Advice for Traveling With Degus

This page is dedicated to the memory of Galaxy, a degu who lost his life to heatstroke during a car journey.

Whenever your degus have to make a car journey with you, or need to be transported anywhere, there are a few things that are essential for your degus' health that you need to prepare for.

>General Traveling Tips<

1. Choose a suitable pet carrier for your degus on their journey. Cardboard and plastic carriers are not suitable for transporting degus, as they will chew their way out very quickly. Even tough plastic carriers can be chewed, and they get hot very quickly. Please try to use a wire frame pet carrier or a medium wire frame hamster cage- these provide much better ventilation, you can keep an eye on your degus more easily and they cannot be chewed out of.

2. Always provide a small shelter in the carrier for your degus to hide if they feel the need. This could be a cardboard box, tunnel or a pile of hay- anything your degus can escape into if they get scared.

3. Always, always make sure your degus have access to fresh drinking water on their journey, no matter how short. Drinking bottles need to be checked every 30 minutes as the vibrations of the car can cause some makes of ball-bearing bottles to drip and empty over time. If their bottle runs out of water, stop as soon as you can to refill it. Water is vital to degus as it helps them to combat heat and bodily fluid loss on their journey.

4. Put your degus into the car in a passenger seat, and try to make sure there is a human passenger who can keep an eye on them on the journey. Make sure the cage is in a position where you or a passenger can see the degus clearly, without having to strain. If you cannot see the degus at any time, pull over in a safe spot and check on them. Degus do like to sleep once they get used to the motion of the car, but don't always assume that they're sleeping safe and sound if you haven't seen them for a while. You may be able to secure the carrier by strapping it in to the seat with the safety belt. Never ever put your degus in the boot of your car. Not only could they overheat, but you cannot see that they are OK. Also the boot area can easily accumulate toxic exhaust fumes, in particular carbon monoxide (CO) which can kill your degus very quickly.

5. Make sure the car is well ventilated. Travel with the air conditioning on (even on cool days) to circulate air in the car. Remember degus cannot sweat, so just because you're comfortable does not mean your degus are (see the following section). If your car does not have air conditioning, keep the windows wound down part way to let air flow through the vehicle.

6. Keep the music down low! Although long car journeys can be boring, degus do have sensitive hearing so make sure the volume of the stereo isn't too loud for your degus.

7. Make regular stops on car journeys every hour. Stop in a quiet, cool place and turn the engine off for at least 15-20 minutes to give your degus a break from traveling and the noise of the car. For long car journeys, consider planning a longer break every 3 hours traveled, for around 40 minutes- why not take a picnic and stop in the countryside? Remember you should never leave your degus unattended in the car.

8. Always make sure the carrier is out of direct sunlight. Use a sun shade to cover the window on the side your degus are traveling, or use an old t-shirt to block out the sun by winding up the window to hold the t-shirt in place.

>Advice for Travel on Hot Days<

1. Degus are prone to heatstroke, as they cannot sweat and are covered in fur. Degus use their ears to regulate their body temperature, so air circulation is vital during travel in hot weather. Always travel with the air conditioning on full in hot weather, or the windows down.

2. Wherever you can, in hot weather try to limit traveling during the hottest part of the day. Stick to travel during early morning, or late evening when the temperature is much cooler as the sun is lower in the sky.

3. It is more important than normal to make sure your degus have access to fresh drinking water, no matter how short the journey is. Although degus cannot sweat, in hot weather they will still lose a lot of fluid through respiration and also in their urine, so being able to drink is vitally important.

4. Take along an icepack wrapped in a tea towel, and put it either underneath the cage to keep it cool, or directly inside the cage. If the ice pack is inside the cage with your degus, check them regularly to make sure they are not able to remove the covering and get to the icepack itself. You can also put plastic bottles of water in the freezer and use these to keep the cage cool.

5. It is more important than normal to take along a passenger to check on the degus during travel in hot weather. Heatstroke can affect a degu very rapidly, so vigilance is crucial.

6. Take some emergency supplies with you to act quickly in the event one of your degus is affected by heatstroke. This should include a plastic container or bowl, a bottle of water (keep this cool if possible, but not icy) and a spare tea towel and ice pack. If you need to use it, pour the water into the container and submerge the affected degu, taking care to support the head above the water. This is to reduce the degu's body temperature quickly. Remove the degu and place them onto the ice pack covered with a tea towel until they no longer feel hot. The quicker you can act, the less chance your degu will suffer permanent neurological damage, organ failure or death.

7. Stop and check on your degus every 20 minutes. Try not to travel for longer than 1 hour on hot days, and take a break in a cool spot whenever possible. Remember that a degu with heatsroke will feel very hot to the touch, will be extremely lethargic or semi-concious and will not necessarily respond to being picked up.