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This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter
Welcome to the July 2005 edition of the GliderVet Newsletter!
From time to time, we like to try and delve down a little deeper into
subjects previously discussed simply because the questions keep rolling
in. And since diet is the most important husbandry aspect of keeping
gliders healthy and happy, we are going to visit this topic again, and
in a manner that we hope will bring more clarity. Feeding sugar gliders
properly is not a difficult task, but a little knowledge does indeed go
a long way.
This month we will be presenting this newsletter in a little bit of
a different format. We know that many of you look forward to reading
Dr C’s educational articles each month, and many of you enjoy the wisdom of our own Sugar Glider Officer,
Arnold T Schwarzenglider. I also
know that both Dr C and Arnold both agree wholeheartedly that sugar
glider dietary decisions are the most important thing you can do to
keep your fuzzy wonders happy and healthy.
This issue will be dedicated to expanding on other
information already found on our website regarding this all-important
topic. So read on to
deepen your knowledge on why Dr C suggests doing things in a certain
manner and why each aspect of her suggested feeding guidelines are
important to overall glider care.
But before we jump in we do have one important and
It is our pleasure to announce a record setting birth event.
Sugar gliders typically have one to two joeys per pregnancy
On rare occasions, we’ve heard about, and have even experienced, three
joeys at one time. Theoretically, it is believed that sugar gliders can
possibly have four joeys, as the sugar glider female has four nipples
in her pouch.
But until now, we’ve never heard of same age
quadruplets. Congratulations to Flying Fur Ranch in TX for having the
first confirmed foursome to our
knowledge! The proud parents are Therese and Charlie, and all
four babies are several weeks out of pouch at the time of this
newsletter and doing very well.
A great big thank you to Susan for sharing this record-breaking news
with us all!
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.
Sugar Glider Diets … Revisted
There is a world of difference between
keeping an animal alive and maintaining your
pet at optimal health. From the abundant number of questions we
receive, many folks out there are still confused about glider
Since we began this newsletter, questions about diet have remained the
one topic amongst our readers. So let’s dig a bit deeper into
this subject, and
hopefully by the end of this article you will better understand why Dr
C recommends feeding
sugar gliders a very specific plan. Click
here to review Dr C's nutritional recommendations for a sugar glider's
optimal health and well being.
First off, I will share with you a
conversation I had with Dr C awhile back.
I asked her how many gliders she had seen in her practice over the
years that were
ill due to poor nutrition (which could have possibly been avoided if
the glider keeper
had followed a better plan of nutrition). Her response was in the
70%-80%, which is an astoundingly high number for a husbandry skill
that is so easily controlled.
So as we proceed with this topic, please keep in mind that there is a
world of difference between keeping an animal alive and keeping an
animal in optimal health!
I have asked myself on a number of occasions, why is this number so
high? And I think the answer to this is twofold. First off, there
is a tremendous amount of information disseminated by small hobby
breeders and posted on the internet by individuals that simply do not
have the experience or educational background to make certain
We’ve been sent many “care sheets” over the years that people
received when they first brought home new sugar gliders.
On the extreme side of poor husbandry
practices, we’ve seen such claims as feed your glider bird seed and
peanuts and it will do great!
For those of you who have been with us for awhile, you know this is not
only incorrect information, but extremely detrimental to the good
health of any sugar glider.
So the first thing you can do to help cut through the confusion and clutter of good
vs. bad information is to ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the source of this dietary plan?
- Is it recommended by a veterinarian who is experienced with sugar gliders?
- Is the plan recommended by an animal nutritionist who has
worked with sugar gliders?
- Has the plan been used successfully for many years with many
different sugar gliders?
- Has it been nutritionally tested and does it fall within our present realm of understanding
glider nutritional needs?
I’m sure that many of you who read
this newsletter have spent a lot of time researching
sugar gliders on many websites. Most of the larger sites that we
read ourselves will often give you links and information on a whole
bunch of diets.
We are one of the few websites that only suggests one diet and the
simple: it is the diet that we use. It is the diet that we’ve
been highly successful with for many years with many
sugar gliders. And it is the diet that Dr C brought to us when she
first came on board
with us here at SunCoast. We simply will not express opinions on
matters that we have no firsthand
Prior to becoming a full time sugar
mama, I spent 23 years in the corporate world in roles of
Accounting and Finance, so to say I’m particular about record keeping
understatement! When we first started breeding sugar gliders many
years ago (several years before we
launched our website or newsletter), we started with a commonly
accepted diet plan.
But when we needed a new USDA vet, we found Dr C, and she advised us to
do something quite different diet wise than we had
ever done before! It was actually a condition of her coming on
board, as she had quite strong feelings about the whole issue of diet.
So we took several weeks to wean all
of our gliders to her suggested guidelines.
And then for a couple of years after that, I decided to use my
background to do an informal study on the over 400 sugar gliders we
were breeding here at SunCoast. The bottom line is that all
objective measurements improved under Dr C’s suggested diet plan.
It’s not that we were having any apparent problems, to the contrary.
But we still saw statistical improvements in sugar glider mortality rates,
morbidity rates, joey production levels, joey weights and improved averages on our adult glider weights as well.
Stuff like this really means something to me and
makes me thankful that Dr C is around to help us continually improve our efforts at
I mentioned earlier that I saw the
reason as twofold why so many people seem to have issues related to
The second reason is that gliders hide illness well. When gliders
have nutritional issues, you typically don’t see a gradual decline in
appearance, activity, reproduction or any other sign that the diet may
be less than adequate.
In fact, when the signs of poor
nutrition show up, it’s more like a sledge hammer.
Gliders can live two or three years on a rather poor diet, yet exhibit
all the signs of a healthy
and happy animal. I think this is the main reason people get
sucked into a false sense of security about the diet plan they have
In many cases, when a glider starts to show signs of malnourishment,
you may only have 24-48 hours before death!
This may be shocking to some of you, but it is a well-documented
fact. Even immediate veterinary care may not be successful in
reversing the damage
done. The best way to prevent such occurrences is to follow a
plan of nutrition that you know has been successful for many, many
years with many, many gliders.
Now let’s get into some of the
specifics on diet that top the incoming question list.
Dr C’s suggested guidelines are really intended to be quite
simple. You offer one meal per day, in the evening, and remove
any uneaten fresh foods the next
morning. A typical meal will consist of three courses:
- A soft pellet staple food,
- A single serving of a fresh fruit OR veggie
- A protein
Let’s start with a review of staple
foods. Dr C has reviewed just about every staple food diet
available on the commercial market today.
Just as we only recommend one plan of nutrition on our website, as it’s
the only one we use here, we also only recommend one staple food.
The staple food we use is called Wholesome
Balance and is a pellet food.
Another consideration in the texture of the pellets. Consider
if the pellet is soft or hard, because some say that hard crunchy pellets may increase risk for disease in sugar gliders.
If you’ve ever observed the movement between a sugar glider’s teeth and gums, you may
have noticed that sometimes the teeth look long and other times they look short.
The reason for this is that the gums move up and down over the teeth. And
because the gums are looser, they allow this type of movement, making it very easy for food to get stuck in the gums.
More on this issue, sometimes called lumpy jaw in the sugar glider community, here.
Now while the consistency is
important, so is the nutritional content, and this food is the one that
Dr C is inclined to believe is superior to all other brands on the
Many exotic feed companies produce feed products based on “common
breeder knowledge”, without investing time or money into research for
that particular species.
The company that manufactures Zookeepers Secret specializes in diets
for the zoo community,
which is why you will not find this product in pet stores. Zoos
employ people with PhD’s in animal nutrition, so highly knowledgeable
people direct the development of species-specific products.
The second course in Dr C’s suggested
guidelines is a single serving of a fresh fruit OR vegetable.
Notice the word “OR” in this sentence! We feed one fruit OR
veggie serving in a portion controlled quantity and change what the
choice is each day.
The reasoning behind this guideline is directly related to the topic of
By changing the choice each day, you are enriching overall nutrition as
each fruit/veggie will contain different levels of vitamins and other
Also of importance is that by changing the choice on a daily basis, you
are preventing boredom.
Sugar gliders can become picky eaters very easily and with a varied
diet plan, you can prevent the gliders from becoming food picky and
Giving your gliders multiple choice
fruits and veggies every single night is not variety.
And if you give them multiple choice every night, they are going to
typically eat the same thing every night.
Like little kids, they will eat their favorite foods, fill up and
ignore the rest.
Portion control is important. If you offer a staple food, four or five
fruits and veggies and a protein each night, that is a lot of
Most of us probably wouldn't be able to manage a six or seven course
meal every single
night! So just keep it simple, being mindful of the fact you will
make better diet decisions for your pets than they will make for
When choosing your fruit or veggie offerings, keep an eye on the calcium/phosphorus ratios.
Next month, we will be bringing you some links/lists to lookup these ratios easily.
The third course is a protein and
should be low in fat. We work off a very short protein list
here, rotating between boiled chicken, boiled eggs, chicken baby food,
mealworms, crickets, grasshoppers and yogurt.
We will use different varieties of chicken baby food, like chicken and
gravy, chicken and applesauce, chicken and sweet potato, etc.
Again, these are just new opportunities to offer variety in the
diet. We do the same thing with yogurt and use different flavors
OK, before the question comes up, we
realize that yogurt
may not be considered a "traditional" protein, but the sugar gliders do
seem to do well with yogurt rotated through the diet program.
However, it is the only dairy product we feed them. Since some gliders
seem to tend toward lactose intolerance,
we avoid all other dairy foods. Dairy foods, such as cheese, can also
be quite high in fat.
Each night we choose one item from our protein list and vary it every
Items we avoid in our feeding program
are nuts. Nuts are very high in fat and sugar gliders do not seem
to have the ability to metabolize too much fat in their diets.
We encourage you to avoid nuts. There are many treats available
that are actually good for sugar
gliders, so why give them something like nuts that is high in fat and
also of a texture that could get caught in teeth, gums or throat?
On the topic of treats, you should
keep the level of treat intake to 5% or less of the total daily food
A lot of people tend to “treat” their gliders to the same treats each
We even encourage you to change the treats. Many people use
mealworms as the daily treat.
I often hear of people who give 3-5 or more mealworms to their gliders
Well friends, this is not really a treat, this is a full protein
serving! Once again, I encourage you to rotate the foods.
Mealworms are a good diet item to feed in a rotational food plan, but
feeding mealworms every day may put a bit too much fat in the diet and
will likely make your gliders much more food picky and spoiled.
The whole process of varying the meal plans is an important aspect of
Dr C’s recommendations.
So, to summarize this whole topic, we’ve been asked on many occasions to share with you a typical weekly menu here at
SunCoast, which we will do, but you will have to wait until next month, as we are just about out of space for this
But before we sign off, we want to
share one “trick of the trade” we’ve been employing over the years
regarding the administration of daily dosages of vitamins and
The only methods of vitamin / calcium dosage we’ve really discussed in
the past is the “sprinkle” method of sprinkling or hiding the vitamins
and calcium in favorite food offerings or calcium loading live bugs
prior to offering.
have also suggested a method of making juice or nectar ice cube treats that contain the premixed vitamins and calcium.
A couple of years ago, we starting mixing our vitamins and calcium in with
Arnold's Choice Possum Milk Replacer
in a ratio of 1:1:3. This
assumes, of course, that you are using Vionate vitamins and
Repcal green label (phosphorus free,
Vit D3 free) products.
Do not assume that any brand vitamin or calcium should be served in
identical ratios, as not all products are created equally.
We mix this batch, put it in a cheese shaker and then sprinkle the
formula over either the fruit serving or the protein serving
- whichever has the higher moisture content so the supplement mix
absorbs into the food.
We wanted to track this method over a
period of time, as we had some concern that the
Milk Replacer may increase the glider weights, which did not happen on
The initial thought on using this supplement was to help boost the
breeding females nutrition level and help with lactation, but
all of our gliders get this, whether they are males, females, breeding
They like the taste of the Milk Replacer and it seems to mask the
not-so-appealing taste of just offering straight up vitamins and
So for the many of you who have gliders that won’t touch food with
vitamins or calcium on it,
you may want to try the Milk Replacer
mixture. We actually have gliders that go to the sprinkled food first and lick the supplement off.
Try it, they may just like it!
Join us again next month as we wrap up this detailed topic of diet and
nutrition. We plan to share more of the specifics of our diet plan and
send our wishes for great health and happy gliding to you all!
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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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SunCoast Sugar Gliders
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