turn to neutering to solve their problems, but what are the pro's and con's?

Neutering is an operation in which the male degu is anaesthetised and his testicles are surgically removed by the veterinarian. This renders him infertile and unable (and often unwilling) to reproduce.



Previously solitary males can live healthier, more social lives

Males housed with others can live longer than if housed in isolation

Neutered males are much less aggressive toward both female and other male degus

Neutered males are not as territorial

Neutered males have improved olfactory discrimination due to lack of testosterone

Neutered males can synchronise their circadian rhythms better by taking odour cues from others

No chance of unwanted pregnancies/pups

Reduction or elimination of problems associated with mating and reproduction

Rapid healing time post operatively

Relatively quick procedure

Neutered males may have improved immune function 

Operation cannot be reversed- male can never be used for breeding purposes

Operation involves general anesthetic which carries a slightly higher risk for small mammals

As with any operation there is a risk of infection

Entire experience is potentially highly stressful to the degu 

Male's previous personality may change due to hormone disturbance

Neutering too early can affect development, including development of the brain

Neutering too early may also affect the male's ability to develop circadian function

Neutered males can put on weight due to lack of testosterone


Degutopia advises that males should NOT be neutered until they are AT LEAST 12 MONTHS old. This is based on recent studies which have found that degus are still developing up to this time80, particularly areas of the brain associated with gonadal steroids80. This was also found to be linked to the development of circadian function80, and neutering before this development can have detrimental consequences later on80.

With regards to making the decision, it's up to you, the owner, to decide responsibly. Remember that once done, this operation can NEVER be undone, so be completely sure that it's the right decision for you degu before going through with it.

You should also consider that males that have just been neutered can still have viable sperm in their system for several days/weeks after the operation. Although no studies have yet been done in degus to determine how long to wait before azoospermia (no sperm capable of fertilisation remain in the ejaculate) after neutering/vasectomy, it is known that the sperm production cycle in rabbits lasts around 10 days177, in vasectomised rams azoospermia is acheived after 14 days post op178, and guinea pigs tested after 7-8 weeks post vasectomy have azoospermia179 (but were not tested earlier than this in the study). It is therefore strongly advised to wait at least 2 weeks before allowing the neutered male to go back in with any females, in order to prevent accidental pregnancies.


Of course, neutering is not the only answer. The first thing to consider when thinking about neutering is if you are spending enough time with your lone male. The next best thing to degu company is that of a human and often isolate housed males will develop a close bond with their owner in preference to that of another degu. See if you can spend more time with him- sit by his cage, let him out more often, play with him, even talking to him will give him the attention he needs.

Another alternative that could be considered is vasectomy. This is a different operation on the male gonads, where instead of removing the testicles, the seminal vesicles which carry the sperm from the testes to the urethra during ejaculation are cut and tied off. This renders the male infertile, but allows continued production of testosterone via the intact testes. This means that the males still have all the right hormones, steel feel the same as entire males and can even continue to mate with females, but without causing fertilisation and pregnancy. This is a common procedure in ferrets, as female ferrets need to be mated by a male when in oestrus and many ferret owners don't want to breed. However, operating on anything smaller than a ferret is tricky, so you may find it hard to locate a vet prepared to take on this task in degus.