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Your resource for safety first, expert
advice on our sugar glider friends!
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This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter
Greetings Glider Groupies, Glider Newbies and Glider Wanna-bes!
Welcome to the January edition of the GliderVet News.
This month we’re kicking off with some “best of” information as we are
well aware that many families bring new pets into their homes around
Recognizing all the new keepers in Glider-dom, we feel it is helpful to
get everybody off to a good start.
We have the only website with an on-staff vet. We actually
work with several vets and an animal nutritionist.
We trust that our group of experts can help you weed through the
contradictory information you may find on different websites or even in
The thing about websites and books is that they get outdated.
Many websites do not keep up with new science and the more we know
about our pets, the higher quality life we can provide them.
There’s a big difference between keeping animals alive and keeping
them at optimal health.
We rely heavily on the guidance of our experts in maintaining our own
colony of sugar gliders at optimal health. It is our desire to bring
this same access to you and hope you will take the time to learn with
us. And if you are new to glider keeping, I really encourage you to
spend time reading through all of our
past newsletters. We’ve
been offering this free service for seven years now, so nearly any
question about sugar gliders that you can think of has been answered by
someone qualified and knowledgeable.
Diet has always been and will likely to continue to be the area of husbandry most are confused about.
Read the November 2005 newsletter
for a sample of a healthy diet presentation.
And read on as we review what NOT to feed. Just as important as
including foods of proper type and nutritional value, there are foods
that should be avoided as well.
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.\
Dear Arnold: Great Toy Idea, Itchy gliders
I just wanted to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Thank
you for all of your help in the past year with my glider adoption and
my baby glider.
I know that you are always in search of new products for the
gliders. I was reading one night on the internet and someone
recommended the barrel full of monkeys on a web site.
I went out and bought a barrel for each of the glider cages at Wal-Mart
for under $5.00 each barrel.
They absolutely love them! I found 6 of them in the boys pouch
yesterday and every day they seem to put them in their pouch.
I am sure you have heard of this already. Everyday I hang them
from the top of the cage and every morning when I wake up they are all
over the cage.
They seem to really like them.
Enjoy your holiday-
Dawn and Billy F
Dear Dawn and Billy!
Ya know that me don’t like to monkey around when it comes to toys or
food, but you are right on about this being fun for sugar gliders. We
did hear about this many years ago.
In addition to monkeys, we also get toy soldiers from time to time,
'cuz me Mum says that she can get like a big whoppin' load of
'em from some Tree called the Dollar Tree. It’s a store by our
house that sells stuff for a dollar.
We like yer idea and thank ya a lot for sending it in!
My glider has been itching a lot more than normal lately, mostly on her stomach.
And she has twitches sometimes with her front and back feet. Is any of this normal?
I’m not sure what the twitches are about, but we hear a lot about itches in the winter.
Is your humidity low? She may have dry skin and you might consider an inexpensive humidifier for her room.
This can help a lot this time of year!
Your tropical pal,
What NOT to Feed?
I get asked this question all the time: “Can you please give me a
list of the foods my sugar gliders cannot have?”
And for a long time, I have avoided answering the question because I
feel it is impossible to come up with a complete list, or even close to
a complete list, of the food items gliders should not have.
But there's a ton of new glider owners out there in January who may
given improper information on feeding, so I decided to list some of the
foods that I know are often fed to sugar gliders, despite information
to the contrary.
This way we can at least start off with a partial list of the most
common “mistake” foods people continue to feed to their
sugar gliders. Remember, this is a just a short list of foods we
strongly encourage you to avoid for your gliders, but is in no way
intended to be a complete list.
Nuts (or any high fat content foods):
While sugar gliders may look, and act, a bit like flying squirrels,
this is where the similarities stop.
You see, the internal anatomy and digestive processes of these two
animals are quite different and while squirrels can handle the higher
fat content of nuts, sugar gliders cannot.
Nuts not only present a health risk due to the high fat content, but
they are also provide a choking risk.
The sugar glider's esophagus is only about the size of a pin
head. Have you ever noticed how your glider chews and then will
sometimes spit out a pulpy substance?
Sugar gliders mash their food in their mouths and swallow the juices
and will often discard the left over substance by spitting it
This is perfectly normal glider behavior.
The risk of high fat foods is the gliders' inability to digest the
fat well. So this suggestion to avoid nuts includes all foods of a high
fat content including avocado, ground beef, pork, cheese, etc.
Sugar gliders that are fed a diet too high in fat will often display a cloudiness in their eyes.
This white looking condition in the eyes could very well be fatty deposits.
If there are fatty deposits in the eyes, can you only imagine what the excess fat is doing to the rest of the organs?
I have seen this condition in sugar gliders who were not necessary overweight animals.
If you have an underweight animal, you may want to increase the
calorie count to get them to a healthier weight, but do so without
using high fat foods.
Lettuce does not contain much nutritional value for sugar gliders
and can often induce diarrhea in these animals.
Don’t fill your sugar glider up on lettuce because it lacks the
nutrition they need.
There are many fruits and vegetables that have much higher nutritional
value and these are the types of foods better suited for your sugar
gliders menu planning.
Make the meal choices count; and in our opinion, lettuce does not count
Cheese (or any dairy other than yogurt):
As mentioned above, cheese is a high fat food and we have already
discussed the dangers of feeding foods too high in fat.
But there is also some controversy surrounding the question about
lactose intolerance in sugar gliders.
Personally, I think the fat issue is enough for me to avoid cheese with
And I have found that certain milks do indeed produce results that
appear to be indicative of lactose intolerance.
The only dairy we opt to feed here is yogurt. Until better
studies are undertaken to determine whether lactose intolerance is fact
as it applies to sugar gliders, walk on the safe side and avoid all
dairy products other than yogurt.
We give our baby gliders yogurt at least twice per week and our adults
get yogurt at least once per week.
They seem to do quite well with this one dairy product which is high in
protein in and calcium, both good attributes for a sugar glider well
By the way, we count yogurt as a protein serving in following Dr C’s suggested guidelines for a good sugar glider plan of
Corn (or any foods where the Phosphorus ratio is higher than the calcium ratio):
If you recall from past newsletters, Dr C
has discussed the importance of having a higher calcium to phosphorus
count in food choices for sugar gliders. To briefly reiterate what she
said about this,
phosphorus binds to calcium and is expelled from the body, thus
increasing risk for a calcium deficiency disorder.
This a common condition for improperly fed sugar gliders. Now
this is an extreme oversimplification of the digestive process, but
this publication is here to give advice and not to be a super detailed
We would like you to stay awake while reading this information.
OK, back to corn! Sugar gliders LOVE corn, but the phosphorus
count is much higher than the calcium benefits in this particular
I remember when Arnold was a joey,
he was in my shirt as I was preparing to cook dinner and I opened a can
of corn and he literally dove straight in.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him happier as he two fisted the tasty
morsels and made a complete mess of himself, my kitchen counter and my
I wiped him down and put him back in his nest box with his girls and
they pinned him flat down and proceeded to lick him from head to toe
(which he didn’t seem to mind
either). It was a great day in the life of Arnold, but knowing
that corn is really not good for them, it was his last great encounter
Corn is not the only vegetable that you need to avoid due to high phosphorus ratios, but
it is the most common food I hear people feed that we would recommend avoiding.
For a listing of popular fruits and veggies and their CA/Ph ratios, click
Bird seeds or parrot food:
I most often hear from people that have purchased their sugar
gliders from pet shops that the recommendation and products sold to go
home with the sugar gliders is bird seed or parrot food.
I have no idea where this idea came from and how anyone could think it
is a good idea for gliders.
All I can guess is that people in pet stores see these critters as
living in tree tops in the wild (like a bird) and they glide, which is
kind of like flying (like a bird).
Please do not feed your sugar gliders bird food! Bird food is usually made of foods like seeds, nuts, dried fruits
(like raisins) and sugar gliders are simply not built to even be able to digest this type of food. It saddens me when
I hear information this poor is still commonplace in some venues.
I think the best and easiest explanation I have heard on feeding bird seed was from Ellen of
Glider Central. As
Ellen put it, birds have an organ called a gullet which enables them to
digest such foods. Sugar gliders do not have a gullet. Simple enough,
Cats are carnivores and sugar gliders are omnivores. According
to Dr C, cat food should also be avoided with sugar gliders.
Many exotic pets that are “new” are often given cat food when first
introduced as pets.
This is simply true because there are no alternative manufactured foods
Dr C shared with me several years ago how this was the case with
ferrets (and other species as well).
Science exists that shows that as more species appropriate diets are
implemented, the longer the lifespan the captive species will
Carnivores need a whole lot more protein than omnivores. There
are much better alternatives than cat food and to achieve optimal
health, your best advised to go with a more specific pellet food like
In July and August 2006 we had a discussion on grapes and raisins as
a potential bad food for sugar gliders.
We’re going a bit out on a limb with this discussion, but why take a
chance when there are other foods that exhibit safer and healthier
such as blueberries? We won’t go over this whole topic again, but
click below to read the original articles:
Grapes: Part I
Grapes: Part II
I started off this article by stating the oft asked question of
"what can’t I feed my sugar gliders?"
Most people know that chocolate is a bad choice for dogs and assume the
same is true for sugar gliders.
We are going to assume that is correct. Anything with empty
calories should be avoided, whether it poses a direct health risk or
Empty calories do nothing for your pets’ long term well being.
In closing, I often get comments from folks that they know certain
foods are probably not real good for their gliders, but still
feed it now and then because the gliders like it so much.
The quest should be to find healthy foods that your gliders clamor
for. I know mealworm night is always a food fest around
Blueberries are well received, as are many foods in the melon
family. Papayas will make most of my gliders wake up early for a
taste of that fabulous tropical fruit. Experiment with healthy foods
that make your gliders happy.
There is no need to ever feed foods that are known or even suspect to
be unhealthy food choices, because there are far too many healthy foods
available that gliders will love just as much!
When Safe Toys Become
We’ve run this article once before, and in the spirit of getting
sugar glider newbies off to a good start, we will revisit this topic
It’s always a good time to go over safety tips for keeping toys and
other glider accessories in good working order.
Even the best made products will wear out in time and need to be
It is critically important that you check out toys, sleeping pouches
and other glider accessories for signs of wear and tear.
Not all sugar gliders are created equally. One of the
attributes we love best about our fuzzy little buddies is the
uniqueness of their personalities.
Gliders will also exhibit different behavior patterns based on those
As you know, we take the business of testing products seriously here
SunCoast. With as many animals as we have at the Sugar Shack, it
gives us the opportunity to have a great environment to test similar
products with a wide range of animals, because we know that while one
may play nice with a new product, another grouping may make mincemeat
out of it in a matter of days.
We probably look at somewhere between 10-15 items before any make it
into our store.
One thing I can tell you is that I have not seen any product that
over the long run does not wear out, except maybe stainless steel items.
So lets look at some of the “hazard” signs you should look for when
cleaning your gliders toys and accessories.
If you do not clean your glider products that often, at least do a
weekly check on your products to make sure they continue to be in good
Look for signs of chewing in the seams. If the gliders are wearing holes through
their sleeping or bonding
pouches, replace them. A small hole in a pouch may leave enough room for a head to squeeze through, but not out
again. This is a risk you do not want to take.
Sugar gliders do not have to chew to stay healthy as some other animals do, particularly those in the rodent family.
But some sugar gliders like to chew. I tend to categorize the chewers in two
1) I find that bored sugar gliders tend to chew more than stimulated gliders.
You can increase their stimulation by adding more activities to the habitat.
2) But now and then, we meet a sugar glider in the second
of "good old fashioned overachiever". These sugar gliders,
too common, can chew up things in a heartbeat. If you have one of
these overachievers on your hands, then be super selective with your
If your glider always chews up wood toys, try hard plastic toys.
Severely chewed products should be discarded.
It is rare that a glider will chew a toy and swallow the splintery
As a matter of fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of such a
case. As we stated earlier in this
newsletter, many gliders will chew food and spit out the pulp.
So while the hazard to your glider may not be high risk for choking on
these splinters, splintered or chewed wood can present other hazards
that you want to avoid.
Running wheels are a product that need to be checked regularly. We recommend the
Wodent Wheel brand wheel because it is
fully enclosed and has a solid running platform.
Wheels with open rungs, like the old hamster type wheels, may present a
significant hazard for long tails.
The grid type of running wheel can create a “pinwheel” effect when the
sugar gliders go potty in the wheel, which they will unfortunately
do - we refer to it as "going on the go"! The open wheels are
fine for single gliders, in our opinion.
But we don’t think sugar gliders should be kept as solo pets. And
when you have multiple animals with access to a wheel, they will use it
This is why we prefer the closed type wheel like Wodent Wheel.
With multi-critters, they
may “fly” out of open wheels, increasing risk of awkward falls and
The main issue you need to check with Wodent Wheel is that the bar
that runs through the enclosed wheel is clean and gunk free.
If the bar gets gunked up, a tail or tails could get caught on the
apparatus. Over the years, the
Wodent Wheel company has been proactive in continually improving the
product, but as said earlier, even the best made products will wear in
time and need to be maintained.
I clean my wodent wheel stands and then use Cage Shield
to slow down new gunk from sticking to the bar.
Cage Shield will also serve as a rust deterrent. If you do get
minimal rust on the stand, then sand it off and use Cage Shield to
extend the life of the wheel.
If you get a lot of rust, start over with a new wheel. What you
want is a smooth metal bar in the middle that cannot catch a high
Some people have taken to putting a PVC pipe over the bar, but this
leaves small openings on either side that could create a pinch hazard,
so we do not recommend this as a remedy. PVC just trades one
potential safety hazard for another.
Keep in mind that the potential for hazard can be avoided by keeping
the bar clean and smooth.
We will continue to seek out the best glider products and work with
our manufacturers to keep improving on the present products, but at the
end of the day, please remember that most products will show wear and
tear with time.
And as responsible glider keepers, it is up to each of us to make sure
our glider accessories are maintained well and replaced as needed for
the safety of our beloved pets.
'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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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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