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This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter
Greetings Glider Groupies, Glider Newbies and Glider Wanna-bes! Welcome to the
May 2012 edition of the GliderVet News!
This month, we address the natural feeding habits of sugar gliders,
including the idea gliders are "sap suckers" - that they prefer foods
like sap and manna. While they eat these foods, they actually prefer
insects, according to the scientists who have studied them. Then, everyone's favorite marsupial
answers some Dear
Arnold questions, so be sure to read on to see what advice our great wise one
has to offer this month (with a little bit of help from Lisa)!
Please remember that this newsletter is intended to express the wishes
of the whole sugar glider community.
Every article published in this newsletter is a result of someone just
like you taking the time to write us with thoughts, ideas, stories and
Send your comments to us here.
If you ever want to find earlier issues of GliderVet News, you can access our
archives here. Fun pics of sugar gliders
sent in by our customers are found here.
If you are looking for sugar glider tested and approved products, check out our
ever expanding store here.
Are you new to sugar gliders or just in the early stages of trying to decide
if one is right for you? Questions you can ask yourself to help make this
very important and long term decision are here.
A very confusing area for those considering glider ownership (and for
some current owners too!) is diet. See what our vet has to say here.
And if you decide that a sugar glider (or two!) would become future members of
your household, then you might want to check out Arnold's great deals on starter kits,
with or without cages.
Classifying Sugar Gliders
I find it interesting there are so many adamant opinions out there
on dietary excellence for sugar gliders.
The whole topic of diet brings a lot of passion, a lot of controversy,
a lot of debate, and in my opinion, a lot of misinformation. Why
all the discrepancy in agreement on good, basic dietary
principles? I will state right up front that this is an editorial
piece and I hope that I can appeal to common sense and help further the
cause of discerning fact from fiction.
First off, there seems to be an inconsistency in agreement on even
what type of animal the sugar glider is. Is it a sapsucker?
Is it a carnivore? Is it an omnivore? Or is it something
Since we started Suncoast in 1999, we were guided by our vet, who
extensive experience with exotic nutrition care. She said to feed
our sugar gliders as
omnivores with an emphasis on insects as the protein source.
Weíve made very few adjustments in our dietary plan since then.
Hey, it works, so why mess with success?
I see so many differing opinions on the dietary classification of
sugar gliders and this is why I think that the whole topic of nutrition
has become an argumentative battlefield of sorts. I think itís of
paramount importance that those who are working on dietary formulas
understand the actual classification of the animal first and
Iíve read quite a lot of information offered by a variety of Doctors,
Nutritionists and it's no wonder the rest of us mere mortals are
engaged in confused debate
when amongst the most highly animal-educated there is a mixture of
The most compelling information Iíve read on sugar glider
nutritional classification came from a veterinarian out west and what
he shared with me not only made a lot of common sense, but it
corroborates perfectly with the experience weíve garnered over 13 years
now. His position is that sugar gliders are preferential
What exactly does this mean: preferential insectivore? As the
name implies, it means that sugar gliders really, really like to eat
insects. It is their preference. In the wild, sugar gliders
will eat a diet of predominately bugs when bugs are abundant.
Even here in always temperate Florida, we have a series of ďbug
seasonsĒ. Iím sure that those of you who live along the Gulf
Coast are familiar with love bug season where thick black clouds of
love bugs swarm the interstates and will make a mighty fine mess of
your car. We donít see love bugs year round. It is a
seasonal event. Mosquitoes are not so obvious in the cooler and
drier months, but now as we approach rainy season and temperatures in
the high 80ís to low 90ís, you better be prepared to get bit or pull
out mega-doses of citronella or other bug repellant.
Preferential insectivore is a more specific category of omnivore but
itís still an omnivore with very particular tastes. For many
years, a long time ago, the standard was to feed cat food as the staple
part of the diet. You see, there really werenít that many options
nor much experience when sugar gliders first landed in North
America. It takes time to evolve into good husbandry for captive
exotics. However, if you feed a carnivore diet to an omnivore,
you are overfeeding protein. Cats are carnivores and built to eat
a diet high in protein. Sugar gliders do not need the same high level
of protein, but they need protein nonetheless.
As preferential insectivores, sugar gliders will feast on a diet
bugs when bugs are available. They will strip back tree bark in
search of bugs,
and if are not finding enough of them, will eat sap, gum or
manna. As bugs have bug seasons, the sugar gliders still need to
eat when bugs are scarce and it is our contention that this is when the
sugar gliders eat the tree gums to sustain themselves during the bug
drought. They would rather have bugs, but there are not enough to
go around. Tree excretions are high in carbohydrates which is
good to keep the energy levels up. It is our contention that
sugar gliders are not naturally sapsuckers.
There are differences between animals classified as sapsuckers and
animals that will eat the carbohydrate rich saps, gums and manna as a
way to keep themselves viable until bug season returns.
The most plausible information I can share with you that supports
insectivore idea is sugar gliders also do most of their free range
breeding when the bug population is high.
This protein seems to be quite relevant to the breeding process to not
only support the motherís health, but to promote rapid growth rates in
the offspring. For those of you whoíve had the experience of breeding
sugar gliders, you know that they have a very fast growth rate when
compared to domesticated animals like dogs and cats. In the wild,
you better grow yourself up fast or somebody might just eat you!
And protein is the path to rapid growth. Just ask any muscle man
at the gym and he will tell you that protein is what builds muscle.
I can tell you from direct experience that our femaleís with joeys
in pouch become very hungry for protein. It is easy to see this
as we observe what foods they go for first. And on nights we feed
bugs (which is not every night), they will wake up at anytime to eat
those bugs, then go back to sleep and get up at their ďregular timeĒ to
eat the rest of their nightly meal.
Another experiential event I can share with you is the consistency
in which we have opportunity to compare our just weaned babies with
babies from other breeders and notice that in nearly every case, our
joeys are bigger and fluffier.
Big, fluffy joeys are healthy joeys.
Small and scrawny is not something any of us would see as healthy in
any type of baby mammal including baby humans. Iím sure youíve
all seen your share of baby people. Chubby, fluffy babies are
healthy babies! This holds true for humans, this holds true for
sugar gliders, this holds true for puppies as well!
We breed sugar gliders in captivity and maintain a consistent year
As a result, we will successfully have baby sugar gliders born year
round. But why is it that in spring and summer, our birth rate
increases? Even though all of our sugar gliders are maintained
indoors, temperatures are consistent, diet is consistent, how do they
know that itís the peak of bug season outdoors and have more joeys as a
result? The biological clock of nature is an amazing
process. While we can control many of the environmental factors
and create a year round spring-like setting, there are factors we
cannot control such as longer or shorter days , or the earthís magnetic
field. Animal sensitivities and intuition are hard wired into the
rhythms of the earth, so they just know instinctually that a particular
time of year is the optimal time of year to breed. And that time
of year coincides perfectly with ďbug seasonĒ.
I realize that making a bold, public proclamation that here at
Suncoast we see our suggies as preferential insectivores, and feed them
with that primary theory, is opening a large can o'
worms! But at the very least, every scientific source I have seen
references gliders as omnivores and does not refer to them as "sap
suckers", which implies they primarily eat tree sap.
And, in fact, though many people say "there are no scientific studies on
sugar gliders", there are lots of them. Many of them use
language similar to this when describing feeding habits:
Insects were taken in preference to plant exudates during spring and
summer (possibly to meet protein requirements for reproduction) even
though exudates were most abundant during these seasons.
This particular quote is from:
Booth RJ: General husbandry and medical care of sugar gliders
In other words, even though a lot more sap / manna is available during spring
and summer, gliders preferred to eat insects instead. Given a choice, they
chose insects over "sap sucking".
Which is why we consider gliders preferential insectivores.
Because Mother Nature is always brilliant in her design of all
living things, she did equip sugar gliders with a biological body that
can process both proteins and carbohydrates (which might be sap in the
case of the free range sugar glider). Please do not misconstrue
any of this to mean that we are suggesting a very high protein diet,
because we are not. And it is also critical to know that sugar
gliders do not metabolize fat very well, so the protein sources should
be good, high quality
animal protein sources and low in fat.
I emphasize animal protein because the only reason to base an omnivore staple on a vegetable protein like corn,
wheat, or soy is to bring the cost down; vegetable protein creates a cheaper food, not a better food.
I hope you will consider some of the common sense aspects of diet
Iíve presented to you here. Weíve reached a point in time that
the long term commitments weíve made to raising sugar gliders have
themselves in the most significant way possible. The best measure
of good dietary practices are seen over the long haul.
These measures can be simply stated as longevity and breeding
success. Frankly, the concept of ďnew dietsĒ concerns me greatly
as these new diets have not been time tested and proven over
generations. In all fairness, diets must be looked at over
several generations to assess the diet plans true value.
Otherwise, you are willingly making a guinea pig out of your sugar
gliders and if you wanted a guinea pig, then why did you not just get a
Iím sure that the debate, passion and conjecture will go on and on
and on, I simply ask that you trust your own good old fashioned common
sense AND understand the basic eating habits of free range sugar
gliders. Then the discussion can move forward in a proactive and
beneficial conversation. This ultimately results in the best overall
good for sugar gliders and this is something I think we all agree upon!
I want to make my own staple food and I see a lot of recipes on the internet to make up several different staple foods.
I donít like the idea of feeding manufactured foods. Which recipe do you
Me loves fresh foods and whilst I agree that fresh is awesome, me
finds a bunch of humor in your question.
'Cuz ya see, if ya use stuff that is manoofacturated to make a fresh
food, isnít your fresh food really manoofacturated?
If it comes in a box, or a plastic wrapper, or a jar or a can, and you
mixes this stuff up with some real fresh foods, methinks that is not
really fresh food, is it?
Itís just freshly mixed manoofacturated food, if ya know what I mean.
Also, we see that our lady gliders and our baby gliders often eat
during the daytime and having sumptin' wholesome out to eat that wonít
be spoilt is really good for them!
They needs a good food and when you mix manoofactured foods with fresh
foods, and if ya leave it out too long, then youíze is really offering
freshly mixed manoofacturated food that can be spoilt.
Seems awfully complicated to lil' 'ol me.
Off to entomology class now!
Arnold the Scholar
I have a neutered male and female sugar glider. They are about a year old now.
I never see them come out during the day to eat?
Is this ok?
Super cool question toots! But me could use a bit more info to
answer ya da best.
Most peeps feed their shugs once a day, really once per eve Ö. What do
You two leggers make life really easy for us, cuz our cuzzins in the
wild donít have it so good.
We know you always have food ready for us, so we can sleep in, graze
through our meals all night long and so we donít have to hunt and
forage like our wild cuzzins do!
So in a way, you peeps have taught us that having food always around
means we can have a ďdinner timeĒ at our leisure and this is not so for
suggies that donít live in castles.
A lot o times, they gotta get while the getting is good. Just
tink about it, when ya live outside sometimes really bad weather can
swirl around for days.
I bet they get real hungry when itís stormy out! Not me tho, I
get my meals in my castle all the time!
Itís like being on a cruise!
Ya did say that you have some suggies that are not babies any more
and that they are not going to have babies of their own.
So the sleuth in me can figure that itís possibly a life cycle moment
for your fuzzy friends.
I can tell ya dis, our babies, our breeding mommies and our retirees
often eat during the day.
And when somewun donít feel so good, they will like a bit of extra food
I tís a good idea to keep some pellet food out for them all day.
Ya donít need to leave a lot, unless itís all gone every evening, but
please leave sumptin,
'cuz sometimes we get hungry at odd times. If for nuttin' else,
ya might can tell better if somewun not feeling so good,
'cuz ya will see a behavior change and this could be a BIG clue for the
sleuth in you!
Off to detective class now
Arnold the Scholar
'Til next time, in good health for you and your gliders, we sign off in
appreciation of all of you who share great glider adventures with
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Your resource for safety first, expert
advice on our sugar glider friends!
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