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GliderVet #20: Sugar Glider Nail Trimming, Dear Arnold,
When the Same Signs Indicate Different Diseases

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To view past issues or subscribe to this newsletter, click here.

Or, check out the index by topic of sugar glider newsletters.

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GliderVet Newsletter
Your resource for safety first, expert
advice on our sugar glider friends!
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This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter

Hey Guys! We have a really great lineup for you this month!

The GliderVet Newsletter base is growing stronger every month and is apparently catching the eye of some of the medical community. We want to send special kudos to our own Dr. Ciancolo for being “discovered” as a result of her generous contribution of time and knowledge to this publication.  As a result of being our feature writer each month, she’s been asked to review the chapter on sugar glider health in the upcoming edition of the Merck Manual for Veterinarians! Dr. C, we all send you a hearty congratulations!  We are truly proud to know you and have you as part of our team!  Thanks!

We also wish to acknowledge the outstanding efforts of Judie H, Sheila, Tom H, TC, Bourbon, the Ross’s and everyone who put in their time and efforts to make this years SGGA (Sugar Glider Get Away) a roaring success!  If you are not familiar with the SGGA, then let’s get you up to speed.  Once per year, in July, people from across the country get together to share a common love for gliders.  And let’s not forget that a lot of sugar gliders attend as well.  Some of these sugar gliders had travel cages bigger than my in-laws pop up camper!  It was unbelievable.  This past event was held outside of Kansas City, MO.  Next year, the SGGA will be held in Virginia.  We will be sure to give you advance notice before then!

Dr. C. presents our feature article this month and she will cover a very important topic.  As the ranks of sugar glider keepers continue to grow and expand, discussion of sugar glider care issues naturally increases via the internet.  What we are finding is an increasing number of lay people are attempting to diagnose their gliders or other people’s gliders.  This is a dangerous trend, and hopefully after reading Dr. C’s article, you will understand why.

But before we get to Dr. C’s contribution this month, Debbie and I will be unveiling that surprise product we’ve hinted at for a couple of months now!  And of course, we will be offering another exciting episode of Dear Arnold, featuring the one, the only, the original, Arnold T. Schwarzenglider!

Before we get to our feature articles, 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.

Frequently Asked Question:
Is there any way to make trimming my glider's nail easier?
By Lisa and Debbie

(Part 1 is here)

For nearly two years now, we have tried a plethora of devices and gadgets to perform this not-so-fun grooming task.  We tried concrete and sandpaper perches like the ones used for birds.  Then Dr. C. told us that climbing directly on something abrasive might hurt the tender little pads under the gliders' feet.  So it was back to the drawing board.  But at long last, and after many prototypes, we are pleased to present the Nail-O-Matic™.  The Nail-O-Matic is an running surface for the inside of a Wodent Wheel that files your glider's nails automatically as they run.  Deb and I thought you might like to hear a little part of the long, long story on how we came up with it.

We tried fabricating our own special running wheels but the gliders didn't like them.  They would always go and spend time in the Wodent Wheel instead.  Hmmm...that was an early clue we should have paid more attention to!  So we figured, "Ah, let's create a special track for the Wodent Wheel!"  

Well, that was easier said then done, as we couldn't get the right combination of materials to work as a substitute for a Wodent Wheel track.  So facing failure again, we figured maybe we could do something inside the wheel.  But we ran into all kinds of problems - how do you get it to lay flat against the wheel without glue, how do we make it easy for people to use, and so on.  And one day, sitting there surrounded by over 30 different prototypes, we hit on an idea.  It used a multi-layer combination of materials and a unique "hinged" approach for fitting snugly to the inside of the wheel - without glue!

So we finally had something that was both safe for the gliders and easy for the humans to put together - and looked like it would work.  But what would our gliders say?  It was time for the testing phase.

One of the tests we did was to put Wodometers on the Wodent Wheel to count the number of spins.  This helped us to determine how abrasive the surface could be without hurting suggie feet.  So what we did was record the average number of spins with a regular Wodent Wheel.  Then we would change out the wheel to include the Nail-O-Matic surface and see if we recorded the same number of spins.  Our theory was that if spins reduced a lot, then it must be less comfy or less fun for the gliders.  So we kept trying different levels of abrasiveness until the spins were the same with or without the Nail-O-Matic surface in the Wodent Wheel.  Cool!

During testing, we tried this product with dozens of our own gliders.  One thing we wanted to find out was just how long we could use it safely ... so we put the Nail-O-Matic surface in Sydney and Sheldon's wheel.  One night, nails getting better.  Two nights, hmmm, liking these little nails.  Three nights, WOW!  Those nails are getting short!  Four nights, very nice, very nice.  Fifth Night, we open the door, and out glides Sheldon .... SPLAT!  He's on the floor, tries to run up a human leg - and it looked like something out of the Jetson's ... you know the part where George and Astro get outta control on the running machine and George falls off?!

Poor little Sheldon could not hold on.  It took about four days for him to be able to really maneuver as a sugar booger should.  We felt really bad for doing this to him, but he recovered well and now we know.  This product can for sure be overused!  We recommend only two nights at a time because Sydney and Sheldon aren't exactly Olympic style Wheelers as some of our gliders are.  So the exact time frame for best results will run in accordance with just how much your glider uses the wheel (and how heavy they are)!

To read more about the Nail-O-Matic™, click here.

Another Exciting Episode of DEAR ARNOLD
By Arnold

Note: Some of Arnold’s fan mail may be edited cause Arnold wants some of them to be shorter so he can have more space all to himself!  Yuk Yuk Yuk!

Dear Arnold,
Is it true that you are running for governor of CA?  I would vote for you if I lived in California!
Luv, Paige

Dear Paige,
I’ve been getting e-mails and headline clippings and all sorts of stuff since this rumor started.  Please allow me to set the record straight. First thing me has to say is: “Yikes! Isn’t that a day job?”  Now I can understand the confusion, cause actually there is a fellar out there who is running and many, many people mistake us to be one and the same … BUT….his nickname is the Austrian Oak.  I’m better known as the Australian Bloke.…

I know...I all gets pretty confusing…his gal pal is named Maria.  My gal pal is Lisa Marie (no, no, no, now don’t get confused AGAIN….not THAT Lisa Marie!)  He is in a movie called The Terminator.  I’m presently reading for the lead role in a movie called The Worm-inator! (I think it's down to between me and that pompous little hedge hog!)  BUT!  You See!  Even if me wanted to….I couldn’t run for gubner of CA cause I am illegal in California!  Hmm,  maybe I should run for gubner!  Then me could make better laws… yuk yuk!  Sugar gliders should be allowed to own hoomans in CA!

Arnold T. Schwarzenglider, Future Gubner of CA!
Hey Arnold,

Mom told me about the glider that runs on the toilet paper roll.  I haven't tried that yet, but I will.  Mom, Eevee, and I have a lot of fun in our bathroom.  Mom strung bungie cords near the ceiling from corner to corner.  Every time my Eevee and I come in to play, she uses clothespins and hangers to make a jungle gym with towels, pajamas, slippers, or whatever is hanging around in the bathroom.  It is soooo fun.  We can even run on the bungie cords, but sometimes we scare mom by hanging upside down to eat the goodies she gives us.  We like to dive-bomb our mom "tree" from the shower curtain rod.  She is getting good at ducking.  Mom knows we are tired when we fall asleep in a slipper or the pocket of her bathrobe.

Bathrooms are fun, you should try them!  But make sure your human closes the toilet seat though!


Dear Pikachu, 

Thanks so much for writing to me!  That duz sound like soooooo much fun!  I bet slippers really smell a lot like your human! yuk yuk yuk!  And That Bungie sounds FUN-gee!  And methinks the pajamas are a jammin idea!  Well, methinks me better run now and go to the bathroom!  Thanks for the cool idea!

Luvs Arnie! 

Well, That’s all Blokes!  Tune in again next month for another exciting episode of Dear Arnold! Don’t forget, you can share your short comments or fun questions with me by clicking here.

Exotic Pet Vet:  What Dr. C says ... 
When the Same Signs Indicate Different Diseases
By Dr. C., of course!

We’ve had an unusually high volume of calls in the last month about sugar gliders exhibiting the following signs: one day the sugar glider seems fine, it's eating well, playing actively and seems healthy from every outward manifestation.  Within twenty four hours the glider starts dragging its back legs and going into intermittent seizures. Within a day or two of symptom onset, the gliders are passing away. In several of these cases, apparently healthy companion gliders are showing similar signs and dying shortly thereafter.

Lisa has fielded most of these calls and the majority of people are jumping to their own diagnosis of metabolic bone disease or commonly referred to as hind leg paralysis within the glider community.  These cases are proving out to be a completely different medical condition that I will explain further in a moment.

First, let me make a statement that I hope you will take to heart. Different diseases will often present signs that are similar to other diseases.  The conclusion of what medical condition is causing the presence of these signs must be left to the educated diagnosis of a qualified veterinarian, after running a series of laboratory tests.  The practice of self-medicating your own pets will most often result in loss of that pet.  Jumping to a conclusion that the gliders are suffering from metabolic bone disease and simply increasing calcium intake will not save the lives of gliders carrying other types of disease.  Offering overabundant amounts of calcium can also lead to fatal conclusions. Medicine is just not that simple!  So what is this condition that seems to be presenting with higher frequency?

This situation came to our attention thanks to a long-standing member of the glider community that many of you know as Bourbon.  While Lisa was beginning to see an increase in calls asking for direction on the presentation of similar signs, Bourbon is responsible for connecting the dots, as they say.  There are forms of bacterial infection that if left unchecked will cause the signs of back leg dragging and seizures.  Blood work including a CBC and profile and/or a culture and sensitivity may be necessary to determine the cause of the glider’s paralysis.  Based on the results of these tests, your vet will institute a course of treatment that may include antibiotics specific for bacteria present.

Let me emphasize my previous statement.  Do not presume to know what the disease condition is without consulting a qualified veterinarian!  Certain bacteria will respond only to certain antibiotics. Merely providing your sugar glider with a broad-spectrum antibiotic is not the answer.  The medication must be specific to the infection.

If you contact Lisa, she will not personally attempt to help in a self-diagnosis because she is not qualified.  Her standard advice is to take the glider(s) to a veterinarian immediately.  I personally do not know Bourbon, but from what Lisa tells me, Bourbon’s approach is quite similar.  Frankly, if I were called directly and asked to diagnose over the phone, I would say the same thing.  You simply cannot make these determinations without having the appropriate tests run.

So, now that you’ve decided to do the right thing and see a vet for your glider's ailment, I can give you a few guidelines on how to approach the situation with your veterinarian.  As sugar gliders are relatively new as pets and few in numbers as compared to other species kept as pets, most vets do not see a large number of gliders in their practice.  While I believe it is completely inappropriate for a lay person to tell the vet what the diagnosis is, I think it is acceptable to first ask the vet what tests she/he recommends and why.  In other words, suggestions are fine, but you really need to trust the veterinarian’s judgment and discretion.  Identify a veterinarian you can trust in advance of life threatening issues.  All pets should have periodic wellness visits.  This is a great way to build a relationship and rapport with a veterinarian and determine your comfort level with this individual before a potentially dangerous disease presents.

I think that the glider community has done a good job promoting fecal floats as a quick, simple and inexpensive diagnostic evaluation. But when the signs described above are present, a fecal float will not likely give the desired answers.  Ask your vet what test is recommended and why; perhaps you can ask if a culture is advisable.

In case you have not heard of it, let’s jump back to metabolic bone disease (HLP) for a moment.  This disease is a long term manifestation usually related to an inadequate diet.  It is not contagious.  To review the previous issue of the GliderVet Newsletter that reviewed HLP, click here.  The only way to truly diagnose this is to X-ray the sugar glider so that any bone loss can be seen visibly.

I will also mention that X-rays may be helpful in determining the possibility of a back injury, which could again produce similar symptoms.  However, your veterinarian may come to a conclusion of metabolic bone disease on the basis of an educated guess after interviewing you on dietary practices.

Should you insist on having an X-ray performed?  Well, that is entirely up to you.  Most reputable veterinarians will not run up your bill by running more tests if they believe in a high probability diagnosis.  But as a consumer, you always have the right to ask for a firm validation, keeping in mind you will bear the cost of the additional testing.

Lastly, the veterinarian community may use different terms in explaining diagnoses that in some cases can be used interchangeably. For example, one vet may state that the sugar glider has a bacterial or viral infection.  Another vet may use a term such as encephalitis. How your vet explains the diagnosis is merely dependent on what type of medical jargon they choose to use.  Generally speaking, vets will use broad terms to explain complicated medical issues, as it’s just easier for most people to understand.

The word, "symptom" can often be used very differently by a lay person vs. a vet.  In medical circles, a symptom is rather subjective word used to describe something that can be expressed verbally.  For example, you may describe feelings to your personal physician that you have a pain in your stomach.  But when treating animals, a vet deals primarily with signs.  One example of this might be diarrhea.

You may have seen in earlier issues of the GliderVet Newsletter the use of the word symptom in some of my columns, but my audience here is the lay community and the term is accepted in the lay community.  If I were to present the same thought to the veterinary community, I would use the word sign exclusively.  The point of this aside is to simply show you how terminology can translate differently dependent on the audience.  This happens abundantly in the online communities amongst lay people and can mislead to inadvisable or even dangerous conclusions that most are not qualified to make.

While online communities are valuable resources to many of us on many issues, I urge you to never use information found online to attempt to diagnose and treat your own pet.  It’s a dangerous practice and while education is mission critical to good husbandry skills, use that education in a manner supportive to the long term well being of your pet.  The presence of signs is an immediate cue to visit a veterinarian and have the proper diagnostic testing done!

Tune back in next month for a brand new topic. These topics are driven by your requests, so send your questions about glider health care issues by clicking here and we will do our best to include in a future edition of the GliderVet Newsletter.  I send my wishes for good health to both you and your sugar gliders. 

I'll see you again next month!

Dr. C.  
(Janine M Cianciolo, DVM)

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GliderVet Newsletter
Your resource for safety first, expert
advice on our sugar glider friends!
>=<---- >=<---- >=<---- >=<----

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 GliderVet newsletter, please send them here

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Viva La Glider!  Arnold

SunCoast Sugar Gliders

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