Sugar Glider Husbandry and Preventative Healthcare
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 48 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.
Environment: The cage should provide adequate climbing branches to allow for proper exercise and toys for enrichment. A nest box or pouch should be provided high in the cage to allow for rest during the day. The ideal temperature range for sugar gliders is between 75-80 F.
Bedding: Paper based bedding is preferred for the cage floor, as cedar and pine chips can lead to respiratory issues. Small pieces of fleece cut into small squares can be used in the nest box/pouch and should be changed every couple days.
Exercise: Exercise is extremely important for the longterm physical and mental health of your glider. Branches, a plastic wheel designed 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.
Captive diet: Several commercial sugar glider diets are available and should encompass at least 75% of the daily dietary intake.
Fresh fruits should comprise the other 25% of your glider’s diet. Healthy fruits, such as, berries, melon, kiwi, papaya and mango should be offered. Fruits that should be avoided include: grapes, bananas, apples, pears and any canned fruit.
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 during the evening. 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. They do well in small groups of 2 -3 per enclosure. 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.
Handling: Care must be taken as gliders may bite when agitated or disturbed. When well socialized and handled frequently, they may be docile and easy to work with for their owners. At the veterinarian, sugar gliders often have to be sedated with gas anesthesia to be properly examined.
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 should be provided. Treatment involves elimination of high fat diets and gradual weight loss. Weight loss may be monitored using an accurate gram scale.
Malnutrition and Hypocalcemia: 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, and seizures. In severe cases, malnutrition and hypocalcemia 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 tooth root abscesses. Glider owners should regularly monitor their pet for facial swellings, weight loss, and eye discharge, as these can be indicators of dental disease. 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, improper nutritional status and lack of exercise. Proper nutrition, socialization, appropriate nesting areas, exercise outside of the cage, enrichment activities 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.
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