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Your resource for safety first, expert
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This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter
ďNot to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough.
We have a higher mission - to be of service to them wherever they require it.Ē
St. Francis of Assisi
Greetings Glider Groupies, Glider Newbies and Glider Wanna-bes! Welcome to the
July 2013 edition of the GliderVet News.
Lots of people have all sorts of thoughts and opinions on the topic of feeding bugs.
Some people find feeding bugs to be icky, while others think it's not necessary.
We'll share our thoughts with you, based on our 15 years of experience with breeding gliders.
Another topic we get lots of questions about is regarding what sorts of physical movements are the most natural for
sugar gliders. And they also experience fascinating normal states of
non-movement that we will discuss. A sugar glider's patagium facilitates
gliding, but they are also quite adept as runners, jumpers and hoppers.
So read on about the full array of their different movements!
Before we glide in, if you've been awaiting the return of our Large Sturdy
Cage, it's back in stock! As it's roomy and easy to clean, it's
becoming a favorite of many gliders and owners alike.
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 questions. 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.
Why it's a Good Idea to Feed Bugs to your Sugar Gliders!
A lot of people are really adverse to the idea of feeding bugs to sugar gliders because of the ďickĒ factor.
To humans, bugs can be really gross. I know people who are terrified of roaches and spiders, and in Florida, you
have a fair share of encounters with all sorts of bugs.
would like to offer you some scientific, logical reasons why bugs are
an important part of the sugar glider diet. Please note, I did
not say essential, but after reading this, you decide! Essential
is not always just about nutrition. Just as having an appropriate
habitat and stimulating toys is essential to good mental health and
proper activity, there are sound reasons why bugs are an important part
of nutrition as well as enrichment for your sugar gliders.
speaking, sugar gliders are omnivores, meaning that they need both
proteins and carbohydrates in order to stay healthy. While I
respect a humanís choice to live a vegetarian lifestyle, please do not
enforce this on your animals. Sugar gliders not only need
protein, but animal based protein is the best form for the sugar
glider. More specifically, sugar gliders are preferential
insectivores. Just as this sounds, sugar gliders prefer insects
as their primary source of food. In other words, the science of
field studies on sugar gliders prove that people have it wrong when
they refer to sugar gliders as sapsuckers. For more details on
this topic, please see
This field science shows us when bug season is underway - meaning lots of
bugs are available - sugar gliders will primarily eat bugs. Bug season is
also breeding season
for sugar gliders, and animals instinctually know when to breed based
upon best available food supply. When bug season diminishes,
sugar gliders will eat treat saps and gums in order to sustain
themselves until the bug season returns. They have to keep
themselves alive, right?
So, like most
wild animals, gliders have a preferred food and secondary food choices
- what is available to eat. The carbohydrates in sap give them
the necessary energy to survive at times when their preferred food
choice is unavailable. It seems logical to say that if bug season
was year round, sugar gliders might never eat tree gum or manna.
This behavior is survival-driven and when sugar gliders (most animals ,
for that matter) are in the peak of health, that's when they
breed. This happens during bug season!
Second to this heath
issue, offering your sugar gliders nothing but soft foods and no bugs
denies them of a simple and natural pleasure. Feeding soft foods
only does not support good dental health. Bugs and high quality
pellet foods are two ways we can help maintain good dental health because it promotes intensive chewing
action. The vets we've spoken with tend to agree across the board
that some crunch in the diet is essential to dental health.
Animals with teeth need a way to help keep the plaque buildup down and
soft food alone won't cut it. Even grazing animals will chomp on
leaves and twigs.
preferential insectivores, bugs are what sugar gliders love best!
You can substitute - and I actually recommend that you do substitute -
other protein offerings. In the wild, the predominant proteins
are bugs, baby birds and bird eggs. Sugar gliders will also eat
small vertebrates and invertebrates; I tried to get a lizard away from
two gliders once and lost
the battle. We use mealworms, crickets,
grasshoppers, boiled eggs, boiled chicken and yogurt as our protein
rotations in the weekly diet plan.
as you can see, we recommend that you offer different types of
bugs. Finding moderation in all things dietary is what works
best. Overdoing or under doing anything will likely impact your sugar
glidersí health. For example, feeding mealworms every day is not
a great idea. They are a bit high in fat. I like to eat red
meat, but only do it maybe once per week. I feed the sugar
gliders mealworms once per week, because the other proteins in our
rotation (and we only use one choice per day) have less fat content and
we donít want to let our suggies get obese. Just as overfeeding
honey and other sugary foods can lead to obesity, so can overfeeding
mealworms. We receive lots of sugar glider pictures and it is
astounding how many chubby gliders are out there. Many people are
regularly using diets with a lot of empty calories, including honey and
other high caloric sugars. As with everything, moderation is
key. So it's best to rotate your bug and other protein choices.
Only use bugs that are raised for pet consumption. Donít catch your own
bugs, as they may have been exposed to pesticides or other environmental
Donít try any type of bug without doing some research on it to see if it is appropriate for sugar gliders.
Iíve heard that lighting bugs are toxic to sugar gliders, and there are many more that
may not be appropriate, such as poisonous spiders.
Use live bugs or canned bugs. The moisture content of bugs is important.
For those of you whoíve had gliders for awhile, you see that they get a lot of moisture from their food.
This is clearly evidenced by the fact of how much or how little water they drink.
I know that on nights we feed melon, barely any water is consumed because the
water content in melon is so high. In that case, they are getting plenty
of moisture from the food.
Moist bugs are the preferred choice, not only because of the moisture content, but nutritionally as well.
The nutrition in bugs is in the gut content. This is why it is recommended that
natural bugs be gut loaded
before you feed them to the sugar gliders. Essentially, you are
feeding the bugs, so that they are nutritious. Hungry bugs do not
offer much in terms of nutrition. Freeze dried bugs and
dehydrated bugs are deficient in moisture and gut content.
Canned bugs are already gut loaded and they are literally cooked in the
can, so when you use canned bugs, they look like live, but sleeping,
bugs. They are in fact dead, and I mention this because weíve had
reports of people swearing the bugs were still alive, but it is quite
impossible for that to happen. Canned bugs are a great alternative to live bugs, particularly for those people with the very high ick
factor! You can use a small spoon or other utensil to feed the bugs, and not have to actually touch them.
you who have tried to feed bugs to your sugar gliders and found they
wonít eat them, here is an observational theory I will share with
you. When we feed bugs, our adult gliders will wake up at any
time of the day and devour them. When they have joeys, the adults
will share foods and begin to show joeys how to eat when they start to
wean, but my parents donít share the bugs with the joeys.
initially, joeys may not know what to do with them. Sugar gliders
learn a lot of behavior from other sugar gliders, and joeys, in
captivity at least, are not generally participating in the bug
feast. So you may need to show them how to eat bugs. Iím
chuckling as I write this, because I do not mean this literally.
What you can do is cut the bugs up a little bit, or smash them into a
favorite food. I use a magic bullet blender and often make a
puree of bugs with something else. On Tuesdays, we feed a puree
of crickets and carrots with some fruit juice (to make it moist enough
to blend) for the babies. The adults just get crickets and
carrots straight up. It is a rare sugar glider that will not
acquire a big hankering for bugs and you wonít need to make a mash for
long. Once they learn the taste, nature kicks in.
gliders' animal classification is preferential insectivore and you will
really have an experience of high sugar glider appreciation when you
feed them their favorite natural food. Think of any type of
animal training and what is the common denominator in animal
training? Food, of course! Denying sugar glider bugs is
like trying to use algae over fish to train Shamu! Feeding bugs
to your sugar gliders is not only honoring who they really are, but
also creating a wonderful enrichment for them, and building a deeper
bond between you and your sugar gliders!
In summary, give bugs a chance. But remember, donít feed bugs you caught from
outside because they may have had contact with pesticide and probably lack
proper nutrition (unless you gut load them). At the same time, donít overdo
the bugs. If you are too squeamish, then ask someone else to do it for you!
Sugar gliders deserve bugs, just as the killer whales at SeaWorld deserve fish!
Natural Movement of Sugar Gliders
In the past, weíve talked a bit about sugar glider
vocalizations, and how they use these different sounds to communicate.
This article is going to be about different movements and body postures.
a sugar glider can strike a pose that is befuddling to their human
companions. Has your sugar glider ever just sat completely still
staring off into space and acting quite non-responsive to sounds and
activities going on around them? In other words, has your sugar
glider ever looked like a statue of itself? Often people will
jump to the conclusion that the glider is sick, and donít understand
the posture. I canít tell you exactly why they do this sometime,
but they are distantly related to the opossum and Iíve often equated to
their version of ďplaying possumĒ.
people get distressed is when they wave their hand in front of the
sugar gliders face and get no response. Iíve often heard people
describe this like a coma with eyes wide open. I donít think it
is at all a comatose state. To me, it appears to be more of a
meditative state, yet we know our little friends are not conscious in
the way we are. Nevertheless, that is what it looks like.
this happens when one starts barking and it is remarkable to see what
happens in a large colony, whereby most of them will freeze right where
they are. This is underlying our theory that the bark can be a
warning signal to other sugar gliders, such as "predator in the area,
be very still". The bark also seems to be a call, like ďhey you,
come over here and play with meĒ. And sometimes, itís just one
glider that gets into this still, non-responsive state, while the
others are all milling about doing their thing. Iíve been quite
curious about this myself, and I will just reach in and pet the sugar
glider, or take it out the cage and hold it. At that point, they
just snap out of the trancelike state. Point is, this can just be
a naturally occurring event with sugar gliders, and should not set off
the alarms that something is wrong.
next movement we will talk about is how they run. Sugar gliders
do not scurry like a rat or a mouse. When you see a rat run, it
tends to hug the wall, and just move along at an even pace to wherever
its destination is. It is like a car on cruise control
maintaining a constant speed. But sugar gliders do not run in
this fashion at all. They tend to go in short bursts and then
stop. While I have observed some go on a more scurry-like escape
route, this is more the exception than the rule. Sugar gliders
tend to run about 5-8 feet, and then freeze. They are more
inclined to continue running if you chase them. So please donít
chase them. They are much easier to retrieve if you move slowly
and even stop movement when you get very close.
gliders are quite agile and can also move backwards, although they tend
to not use that gear very much. With most sugar gliders, if you
put your hand in front of them to stop forward motion, many will stop
right there. Only a few will try to put it in reverse, but again
this is an exception to the rule. Sugar gliders prefer going
forward, so if you have a new sugar glider and you are holding it in
your hands and it gets its head past your hands and starts running up
your chest, just put your hand in front of its head. From here,
you can gently scoop the sugar glider back into your hands. Using
their natural movements to your advantage in bonding can be extremely
A favorite activity, simply due to the
nature of being a glider and arboreal (natural tree dweller), is
jumping. Gliding is one version of this jump. When they are
in a very high tree, they can glide up to 150 feet. This is half
the distance of a football field! And whenever they jump, the
patagium (gliding membrane) opens up. This is a simple function
of design that the gliding membrane must extend when the front feet and
back feet are stretched out in preparation for the glide. Most of
us in single story dwellings will only really see mini-glides, because
there is not enough height to achieve that long, graceful glide that
can take place in the wild. My gliders like to jump from the top
of the curtain rods down to me, and itís a glide, but it happens in a
flash. I admire people whoíve gotten photos of these short glides because it happens so very fast.
My digital camera pauses for a split second before it snaps, so the event is over before the camera catches the moment.
new sugar glider keepers freak out when their sugar glider first jumps
off of them, because the gliding membrane opens and when the glider
hits the floor, it sounds a bit like a splat. This is their
natural landing and it is quite unlikely that they will get hurt, as
they are built to glide much further distances than from your shoulder
to the floor. Because they land flat, it makes the sound of
splat. This is the equivalent of a human doing a belly flop into
a pool, except that those often hurt us, because weíre not designed to
do that! Sugar gliders are built to land flat on a solid surface,
so no worries there, OK?
is such a primary activity for sugar gliders and as weíve just
discussed, the glide is the big version of the jump. Sugar
gliders also have a little version of the jump which is all about
hopping. They do seem to like hopping around. And this is one of
the reasons that we recommend large cages, because jumping and hopping
are such integral parts of their typical movements. Vertical
movement is more prevalent than horizontal movement, hence our
recommendation for a cage that is taller versus wider.
Now keeping this in mind, I get tons of pictures from folks who have overloaded up large cages with toys,
leaving little room for jumping and hopping. Please remember, sometimes less is more.
I use large cages myself, and usually limit toy choices to only 5 or 6 at a
time. And then I rotate toys in and out to provide them with variety in their play activity,
while still allowing them plenty of room to jump around.
also do not recommend the use of shelves and ramps for the very same
reason. Shelves and ramps decrease the space for jumping. I
have some gliders that are just as entertained by going to the top of
their cage and just letting go and landing on the bottom, then they
race back up again, just to jump back down. The habitat itself as
an enrichment is as important, if not moreso, than the toys we give
them to play with. Accommodating natural movement is a primary
goal in keeping any captive exotic animal.
going to end this with one more thought on natural movement.
Sugar gliders inhabit trees in the wild, right? Tree branches
sway, so adding enrichments to a cage that swing or sway creates
another natural opportunity for sugar gliders to feel the same types of
movements that they would naturally encounter in the free range.
hope youíve enjoyed this explanation and are grooviní with how sugar
gliders like moviní! And please avoid those belly busters this
summer. Leave that to the suggies, because they have a much
better build for it and they can do it on land!
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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That's it for this month's GliderVet Newsletter. I hope you liked what
we had to offer! If you have any stories, questions, pictures, suggestions
for topics - anything glider - you would like to share or see covered in the
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