GliderVet Newsletter  |  Sugar Glider Vet Newsletters 2006

GliderVet # 53: Scanning Our Site for Sugar Glider Info, Fruit Skins and Seeds, The Grape Controversy

This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter

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

As we sit in the heat of the summer, we are going to get really hot this month and jump right into the heat of controversial information we often hear about from our correspondents. As with any information found on the internet, there is always going to be some fact, some “urban legend” and some baloney. And we all know that baloney is not that good for people, much less sugar gliders. So we hope to meet a couple of these controversies head on. We live in Florida and we’re not afraid of a little heat. Now high winds, they scare the dickens out of us, but heat, we say bring it on!

We’re going to start off this month’s edition with some information we hope will help you find just the information you need with a brief article on how to scan our site. And yes, for the many of you who’ve been asking, your pal Arnold will be around this month. Read on to find out where Arnold’s been!

But before we begin, we do have one special announcement this month. We get a lot of email from people who love our deluxe cage. But quite a few folks have asked us to find one “a little bit smaller”. It took us awhile to find one that met our high standards, but at last, we are pleased to announce the addition of a deluxe rectangular cage to our lineup. This beautiful cage provides a spacious area for up to four sugar gliders, yet is still compact enough to tuck into a corner.

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.
How to Scan Our Site for Sugar Glider Information
By Lisa

As we are well into our fifth year of this newsletter, I find that the nature of many questions we get asked via email are already answered on our website. Many glider care issues have been thoroughly discussed in past newsletters, but it seems apparent to me that many people don’t know just how to search for information they need and don’t always have time to read through over fifty newsletters to get the information.

I want to share some easy search tips with you. We will always answer any emails we get, but as our subscription base grows (we are in over seventy countries now) it’s a challenge to get to them all quickly, so I will often send links back to the newsletter archives where you can find the type of information you need.

Click here to review all of our past newsletters. I do ask that you use this resource first and if you can’t find the answer, by all means email us. I’m the only official email answerer, along with Arnold, but he doesn’t write the English too pretty good, and well, I hate to sound rude, but he poops on my keyboard sometimes so I limit his access.

Most browsers have a “Find on this Page" command; for Microsoft Explorer, it's under the "Edit" on the Main Menu at the top. If you go to the newsletter page above, pop up the "Find on this Page" function, and type in a word like breeding, nutrition, diet, etc. this function will scan down the page and bring you to articles that address those topics. If you are unable to find what you need, let me know. Your question may very well become our next newsletter!

Editor's Note: We now have a search function for the newsletters.

And now for our big news du jour! We have added two more vets to help us with sugar glider education, and are excited to have them join us, as they will bring even more in-depth knowledge to our outreach program. We also have group of individuals from the Texas A&M veterinary college who are interested in contributing. They have access to vast research information and a faculty full of top notch teaching veterinarians, student researchers, and others dedicated to the expansion of animal husbandry knowledge.

And last, but certainly not least, we will be publishing periodic articles from Dr Ellen Dierenfield, who is the only PhD level researcher that we are aware of who has completed a study specifically focused on sugar glider nutrition. Dr Dierenfield has a PhD in animal nutrition and was affiliated with the Bronx Zoo, which was one of the first places in the country to bring sugar gliders into the US. Dr Dierenfield is now with the St. Louis Zoo.

We are really tickled that our newsletter has attracted such an elite group of caring experts and are especially pleased that YOU are a part of it. It is your questions that drive this engine, and we thank you deeply for your participation.
Fruit Skins and Seeds
By Lisa

So where has Arnold been? Well, he has some hair brain idea that people would love to see a TV show called Peel Or No Peel, hence his absence from his newsletter responsibilities. Now how silly is that?! He plans to build a stage where he will have a whole bunch of beautiful woman on that stage with brief cases filled with mealworms. One briefcase will have a million meal worms in it and the point is to try and win as many worms as you can. Personally, I think it is ridiculous, but crazier things have made it on TV, right?

Then it occurred to me. It never seems like that big of a big question when I get asked about peels, but it happens all the time! The same goes for seeds that are found in certain fruits. After all, everyone knows that apple seeds contain arsenic, right?! Well, actually they do contain a poison, but it is not arsenic as reported on many websites.

According to one website on urban legend: “When we think of dangers lurking in our food, we tend to concentrate on the threats posed by chemical additives or by improper and careless handling. Yet the truth is that we routinely come into contact with naturally occurring poisons in a number of the fruits we ingest. Apples are one such fruit: their pips (seeds) contain amygdalin, a cyanide and sugar compound that degrades into hydrogen cyanide (HCN) when metabolized. Cyanide itself is a poison that kills by denying blood the ability to carry oxygen, thereby causing its victims to die of asphyxiation. At least within the realm of murder mysteries, cyanide is the darling of poisoners because it acts quickly and irrevocably — once a fatal dose has been ingested, there is no effective antidote, and death takes place within minutes. It is sometimes described as having a bitter almond smell, but it does not always give off an odor, nor can everyone detect the scent. Cherry, peach, and apricot pits also contain amygdalin.”

It all sounds rather ominous, and I know there are a lot of sugar glider websites that warn you never, ever, ever, ever even think about letting sugar gliders get to these seeds.

My friends, let me let you in on a little secret. As we are responsible for quite a few sugar glider pairs, it is mission critical that we follow Dr C’s diet plan closely, which includes feeding daily fresh fruits or vegetables. From a practical standpoint, it would take many hours each day to remove the skins and seeds from all the foods we feed. We never did remove the skins, but we used to remove the seeds because we were right there with urban legend. And while the legend is “true”, it is also true that sugar gliders are not at all inclined to eat the skins on fruits/veggies, nor are they inclined to eat the seeds. As a result, we stopped de-seeding many years ago and have never had an illness result from that practice.

Our fuzzy little friends are smart. We can only assume they have some instinctual radar that tells them what part of foods to eat and what parts to leave behind. Now we always wash our foods very well, because fruits and vegetables can carry parasites from handling/storage practices, so a good washing is always prudent.

We hope to learn more as to why sugar gliders and other animals seem to know when some things can be bad for them and this is on our list of questions submitted to Texas A & M. But rest assured that your fuzzy buddies are smart enough to avoid the pitfalls of poisonous pits and seeds. And just for fun, feed them foods with skin on next time and see how paper thin they can make it. I never knew apple skin could look quite that way, and the apple skins are always left behind.

So Arnold, what do you say to this? Peel or No Peel?

Me Arnold says Peel! Now gimme my million mealworms!


The Grape Controversy
By Lisa

This is an article that I personally feel cannot wait. This is also on our list to Texas A&M, but sometimes the right thing to do is to share what we know now and to give the scientific explanations later. I am compelled to share this with you somewhat prematurely because for years, our care sheet information has suggested that you feed watery foods to your sugar gliders as part of the diet rotation. Watery foods would include a variety of melons and grapes. As we learn new things, I feel it is our responsibility to not only adjust our own practices, but to share this with you as well.

Did you know that a grape controversy even existed? I’m starting to see them as the grapes of wrath and will no longer recommend them as a good fruit to feed sugar gliders.

My suspicions about grapes started as I reviewed events in hindsight, but first indications came to me several years ago. We often get calls from folks with “mystery deaths”, and while I have no way to realistically help folks find the absolute answer of why their sugar glider died, my first question to them ALWAYS concerns diet. Now for me, it’s no mystery that a sugar glider will pass prematurely when a fed a diet of cat food and peanuts. And believe it or not, there are still new sugar glider keepers who are given such information from various breeders and pet stores. While those numbers are dwindling as sugar glider education improves, it still happens and we all know what dreadful fate can come of that.

There have been, however, quite a few cases of mystery deaths where I was completely clueless, but I started noticing a trend where even those folks feeding a really good diet to their gliders were losing animals unexpectedly. Some folks who felt they just had to know what happened forked out the big bucks to bring their dearly departed to a veterinarian for necropsy, and still came up empty handed. The trend that I noticed was that on many occasions, grapes seemed to be a common denominator.

But who am I to scorn the sweet delicious grape? It has never been our intention to simply editorialize in the newsletter and this is not something that will become part of a new format or platform for us. Empirical data is important. Experiential evidence can often support that found to be fact by science, but we’ve been reluctant to ever rely on experiential data only.

If it were not for this next event, I would still be silent on this subject, but my gut instinct keeps telling me otherwise. I was discussing my theory on grapes with an associate of mine and she felt that my assertions may be right on. She told me that the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is looking into a connection between kidney failure in canines and the ingestion of grapes and raisins. From several of the sugar glider necropsies (grapes were often present in the routine diet), kidney issues had been cited, but no direct connection to particular foods was indicated. In the ASPCA information I was able to locate, the exact role of raisins and grapes are unclear, but seemingly directly related to the events.

I stopped feeding grapes to my sugar gliders nearly a year ago, waiting on more empirical data to rely on. However, I continue to hear stories and I feel that it would be less than responsible of me to sit on this any longer.

And I wish to make this next point perfectly clear. There has been NO direct connection nor direct studies done with sugar gliders and grapes/raisins. And even our more popular friend, man’s best friend, who gets a lot of research money on their behalf is still waiting on results. From a realistic point of view, studies this specific in nature for animals like sugar gliders are not likely to happen any time soon (or ever). I often warn people about extrapolating their knowledge of other animals and applying it to sugar glider husbandry. Sugar gliders are their own unique species. But in light of the grapes being so close to so many events, I’ve made a personal decision to avoid grapes in my sugar glider diets. Now I simply want to give you the option to make your own gut call on this one as well.

Update: Are oxalates the problem with grapes? See this article.

'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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Viva La Glider! Arnold

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