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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.
Every January we like to take some of our “best of” information and
create a quick overview of glider care for our readers, as we know many
families bring new pets home during the holidays.
So for you oldies, you’ll find some of the same topics we’ve covered
but perhaps a reminder is good. For the newbies, we hope
that this gets you off to a good start with your new sugar gliders.
And for everyone, we have a picture of what appears to be a
black-faced sugar glider.
His name is Elvis and he was born here at SunCoast. I’ve never
seen a glider colored quite like him and I wanted to share a few
you, click here. If anyone has seen a glider like Elvis, let us know.
Does this color have a name? Should we come up with a name for this color?
Before you ask, I'm sorry to say, he is not available! One of
our long term customers and part time
helpers HAD to have him. Rob and his wife love really dark sugar
gliders, so they took Elvis home with a couple of girlfriends to live
in their already multi glider household.
They also live really close to me, so I’ll get to see him often.
Rob has said that his color is darkening even since we took these
In this newsletter, we are going to briefly share SunCoast’s New
Year's Resolutions with you, just to keep the community in the loop on
where we are headed.
As far as I know, we have the only sugar glider website that works with
a team of vets as well as a couple of nutritionists and chemists on
issues specifically related to sugar gliders.
We trust our group of experts to help us (and so you, through this
newsletter) to weed through the contradictory information you may find
on different websites or even in books.
The thing about websites and books is that they get outdated.
Many sites do not keep up with new science and the more we know about
our pets, the higher quality life we can provide them.
Some websites and companies even distort the truth and facts about
sugar gliders in order to support their own personal marketing
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.
We also have a brief comment on the topic of humidity and your sugar glider, very appropriate during the winter months.
Finally, we will review some information for sugar glider newbies - what not to feed you sugar glider.
If you are new to glider keeping, I really encourage you to spend time reading through all of our
past newsletters, which you
search through with a search engine created for us by Google.
We’ve been offering this free
newsletter service for
eight 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.
Just as important as including foods of proper type and nutritional value, there are foods that should be avoided as
well to maximize safety.
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.
SunCoast Sugar Gliders New Year’s Resolutions
We make New Year’s Resolutions every year as a company, and probably
like you, we don’t always stick to them. But we try very hard to.
We wish to thank all of the professionals who've taken the time to work
with us in any capacity this year as your contributions have been
critical to our success and the success of this newsletter.
Interestingly, I have a nephew who recently graduated vet school and
we hope he will get more involved with our educational outreach after
he completes his internship.
Plus, his brand new wife, as luck would have it, is a
nutritionist! So congrats to you, Kris and Carrie, and we look
forward to working with you more after Kris completes his internship
this upcoming year.
As you might know, we have been active in the
sugar glider research community and have volunteered to assist in some
of their efforts, some of which we hope will be forthcoming this
We also conduct our own research, often with the help of volunteers
from this newsletter list who test products and provide input.
With that background, here are some of our resolutions for the year:
One of the largest sellers of sugar gliders is spreading the
statement "All Sugar Gliders carry Giardia" as a fact. They are also
saying Giardia "can be very useful in balancing their digestion". We
believe this is an attempt to cover up the fact they are selling sick
babies, because at best the first statement is a gross exaggeration of
reality and the second statement is simply not true. The facts are:
1. Some (not ALL) sugar gliders carry Giardia. But if a
single glider in a colony is infected, it's possible 100% of the colony
will become infected.
So when referring to a single colony (or breeding facility), it could
be true that "All Sugar Gliders carry
2. Giardia interferes with digestion, there is nothing "useful" about the presence of
The second statement is a known fact, just search the web for
"Giardia interferes with digestion" or ask your vet.
As to the first statement, we are planning to do a study to determine
what the "normal" infection rate might be.
We think it could be close to zero, based on previous results with our
Our testing will take some time, but we intend to scientifically prove
the truth on this issue; it will be the first study of it's kind on
You can raise sugar gliders that are mostly free of Giardia if you care
enough to do so, and we're going to prove it.
We also plan a project to look at health issues related to
cages. We went through a good deal of this several years ago,
when there were only a few manufacturers.
Now there are a lot of cage manufacturers, and they often copy each
other’s best selling styles.
So you have a lot of look-alike cages.
Now, our local cage distributor has always made sure that ALL cages
we sell at SunCoast have been fully tested for both lead and zinc
But we are finding that more and more companies are importing cages
that have not been tested and we urge you to make sure this testing has
been done before you buy a cage.
Also cage related, we’re hearing rumbles about PVC coated wire
cages and sick gliders again after it being off the radar for some
These cages are very popular in the glider community and we’re very
sure not every PVC cage is a problem or there would be a lot more noise
What we’d like to find out is which cages, or which manufacturers of
PVC coated wire for home-built cages,
or which types of wire might be the source of these problems and try to
prove something one way or the other about this topic.
For example, there is a PVC coated wire used in lobster traps that is
treated to resist salt water corrosion – is that wire safe for gliders?
This kind of challenge is particularly suited to the list of 12,000
sugar glider enthusiasts who read this newsletter, since you’re
everywhere and have a wide variety of experiences.
If you are aware of any unexplained health issues which might have
resulted from or happened in a PVC coated wire cage, please let me know
Finally, our testing has started on some new products in the glider
health area and we like testing periods to run for a long enough time
to have high confidence in results.
If things work out there, you will be seeing some of these new products
this year. One of these projects has been going on for 2 years now!
As sugar gliders become more popular, product offerings tend to increase, so
be sure any new products you run across are safe before you use your own sugar gliders as guinea pigs.
Do some research first, ask about products (our products or anybody else's) on the large glider community chat boards:
The only people or companies who would urge you to avoid a knowledgeable
group of pet owners such as the folks on these boards are people or companies
with something to hide!
Product safety should be the responsibility of the vendor, but more
and more this responsibility is falling on the shoulders of the
consumer. We want to do our part to help you make informed decisions
about the products you choose for your sugar babies.
Humidity: Important to Good Glider Care
Winter time is always a time that we get lots of emails about itchy
gliders and nearly all of these inquiries come from states where
humidity is low in the winter months.
If you live in a dry climate, consider an inexpensive humidifier to use
in the glider room.
Low humidity will not only cause itchy skin, but could also
contribute to the very thin ears to get dry, flaky and in the worst
cases, cause the ears to literally dry up and crumble.
If this happens, the ears will not grow back. So take precautions this
time of year and keep their room
humid for those fuzzbutts!
There also seems to be some evidence that low humidity may
contribute to abandonment of joeys when breeding gliders.
We rarely have the problem of low humidity in Florida, but on nights
when we do need to fire up the heaters (which is not often) we still
put humidifiers in the room.
We have had the unfortunate experience of increased joey abandonment in
cold months and as we learn more and discuss this issue with more
professionals, lower humidity does lead to increased water consumption
and higher risk of dehydration. Of course, nursing females need to be
fully hydrated in order to support milk production.
Humidifiers are cheap, so don’t take risks with your gliders,
especially if they are
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 our
vet'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, our vets
have 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 our
vets, 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 available yet.
Our vets 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!
'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
----->=< ---->=< ---->=< ---->=<
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
GliderVet newsletter, please send them here.
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SunCoast Sugar Gliders
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