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GliderVet # 76: Introductions arenít working, can I try something else?; How long can sugar gliders breed?;
Rapid fire answers for Glider Newbies!

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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

Greetings Glider Groupies, Glider Newbies and Glider Wanna-bes! Welcome to the June 2008 edition of the GliderVet News.

Last month we discussed sugar glider laws in the United States. Shortly after dropping that newsletter, the Governor of the State of Georgia signed the law legalizing sugar gliders!  So congratulations, Georgians!  You can now have your own sugar glider experience.

This month weíll start off by discussing introducing new sugar gliders.  What do you do if standard techniques donít work?  Read on for extreme introduction advice; this procedure has worked for some  where all other techniques have failed!

Are you a sugar glider breeder?  Do you know when a sugar glider needs to be retired?  Our answer in not cut and dry, but weíll give you the signs to look for when enough is enough.

Weíll wrap with a barrage of questions.  These are questions we often get asked and are basic questions with simple answers.  Like all questions addressed in this newsletter, these are things we are asked a lot.  I think a rapid fire Q&A will do a lot to help the newbie get off on the right track.  So if you are new, I think a must read.

Before we jump in, I feel obligated to tell you about a sugar glider website.  Someone has put up a web site for the ďNorth American Sugar Glider AssociationĒ that we felt a need to respond to.  I use the word ďsomeoneĒ literally because the registry for this site is cloaked, you canít find out who owns it or where they are located without a court order (look it up for yourself here).  This lack of transparency seems odd for a web site proclaiming to be a ďTRULY independent source of OBJECTIVE informationĒ on sugar gliders.  To read our assessment of this website, and to find out what exactly we mean when we say our joeys are "hand tamed", please go here.

Iím always advocating that you trust your gut instinct on things you read, animals you are considering buying, and people you are considering buying from.  Websites like this do not serve the community well, in my humble opinion.

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.

Extreme Introductions
by Lisa

Most people agree that sugar gliders are much better adjusted when living with at least one member of its own species.  This is the sugar gliderís nature after all; it is the way Mother Nature intended them to live.  So forcing a sugar glider to live alone, without its own kind, is basically asking it to be something it is not.

Unless you are intimately familiar with normal sugar glider behavior and activity levels, it would be hard for a novice glider keeper to know the difference in their sugar gliderís behavior if it were not what is was intended to be.  Iíve spent many blessed years with lots of these blessed little critters.  It is a very rare exception that a glider is at its best when living alone.

Once a new glider keeper having a single glider learns this information, well then the search is on to find an appropriate companion.  Too bad so many places that sell gliders donít tell people this up front, but it is what it is.  Thank goodness for all those people who take time to do their own research on our beloved sugar gliders real nature, and choose to do the right thing.

Weíve discussed the standard process for introducing two sugar gliders many years ago.  You can read that article by going here.

So what if you do this and it doesnít exactly work?

Let me assure you that this procedure works in most circumstances.  I donít want to discourage you to get your single glider a companion because you think the risk is they will reject each other.

Iíve had to rely on the community to really figure out a more extreme method to introduce sugar gliders safely.  Like I said, most will do fine with standard procedures.  My personal experience on having to take more extreme measures is limited.  Why you ask? 

Hey, good question.  I have so many sugar gliders that if it doesnít work out with two of them, I can try a new partner.  Most people are not in that position.  But I like to keep things easy and with a Sugar Shack full of sugars Ö. I donít have to force the issue.  We can run our own program of bachelor or bachelorette!  What?  No rose?  Well what do you think about him/her? 

Sugar gliders do have preferences, and I strive for love at first sight.  If itís not quite that magic moment, donít feel lost on it!  We have some good answers for you.

As a medium size breeder, we canít always help the small hobby breeder through our own experiences.  We simply have more options.  So weíve decided to ask several of our distressed correspondents to try something to keep things safe for the sugar gliders and safe for their peeps.  Thank you to all of you whoíve trusted our knowledge of gliders to go out on an untested premise to prove what we thought would be true (especially Nicole).  So hereís the scoop and instructions on when to resort to these measures.

If youíve tried a good standard procedure, and your sugar gliders got entangled in a ball of crabbing, biting, rolling around ball of fur, you have a problem.  You DO NOT want to risk the safety of the sugar gliders.  Iíve heard some breeders say Ö AHHHH, just let 'em work it out for themselves. Theyíll get over it.

Thatís brutal!  Why risk injury if there is another way?  Sugar gliders are social, but also very territorial.  In the wild, they could run away.  In a closed environment, they have no options.  So play it safe.  You donít want to just play it safe for the gliders; but also for yourself.  Once this rolling ball of fur starts, how do you end it?

Iíve not seen it often, knock on wood.  But I will tell you this.  Iíve had to learn the hard way and if you try and separate animals that are fighting, even animals as small as gliders, you will get bitten and scratched.  They do not let go easily.  With extreme introductions, we recommend that you do it in the bathtub.  Itís a fairly sizeable area, and definitely neutral.  What I mean by neutral is the space doesnít have the scent of any animal (except maybe us!).

The slippery surface of the bathtub may be a bit disconcerting to the sugar gliders, but I see that as a good thing.  You see, Iím a big fan of Cesar Milan, Dog Whisperer.  If you are not familiar with him, he is always talking about a distraction.  The bathtub is a nice and safe distraction for the sugar gliders.  It may make them a bit uneasy, but you know they are safe.  If the sugar gliders are distracted, this will lessen the risk of them tying up together.

We now have a safe space to introduce the sugar gliders, but thereís one more part to this: you need to protect yourself.  Weíve only had about a dozen people report back on this technique so far, and with 100% success.  But I know sugar gliders and they all have their own personalities.  So I want to give good advice, and still play it safe.  Itís too easy to make some easy accommodations to protect yourself if you need to break up an ugly scene.

I think it's a good idea to have two people present, but not necessary. Put a bowl of water in the tub.  Keep a pair of gloves handy.  This is there only for an emergency fight intervention.  Who likes to get bitten?  Not me!

Now what you want to do is put a single drop of vanilla extract between the shoulder blades of each animal.  Gliders find this smell attractive.  You might also keep a bottle of sugar glider dry shampoo on hand.  This will lessen their natural smell.  Once applying the vanilla extract, remember only one drop each, put them on opposite ends of the tub.  Place a freshly washed pouch in the tub.

The feedback Iíve received from our awesome community members has all been similar.  The gliders will walk around a bit and sniff (new territory).  Their footing is a little off balance (distracted).  Whatís that new smell?  Yummy!  Most gliders reported have started to clean themselves first, then moving toward the other glider with them starting to clean each other.

I have one last important point to share.  Newly introduced sugar gliders will use their front hands (paws) to pull each other closely.  They will seem quite intimate and it is not uncommon for most people to feel some apprehension that it is all fixing to break loose into the bad scene.  But checking each other out and sniffing and cleaning each other is normal.  You will know if itís a problem.  

There is no crabbing and biting when this dance is going on.  There may be a bit of half hearted crabbing, but I promise you will absolutely know if itís a serious issue.  There is much crabbing in a problem situation and a lot of rolling around and biting.  I promise you, you will ABSOLULTELY know if itís a problem.  Dancing together may make you unsure.  Fighting, you will FREAK out!  No question about the difference here.

If you get into a serious issue, then put on those gloves and hold them partly in the water.  They hate being put in water that way, but it is a non-harmful distraction that should get them to release their grip on each other.  If it gets to this point, which would be an exception to the reports we are sharing, be sure and dry them thoroughly.  We donít want them to catch a chill.  

This is about safety after all!

My best wishes for you and your gliders are that new companions accept each other easily and happily, which is often the case.  If not, you have a safe way to make it happen, because in the long run, sugar gliders are happiest with buddies of their own. 

How long can Sugar Gliders Breed?
by Lisa

I have a criteria list that I consider as I make decisions on when to retire our breeding gliders on a case by case basis.  Some animal breeders will breed them til they drop.  I think that is just wrong.  If we are going to ask animals to do this, we have to be humane.

Iíve retired some gliders at very young ages, maybe as young as two years old.  I would do this if they cannibalized or maimed one of their young.  Usually by the time that happens, they already have new joeys in pouch.  If they are successful with the next litter, I may reconsider breeding them again, but repeat offenders are always retired.  In this case, Iím likely to only retire the female.

Our retired females live in all female colonies and are sometimes adopted out to families free of charge that have lost a companion animal and need a new older glider friend.  Our only stipulation is that they not breed this animal ever again.  Also, the sugar glider must be somewhat handle-able.  More challenging animals will stay with me because I donít want them bounced from home to home if they are too much of a handful for new keepers.

Female sugar gliders that have birth defective babies are retired immediately.  I had a female glider that had two joeys that both had a big ear and a little ear.  While this may not have had any other health ramifications for the offspring, I just think it best to end a breeding line when any sort of birth defect occurs.

We keep close records of how many joeys a female glider has had since we started breeding her.  On average, we have 3.8 joeys per year per breeding female.  Some females may only have 1 joey all year.  Others have had as many as 8 or 9.  This concerns me.  Many breeders would disagree with the philosophy of retiring the big producers, but I feel it humane to give the poor gals a break.  That is too much on a little body and overproduction will prompt me to consider retirement, especially if she seems to be on the thin or depleted side.

Any female that looks like she is losing weight or slowing down is retired.  We will also retire a mommy if her babies are low birth weight as this is another good indication that sheís just not able to well support young any longer.

I think it just boils down to good judgment.  If the female is robust and still a consistent, but not overly productive mother, Iíve had some breed as long as 10 years.  This is exceptional, but Iíve allowed that to happen, with many retired years left in her golden age.  Many of our retired females will live 3-4 years or more after retirement.  
Our males are often mated to a new female as we do not believe that males can excessively breed.  And on some occasions, it is really obvious when a male and female are inseparably bonded.  You can just tell.  In those instances, while not that common, I will have the male neutered and allow them to live out their natural life as a pair in their own retirement condo.  So thatís how we do it!  

You just have to take each situation as it comes to you and use your best judgment to keep your practices humane.

A Simple List of Answers for the Glider Newbie! (FAQ)
by Lisa

OK newbies, this oneís for you!  Basic questions and simple answers that can make your new experience safer and more enjoyable for everyone, especially your gliders.

Are sugar gliders low maintenance?

Yes and no.  A little knowledge goes a long way.  Proper diet is one of the most important aspects of their care along with appropriate habitat set up and environment.  They only need to be fed once per day with fresh foods discarded in the AM and good cage cleanings  twice per week if you have a suitable size habitat.  Temperature is also important.  So thatís the short answer to the yes part.

The no part is here because they want A LOT of attention.  After all, if you brought them home (them in as at least two of them), give them a lot of time.  They develop connections similar to dogs and are socially needy that way.  So time spent is critical to their well being and good adjustment.

Can you make them not nocturnal?

You can, but weíve not found a single vet (weíve even asked zoo vets) that think it a good idea.  You see, it can mess with their natural rhythms (Circadian rhythm: See Wikepedia) and most private glider keepers will not be as diligent as a zoo, for example.  Zoos keep all lights, temperature and other critical activities on timers or time schedules to pull off the concept of the ďnocturnal houseĒ.  And to do this, you need to keep a natural sunlight environment all night and a dark environment all day.  So if you want to live in a cave by day and keep bright lights on all night, consider this approach a good option for you.  Maintaining their natural rhythms is important to their long term health and well being.

Will sugar gliders not smell if you feed them certain foods?

Male gliders, if not neutered, will get musky as they get older as they develop dominant scent glands.  They also will develop special boy pee pee (sorry for getting so technical here) that can be quite pungent.  Itís urine marking similar to a cat.  This does not happen until they are about 5 - 6 months old.  But you will notice as your male gets older, he will get stinkier.  Females and neutered males, smell is pretty easy to control with a good diet, not overdosing  vitamins, good room ventilation and proper cage cleaning.

Will they be OK with cats because they are not rodents?

If you have a cat that hunts, then you already know that they are not just about rodents.  After all, lizards, bugs, even snakes are prey to the stealthy hunting cat.  Itís really about movement, not smell or zoological classification.  Now Iíve successfully kept cats and gliders, but my cats were rather laid back and didnít show much interest in even many cat toys.  But a cat is a cat and I would never trust them alone together.  If you have an outdoor cat, have they brought you more presents that were rodents or birds?  See what I mean?  I donít think they distinguish by smell.  Actually I know this to be true.

How are they with dogs?

The answer is pretty much the same as cats.  I hate to pick on a particular species, but Jack Russell terriers are great rat hunters.  They are smart, fast and seem to not mind biding time.  Many gliders have been killed by JRís.  Again, a movement thing. 

Can you take sugar gliders to any vet?

No, most vets do not see sugar gliders and you need to find a vet with sugar glider familiarity.  But all you have to do is call around.  If the first vet you call doesnít see gliders, ask them for a referral.  They usually know who the good specialty vets are.

How are sugar gliders with children?

Sugar gliders are not good kid pets, but they are great family pets. The sugar glider social needs are usually much too much for the typical child to accommodate.  The sugar gliders also have a life span that is far too long for a child to commit to.  Most young children donít understand the concept of a 15 year commitment, especially if they donít know what 15 years is yet.  So Mom, Dad Ö please get family sugar gliders that are a primary responsibility of an adult and share this great experience with your kids.  If you really want to get a cool pet for a young child, check out webkinz!  And Dad, by the way, Happy Fatherís Day you awesome ole Sugar Daddy!

'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 us! 

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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

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