Sugar Glider Husbandry and Preventative Healthcare

Sugar Glider Husbandry and Preventative Healthcare

General Information:  Sugar Gliders are small marsupials native to Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea.  The female glider, along with other marsupials, carry their babies, called joeys, in a pouch on the abdomen.  Female gliders are pregnant for a total of 16 days before giving birth.  Joeys are weaned at about 3-4 months old, and they become sexually mature between 8-14 months old.  The average weight of an adult Sugar Glider is 85-140 grams.  The average life span of a glider with a proper diet and adequate care is 8-12 years.

 

Caging:  Due to their extremely active nature, sugar gliders should have the largest cage possible.  Minimum cage size for 1-2 adult gliders is 36 X 24 X 36 inches.  Cages should be made of wire mesh to allow for proper ventilation.  Wire spacing should be no larger than 1.0 X 2.5 cm wide.  Several different food and water bowls/bottles should be placed throughout the cage.  Perches should be made from untreated wood or non toxic plants.

 

Environment:  The cage should provide adequate climbing branches of to allow for proper exercise and toys for enrichment. A nest box or sleeping area should also be provided high in the cage to allow for rest during the day.  The ideal temperature range is between 75-80 F.

 

Bedding:  Bedding material should be a clean, nontoxic, absorbent material that may be replaced easily.  Paper based bedding is preferred over wood chips as cedar and pine chips can lead to respiratory issuesThe bedding in the nest boxes needs to be cleaned 1-2 times weekly to prevent organic waste buildup.

 

Exercise:  Exercise is highly recommended.  Branches, a plastic wheel for Sugar Gliders with a closed bottom, and some bird toys may be used to promote an active lifestyle. Constant supervision is highly recommended when out of the cage. A small tent that can be put up in a room is a great way to offer safe access to exercise; this will keep them from getting lost/loose in the house.

 

Water: Water should be available at all times and changed daily.  Most sugar gliders will learn to drink from sipper bottles.  Providing both water bottles and water bowls in the enclosure will ensure proper drinking habits

 

Behavior:

  • Sugar gliders are nocturnal and spend most of the day sleeping, however, many will acclimate to your schedule and be ready for social interaction with their owners.
  • Sugar gliders are very social animals and should not be kept as a solitary pet. Self mutilation and depression will develop without significant social interaction.  Gliders do well in small groups of 2 -3 per enclosure.
  • Animals that are socialized at a very young age generally make the best companion animals. Once bonded to their owner, they generally make tame companion animals
  • Sugar gliders are generally responsive and trusting, but may bite when provoked, startled, or handled during the day.
  • Sugar Gliders make a variety of noises to communicate with their owners and their cage mates. Some of these noises include “crabbing” when scared, barking during play, hissing and sneezing while grooming and/or playing, and purring or chirping to relay a sense of contentment.

 

Captive diet: Several commercial sugar glider diets and/or pelleted bird diets are available and should encompass at least 75% of the daily dietary intake.   Insects should be given to gliders as treats only due to the high fat content.  *Please see the accompanying Pelleted Glider Diet Handout for diet suggestions*

 

Fresh fruits and vegetables should comprise the other 25% of the glider diet.  Fruits such as berries, melon, kiwi, papaya and mango should be included in this category of the diet. Calcium deficiency is common in gliders so the quality of the food you feed is very important. Fruits that should NOT be added as a portion of the diet include: grapes, bananas, apples, pears and canned fruit.

Handling:

  • Care must be taken as these animals may bite when agitated or disturbed. When well socialized and handled frequently, these animals may be docile and easy to work with.
  • Since sugar gliders are usually very active during the evening hours, examination should be done early in the day when they are normally less active and easier to restrain. The glider may be grasped by the base of tail or cupped in the palm of your hand.
  • Diagnostic sampling and full examination are best done under isofluorane anesthesia.

Common Disease Conditions

Obesity:  Obesity is common with captive sugar gliders and may lead to cardiac and respiratory problems.  To prevent this, food must be rationed and adequate exercise provided to prevent obesity.  Treatment involves elimination of high fat diets and gradual weight loss.  Weight loss may be monitored using an accurate gram scale.

 

Malnutrition and Metabolic Bone Disease:  This condition is a common cause of hind leg paralysis in sugar gliders and is mainly the result of inadequate calcium intake or improper calcium/phosphorus balance in the diet.  Treatment involves supportive care and correction of underlying dietary issues.  Other common symptoms of malnutrition include dehydration and diarrhea, blindness, hair loss, blindness, and seizures.  In severe cases, malnutrition and metabolic bone disease can cause death.

 

Dental Disease:  Dental tartar and periodontal disease is common in sugar gliders provided a soft, high carbohydrate diet.  Advanced dental disease can occur and result in exposure of the tooth root and abscessation.  Glider owners should regularly monitor their pet for facial swellings, weight loss, and eye discharge, as these can be indicators of dental disease and/or abscessation.  Regular oral examinations and a good diet are required to help prevent this condition.

 

Self mutilation:  Sugar gliders may self mutilate from a variety of causes including solitude, stress, sexual frustration, and improper nutritional status.   Proper nutrition, socialization, appropriate nesting areas, and good cage hygiene can help reduce stress in captive sugar gliders and prevent self destructive behaviors.   Male gliders should be neutered to reduce hormonal surges and sexual frustration, both of which can be stressors leading to self mutilation.

 

Reasons To
Visit A Veterinarian
Healthy annual examinations, not eating/defecating, swollen eye/face, drooling, diarrhea, self-inflicted trauma, tremoring or seizures, trouble urinating, appears painful, bloated, lethargy