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This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter
Greetings Glider Groupies, Glider Newbies and Glider Wanna-bes! Welcome to the August 2009 edition of the GliderVet News.
I am very excited about this month’s newsletter! Over five
years ago we were asked to participate in a study on sugar glider
The study has come and gone and the results were published back in
2006. This month
we'll introduce you to the lead scientist in this effort, provide you a
the study, and wrap up by introducing a new food product
This product has been a long time coming, but it's been a lot of fun
working with all sorts of people all over the country to pull
the product together. We are also grateful to the manufacturer
for being incredibly flexible and patient during this process, as well
as for providing us with a thorough and informative pet food science
Last, but not least, we wish to express our gratitude to the many
community testers who have helped us determine just how yummy this food
is by reporting back their results with their own sugar glider
It has been a great ride and we hope you enjoy reading all about it.
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.
Introducing Dr. Ellen Dierenfeld
We are grateful to all of the doctors and scientists we’ve had
opportunities to work with over the years.
Their willingness to share their knowledge, insight and experience has
given us a way to share verifiable sugar glider education with the
And this month, we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Ellen S.
Dr. Dierenfeld received her PhD in animal nutrition from Cornell
has an impressive track record in both the business and academic sides
nutrition. For example, while with the St. Louis Zoo, she
assisted in planning construction of
a new LEED certified (green) nutrition facility. As Dr.
Dierenfeld’s background is SO impressive, we could spend the next 5
newsletters just reviewing it! But
instead, we encourage you to review the credentials and experience in her
Sugar Glider Nutritional Study
Quite a few years back I got a call from Ellen Ross, the owner of the Glider Central message
For several years preceding the reason for this call, the Glider
Central membership had been raising funds and seeking expert assistance
to perform an actual study on sugar glider nutrition.
Such a study had never been done prior to this effort, and as far as
I’m aware, there have been no other clinical studies done specifically
on sugar glider nutrition since.
The reason for the call was that the group designated to perform the
study had been assembled, the funds raised and they just needed one
Volunteers were needed for the study, in the form of sugar
gliders. The lead scientist volunteering for this study was Ellen
Dr Dierenfeld thought the study would be best managed if the volunteer
group of sugar gliders were of the same sex and same age.
For the benefit of the study, it was also preferred that each group of
sugar gliders had been raised in a consistent manner and
By equalizing all of these factors, it's easier to isolate the effects
different diets than when using sugar gliders of different ages,
different sexes, and different backgrounds.
Our role in this study was to lend a group of juvenile males to the
study group in order to support this very worthy effort.
Of course, we asked for assurances that the animals would be treated
with care and respect, and maintained in a humane and safe environment.
Upon completion of the study, the plan was for our boys to come back
home to us.
The attending veterinarian for the study was Dr. Debra Thomas in
At the end of the study, all of our males were safely returned to us
except one, who had developed an infection in his tail.
As Dr. Thomas had expressed an interest in keeping him and tending to
his medical needs, we agreed it would be in his best interest to stay
with her and benefit from her very capable care.
The rest of our gang came back to us, heroes in our eyes! Dr.
Dierenfeld published her results in July of 2006 in the Journal of
Exotic Pet Medicine.
The study was then made
available through Glider Central.
As is the case with many studies, more questions often arise than
In particular, this clinical case study generated questions that could
lead to new studies to answer these questions more directly.
One of the challenges of this study was getting large enough blood
samples to run the full extent of testing originally anticipated. The
study had to be modified in order to complete tests on a “pooled
results” basis, as the blood samples had to be limited in size with
sugar gliders because of their diminutive size.
There were three diets tested in the study, two of them popular
diets and one diet used as the control and under the design direction
of Dr Dierenfeld.
The dry kibble used in Test Group B (Dr Dierenfeld’s dry kibble) was
consumed at a higher level than the other two diet treatments (the
gliders liked it better).
Diet treatment A was a very similar diet treatment to what we’ve always
used here at SunCoast.
Diet C was similar to BML (Bourbon’s Modified Leadbeater’s).
We were pleased to play a role in this work. If you would like to read the complete study,
here is a link (PDF).
New Food: Super Nutritious and Tastes Good Too!
I’ve been waiting a long time to share this news! Wow, food
development doesn’t happen overnight and there are good reasons for
I always chuckle when I see products advertised as “new and
So which is it? New, OR improved?!
New, in and of itself, does not always mean better.
Particularly in the arena of food products, new products should be
examined over a couple of generations (not a couple of months) of
And we’ve done just that! For two years now, we’ve been feeding
half of our colony this new food and the other half were kept on
We basically just divided our colony in half. Gliders on one side
get Zookeeper’s Secret and gliders on the other side get Wholesome
We made a couple of interesting discoveries.
First, both foods kept our sugar gliders in terrific health, and
both foods supported healthy parents and offspring.
But what we’ve found that I think is significant is that the sugar
gliders on Wholesome Balance ate more than the gliders on Zookeepers
We took daily measurements of the amount of food placed in random
samplings of different sugar glider colonies and then measured what was
left the next day.
We took into account how many of the food morsels were used as
baseballs (and tossed out of the park!) and came up with a table of
numbers showing actual consumption. While we are not scientists, we
sure can count and add; and the numbers tell it all.
Wholesome Balance is more palatable to gliders than Zookeepers Secret
in most (not all) cases.
Some of the stats from this trial of ours are:
The sugar gliders tested consumed this food in a range of 2.81 to 7.76 grams per glider per day.
That is a large spread, but looking at the age and breeding status of each of these
* Older non breeding gliders consumed the least amount of
staple food averaging 2.81 grams per glider per day.
The age range of these gliders was 8 years old and up. This seems
to indicate that gliders in the latter part of the life cycle need
fewer calories to support their activity, which is lower than the
activity level of the youngsters.
* Younger, non breeding gliders (yearlings) consumed an average of 4.86 grams per glider per
* Younger, breeding gliders (without joeys out of pouch) consumed 4.96 grams per glider per
* Breeding gliders of various ages with joeys out of pouch consumed the most, weighing in consumption at 7.26 grams per
We fed all gliders regardless of age or breeding status the same
amount of dry food per day.
This test was repeated three times over equal time lengths as we’ve
seen gliders go through eating phases as a total colony, so we wanted
to make sure that no weather conditions, moon phases or other external
possible influences were skewing our results.
We also found that compared to Zookeeper’s Secret, Wholesome Balance
lasts longer for a simple reason.
Zookeeper’s Secret will dry out over a 24 hour period and the gliders
are less likely to eat the food the longer it sits out.
We’ve not had the same experience with the Wholesome Balance.
Food that was uneaten one night, we’ve topped off and left for
consumption the following night with no decline in the average amount
This means less food is wasted.
We had feelings about certain ingredients and have made a concerted
effort to avoid any ingredients that were controversial.
We also avoided including ingredients that have no proven science of
being beneficial to sugar gliders.
Let me explain further.
First and foremost, we knew that animal protein is a better choice
as a primary ingredient than vegetable protein.
Diets using animal protein as the primary ingredient (as opposed to
vegetable protein like soy or corn) contain a better balance of
essential amino acids that help gliders
maintain health and thrive.
Vegetable protein is a lot cheaper and many manufacturers will use it
to reduce the cost of product, but it does not offer the same benefits
as animal protein.
We knew this not because we are animal nutritionists, but because we
have been through this before.
It’s a primary reason ZooKeeper’s Secret was chosen as our staple food
8 years ago – it was the only glider food
available where animal protein was the primary ingredient.
We chose to use premium ingredients for Wholesome Balance, including
human grade chicken, mindful of the fact some people prefer to know
exactly what kind of meat is used in an animal food.
We chose to use rice for similar reasons, and natural food
some people are concerned about chemical preservatives in animal
we managed to invest in these premium ingredients without driving up
price to end consumers. In fact, because we have the food made
directly for us, we have
kept the price of a 2-month supply of this new premium food down at the
same level as
a 2-month supply of ZooKeeper’s Secret.
And because it’s a dry food with a longer shelf life of 6 months, we
can offer discounts on quantities that will save you money on shipping
When designing this food, we reviewed all the detailed information
we could get our hands on concerning other sugar glider staple food
We saw lots of staple foods (even foods for other pets) seem to be
promoting “special” ingredients in their food with the implication this
makes it better.
For example, taurine is a big buzz word in the pet food industry right
Chicken, which naturally contains taurine, is the main ingredient in
But there is no scientific evidence showing taurine to be of benefit to
sugar gliders, so we’re not going to hype it.
Wholesome Balance simply contains the best ingredient mix the limited
science we have on sugar glider nutrition allows us to put forth.
Plus, thanks to extensive testing, gliders really seem to love the
Over the last two years, we’ve also done some random field testing
of this product.
It did go through several iterations as we tested the
In our field testing, we’ve asked different customers to try the food
alongside any other free choice staple food they may have been
I’ll be honest with you, the first batch was not as palatable as the
version we are now publicly offering and these enhancements were made
as a direct result of community feedback.
Speaking of community feedback, community feedback was the impetus
for the new food.
While lots of sugar gliders love Zookeeper's Secret, some don't like
A glider that refuses to eat its food will not have enhanced personal
I believe many people tend to overfeed fresh foods, which often reduces
how much staple food the gliders will eat.
A simple test to see if your glider doesn't like the taste of its food
is to feed it only that food for one night, which will do no harm. You
may learn an important lessen on portion control of fresh foods!
We have also received a lot of correspondence about how the
Zookeeper’s Secret tends to dry out over time thus rendering it less
Many people prefer to use a softer pellet food like Zookeeper's Secret,
but the drying out issue has been one we’ve hoped to address for a very
long time and now we have an answer.
We are still fans of Zookeepers Secret. It is a gold standard
in the zoo community.
But because of the results of our own in-house review of the Wholesome
Balance product over the last two years, we’ve decided to go with
Wholesome Balance as the food for all of our sugar gliders (breeding,
non breeding, young and old) across the board.
We’ve also been using it over the last six months with half of our
weaning joey population with very pleasing results.
We are in the process of now switching everyone over to Wholesome
Zookeeper’s Secret lovers, don’t worry. We will continue to carry this
food as an option for you. If what you are doing works, no need to change it.
It is a very high quality food that we’ve had great success with for over 8 years now.
Now, I feel I have to address the "hard pellet" question.
Zookeepers Secret has been embraced by the community for a long time
because it is a soft textured food.
Last decade, as gliders became more popular as pets, there was cautious
concern about the possibility of lumpy jaw in sugar gliders as a result
of feeding hard pellets.
Over the years, I’ve asked several veterinarians to address the
question on our website.
Several had agreed to do so, but none have come through for a simple
there really isn’t any reliable (scientific) information in the vet
community about sugar gliders having high incidents of lumpy jaw.
If you would like more information on our investigation of this issue
like to report a confirmed case of lumpy jaw in sugar gliders, see
Due to the lack of evidence concerning the lumpy jaw issue, I made
an informed decision to feed the Wholesome Balance without softening
with water first.
As stated earlier, I’ve had a significant number of gliders (half of
our population) on Wholesome Balance for two years now with no evidence
jaw or other jaw or gum problems of any kind. I can make no
statement on the use of other hard pellet foods, but all indications
lead me to personally believe that Wholesome Balance will not increase
the risk of lumpy jaw or other non-specific jaw or gum disease in sugar
Manufactured with integrity and high quality ingredients, Wholesome
Balance Chicken and Brown Rice Blend is the only dry
sugar glider food using animal protein as the primary ingredient.
While your sugar gliders will savor the taste, they won't care about
human grade animal protein, the finest grains, all natural
preservatives, and no meat byproducts - that's for
For more information on this food and full ingredient list,
If you will be placing an order in the next 30 days or so, you will receive a
sample of Wholesome Balance with your order. Please let us know what you
and your gliders think of this new sugar glider food!
'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!
>=<---- >=<---- >=<---- >=<----
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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