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Your resource for safety first, expert
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This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter
Welcome Sugar Glider Mamas and Papas! Lisa here!
Welcome to our July issue of the GliderVet Newsletter. I
believe we have a menu of interesting articles for you this month, and
remember I used the word menu!
Arnold says I have to talk about him first, because he is giving up his
article space this month to the FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) topic. In this month's FAQ
section we will be re-visiting some issues
concerning nutrition with an editorial review of the pre-packaged products that are available
for sugar gliders. Arnold "supervised" the food research
project, so I told him the FAQ was really all about him - that's why it was so
easy to steal his space!
We will also be bringing you a guest contribution this month concerning the possible effects of
stress and newborn joeys. The story of Baby Roscoe is touching with a very happy
ending! And of course, the newsletter would not be complete without Dr. C's
contribution. This month Dr. C's feature will discuss the breeding anatomy and unique
attributes of the sugar glider's reproductive system. Well, actually these are attributes that
are specific to many animals in marsupial order.
I just want to remind everybody that this newsletter is intended to
express the wishes of the whole sugar glider community.
This is only our seventh edition of GliderVet Newsletter and your
wishes and desires drive most of the content.
We appreciate the comments and suggestions that are sent to us.
In time, we hope that everyone's
questions on every topic will be discussed thoroughly. Please
submit your stories of interest, your burning questions, your
funny sugar glider tails (I mean tales) or anything else that you
believe will further the education and enjoyment of keeping sugar
gliders as pets. Send your tidbits 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.
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
deals on starter kits, with or without cages.
Apparently you folks liked the idea of us introducing brand new products at a
discount in the newsletter - we flat sold out of Clean+Green
right after the newsletter went out. So we're going to try it again.
One of the "unpleasant" sides of owning sugar gliders concerns their
sharp little nails and how to keep them trimmed and well groomed.
If you have discovered an easy way to resolve this problem, please
So many people have problems trimming nails; the many people who read
this newsletter will appreciate your helpful hints.
I suppose because we handle gliders so much that we have our procedure
down well, but our way doesn't
always work well for everyone. Send in those suggestions so we
them with the whole community by clicking
Are you looking for other sources of great sugar glider information? You may want to check
out the Glider Central message board here!
Frequently Asked Question:
What is the Best Sugar Glider Pre-packaged Food?
Note to readers: This article appeared in July 2002,
and some things have changed in the sugar glider food area since then. For
one thing, there are more staple foods available. Also, unlike when
this article was written, we now produce our own
exclusive sugar glider food with manufacturing handled by an experienced feed maker. But our opinions of the foods mentioned in this article
have not changed. None of them except the positively reviewed ZooKeeper's
Secret use animal protein as the main ingredient of the food. Click
either of these links above to find out why the animal protein issue should be
important to you.
Without a doubt, the area of most concern for new sugar glider owners revolves around
nutrition. With the advent of the Internet, access to information has increased.
Availability of all this information seems to create confusion for a lot of people and
hopefully we can straighten out some of that confusion here.
First of all, is it important to have food available to your gliders 24 hours per day?
Our contention is that it is very important, and Dr. C.
has repeatedly stated that small animals need access to food round the clock.
We choose to feed our gliders a 7-day fresh food rotational
diet. There are a other possible paths to good nutrition, and regardless
of which path you choose for your pet, having a good staple food as part of that plan is
very important, especially if your gliders are young or are breeding.
Whether you are on a fresh food diet or some variation of Leadbeater's mix, a supplemental staple food is a wise
choice. Uneaten fresh food or uneaten Leadbeater's mix must be removed in the morning so
that the gliders do not potentially eat spoiled food. From the time this food is removed
until evening time, there should be food available in the cage. This is where a sugar
glider appropriate staple food becomes important.
As you know, we are dedicated to breeding happy and healthy gliders. It is of the highest
importance to us that our gliders' nutritional needs are met as best as they can be in a
captive environment. Over the course of the years, we have had the opportunity to try a
wide range of staple foods before settling on ZooKeeper's
Secret. We have selected a short list of the most prominent staple foods available and will share with your our findings
on and opinions of each.
Now I admit that I am neither a doctor nor a nutritionist, but
we've done a significant amount of testing and have had many
conversations with people
who are more educated than we are in these matters. It is from
this information that we
feel qualified to share these opinions with you. The best diet
plan is paramount to our
success! In reviewing the available staple food products on the
market, there are
four issues we have identified as important.
First, the food must be nutritionally correct for sugar gliders,
offering a reasonable amount of protein as well as an adequate amount
fat in the diet. Did she say fat in the diet? Some fat is important in
a sugar glider's diet, particularly with lactating females. But excessive fat can be very, very harmful.
Along this same line, no or little fat can be equally harmful.
The second consideration is the consistency of the food itself. Most of
the prepackaged food is manufactured into some sort of pellet or little round ball.
This is an important consideration because hard foods may irritate the gums and may interfere with
the animal's ability to eat; other than the swelling on the jaw, animals may
appear healthy. This condition can ultimately lead to spreading of harmful
bacteria and even death. You can find more details on this issue,
sometimes called "lumpy jaw" in the sugar glider community, here.
Third, how the food is intended to be used? In other words, was it developed to be a complete diet for the sugar
gliders or simply a supplemental formula intended to be fed in conjunction with a variety of other food items including fruits,
veggies, bugs, other protein sources or perhaps Leadbeater's mix?
Let's make this simple. Exotic animals require exotic diets. I do not
believe that there are any single pre-packaged food products available now or ever that will meet the nutritional and enrichment
needs of sugar gliders. Sugar gliders thrive with variety in the diet.
If you are simply feeding your sugar glider nothing but a pellet food each day, I hope you will seriously reconsider this
practice, as it is very, very likely that your sugar glider is not getting all that it needs.
Keeping healthy pets is not just about feeding them a bunch of pellets each night.
The enrichment of having a varied diet is so important to gliders, and while your gliders may be
kept alive with these types of pellets, I can just about guarantee that your glider is
not as happy, healthy or well adjusted as it could possibly be. The keeping of exotic animals is a
precious gift and it is up to us as their keepers to do the things that will keep them healthy
Let's look at this another way. Dogs and cats are domestic
animals as opposed to
being exotic animals. Dogs and cats have also been kept as pets
for thousands of years.
The number of dogs and cats kept as pets will always greatly exceed the
number of sugar gliders
kept as pets. So millions of research dollars are spent on coming
up with prepackaged foods
that are suitable to maintain the health and happiness of domesticated
This is not likely to happen within our lifetime with a sugar glider
The fact is, there just aren't enough of them out there for a very
reputable company to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars
necessary to come up with a "one food does it all formula".
Besides tons of money, it also takes years to make true scientific
claims on the safety of a
complete, single serving food product.
The fourth consideration is the inclusion of eucalyptus in the pre-packaged food formula.
In my opinion, this is nothing more than a ploy by manufacturers to make the food product
appealing to prospective customers. As most of our readers are American, I
believe most are apt to believe that since sugar gliders come from Australia, and Australia is just
chock full of eucalyptus trees, that sugar gliders simply must require eucalyptus in their diet.
Well, let's take this out of the realm of speculation. I've written to both the Taronga Zoo
in Australia and Australia Zoo (ever watch Crocodile Hunter? That Australia Zoo!). Anyway,
my inquiry was based on the leaf of eucalyptus being part of the natural diet.
I did not hear back from Taronga Zoo yet, but here is exactly what Australia Zoo had to
To answer your question on the habitat of Sugar Gliders, I can tell you that it is widely
variable depending on what part of the country you are in. Two things that the species requires
in the wild are a reliable food source (insects, nectar, pollen) and hollows to nest in.
Yes, they do live in eucalyptus forest and quite a few different types of woodland right down
to tall heathland. They do not eat eucalyptus leaf so why add this to the diet??
Now that you know the four criteria we look at when making good nutritional decisions for
our sugar gliders, let's take a comparative look at some of the products available
and how they rate with us.
Reviewed Product #1:
Exotic Nutrition's Premium Sugar Glider Diet
Reviewed Product #2:
Exotic Nutrition's Sugar Glider Diet with Eucalyptus
The first time I glanced at a label on these diets, I admit I was initially impressed.
The Premium is the only sugar glider diet that has over 40% protein, and if you've read past issues of our
newsletter you will know that we are big advocates of high protein. The
Eucalyptus diet has just over 25% protein, OK if you are using other sources.
But upon further review and actually trying the food, here is what we discovered.
While the protein ratio is good, the fat content is excessively low!
Reason? The protein is derived from soy, and with all the protein derived from vegetable sources only, it is
not in the least bit nutritionally correct for our insectivorous little friends.
Vegetable protein sources do not provide the best balance of essential amino acids to help gliders maintain health.
This pelleted diet is intended to be a complete sugar glider diet, thus depriving sugar gliders
of the enrichment needed to keep them at their happiest and healthiest. Also, if a diet such
as this is fed in conjunction with some variation of the Leadbeater's mix, it could throw off
the desired total diet ratios of vitamins/calcium, carbohydrates, and protein.
We found these foods spoiled in the cage quickly, even though we
our staple food once a day. On very hot and humid days in
Florida, the food was developing a white powdery substance on it.
And to this development most of the gliders said yuck.
Out of the many foods we tried, these were the least favorite when using gliders as the ultimate
judges. More of it was tossed out of the cage than actually consumed.
By the way, both diets contain eucalyptus, and we're not at all sure why
given the comments from the Australia Zoo.
Reviewed Product #3:
Our testing on the Brisky's line of sugar glider feed was somewhat
short-lived, as we had already had the experience of reviewing the Exotic
Nutrition products and Brisky's had some similar attributes we had felt were
less than desirable for our sugar gliders. Vegetable protein sources do
not provide the best balance of essential amino acids to help gliders maintain health,
and the main ingredients appear to be wheat and corn.
One brand of Brisky's is now touting eucalyptus as part of the formula.
This may be more "manufacturer's hype" than benefit in a good
sugar glider diet, given the comments from the Australia Zoo.
This pelleted diet is intended to be a complete sugar glider diet,
thus depriving sugar gliders of the enrichment needed to keep them at
and healthiest. Also, if a diet such as this is fed in
some variation of the Leadbeater's mix, it could throw off the total
of vitamins/calcium, carbs, and protein.
Reviewed Product #4:
We have had a rather difficult time finding the nutritional values of the Pretty Pets line of
products. However, from observation, the multi- colored pellets packaged for birds, reptiles,
and sugar gliders all appear the same. We've asked to received the nutritional analyses
of these products, however, have not received a response from the manufacturer.
From our observations, its appears to be nothing more than glorified bird food.
We also found information on Glider Central referring to a study that was performed by the I.S.G.A.
(International Sugar Glider Association) stating that the sugar glider pellet food sold by
Pretty Pets is identical in formulation to their juvenile iguana diet.
Vegetable protein sources do not provide the best balance of essential amino acids to help gliders maintain health,
and the main ingredient appears to be corn.
This is another of the brands of hard pellet food. We have also heard of concerns that the brightly colored food dyes used
in this food can discolor the feces, thus leading one to believe that something is gravely ill with the sugar
glider. We've heard accounts of people experiencing green poop, which could be an indicator
of illness in animals. One of the pet owner's best indicators of a sugar glider's health is
color and consistency of their droppings, so a diet that creates these illusions can mask
the health status of your pet.
We tested this food with a small number of sugar gliders and overall, they did not show much
interest in it despite the very sweet smell.
Reviewed Product #5:
Happy Glider by Pet Pro
We have not actually tried this food, however it has been mentioned to us on several occasions
and we thought it at least deserved some mention in this review. Vegetable
protein sources do not provide the best balance of essential amino acids to help gliders maintain health,
and the main ingredient seems to be corn.
This is another one of the hard pellet
foods. But it is not touted as a complete sugar glider diet, which we consider as a big plus for this
product! The manufacturer at least understands that sugar gliders need other
sources of nutrition to maintain a happy, healthy life!
Reviewed Product #6:
High Quality Cat Food
You might ask yourself what this entry is doing in a review for sugar glider pre-packaged foods.
Well, we felt it important to mention, as many people to this day are still feeding cat food
to gliders in spite of research indicating that the feeding of cat food may cause intestinal
blockage or renal (kidney) failure. We thought this was a good time to mention this
Sugar gliders are relatively new as pets and not a lot of research has been performed.
Cats are strict carnivores and sugar gliders are insectivore/omnivores. If you are feeding your
sugar glider cat food, please stop and give them something really good for them.
Reviewed Product #7:
As you probably know already, this is the supplemental staple food we chose to feed our
gliders. Let me state that SunCoast Sugar Gliders is not in the business
of manufacturing food. (Please note: as of 2009, the previous statement
from July 2002 is no longer true, we now feed our colonies Wholesome
Balance Chicken and Rice Blend).
And while our gliders are quite happy and healthy on the diet program they are on, we continue to test and learn
about new products, as they become available. If we find a superior staple food is available
sometime in the future, not only will we use it for our own gliders, but we will
keep you informed as well. In the meantime, these are the qualities of ZooKeeper's Secret that
make us appreciate this food source as far superior to the ones reviewed above.
The primary ingredient in Zookeeper's Secret is animal
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 to help gliders maintain health and
It comes in a semi soft pellet form, and is made with insectivore /
carnivores in mind, which is just what a sugar glider is.
This is not a food developed for another type animal and repackaged for gliders.
The manufacturer does not really even market to the consumer market, their primary market is the zoo
community. Specialized personnel, including veterinarians and nutritionists, staff zoos!
I prefer the recommendation of a veterinarian or animal nutritionist to the opinion of
a pet store owner or food manufacturer any day!
This food not intended to be a complete diet. Fresh sources of fruits, veggies, proteins and
vitamin supplements are suggested to feed with this product. For more information on
the feeding program we use (developed by Dr. C.),
This food has a reasonable shelf life and will not spoil quickly in the sugar glider's cage.
The nutritional ratios are sound for a supplemental staple food and the ingredients worthy
of a sugar glider. And most importantly, of all the foods tested, the sugar gliders love this one the best.
This was not even a close contest!
Needless to say, if a eucalyptus version of this food becomes available, we
won't be using it...
So there you have it. Our opinion, based on experience. I'm sure
many will disagree, particularly the food manufacturers. And others will
say "Yea, but you guys sell ZooKeeper's Secret, so it helps you to say it's
the best". That's a fair statement, but think about what it
means. We sell ZooKeeper's Secret because we have it - we feed it to our
own gliders. If we fed them something else, we would sell something else,
and we will, if we find anything better. Those of you who
own SunCoast-born gliders or have seen the
pictures know how healthy and happy our sugar gliders are. So I ask
Why would we sell anything else?
The Story of Baby Roscoe
Submitted by Crysta (Missoula, MT)
The night of Sunday April 14, I woke up to an amazing humming
sound. I noticed that
the smaller of the two gliders, was in the nest box. I wasn't
worried, it was such a pretty song.
I waited until Monday night to check on the girls. That is when I
it looked like something on Rozy's foot. My husband got the
flashlight and I shined it in and watched the "pink thing"
was a very tiny baby glider all pink, but he was completely out of
the pouch. I of course panicked and called Lisa the next
To read the rest of the incredible Baby Roscoe story, click
Exotic Pet Vet
What Dr. C Says On... Marsupial Anatomy and Reproduction!
By Dr. C., of course!
Sugar gliders belong to an order of mammals known as marsupials. Animals you may be familiar
with from this order include kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, and koala bears.
most marsupials are found in The Australia Region (Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea, the nearby
islands) and the Neotropics (Mexico, Central America and most of South America), the first marsupial stronghold
was in North America. They first appeared during the early Cretaceous
Period when the dinosaurs reigned, and later reached Australia by way of South America and
Antarctica, which were connected at that time in history. The most primitive marsupials
evolved are the Didelphidae. The North American opossum is a member of this group.
The young are born after a very short gestation (16 days for sugar gliders) and have minimal
anatomical development. The heart, lungs and kidneys are only partially formed.
And many of the cranial nerves
have not yet developed. But at this stage, armed with only sharp clawed
front feet, and a continuous
arc of cartilage across the shoulder girdle (this structure otherwise only found in reptiles
and monotremes (the platypus is an example), the baby makes its
way to the pouch (marsupium) where it attaches to the nipple. This primitive shoulder will later break
apart and develop into a typical mammal shoulder girdle, complete with clavicles and sternum.
In case you didn't catch it, the name "marsupial" is derived from
the word marsupium, which is Latin for pouch.
When sugar glider young first enter the pouch and attach to a teat, the
teat will swell, thus holding the young in place for approximately
weeks while its development continues. If the young were to
become dislodged from the teat during the early stages, they are
perish. Once birth has taken place and the babies are implanted
in the pouch, handle the
female gently. Many people do not realize that their sugar
gliders have successfully bred and given birth until several
weeks later, when the pouch will start to distend a bit making
the presence of babies more obvious.
If one baby is present, the pouch will swell on one side
of the female's abdomen and begin to take on the appearance of a
If two babies are
present, the female's pouch will swell on both sides and you will see
not the way you will find this stated in a medical journal, but I
thought it appropriate to use the popular vernacular to best
explain the look
of a female with joeys. It is possible for a sugar glider to
have up to three joeys, although more than two at one time is quite
The pouch offers varying degrees of enclosure. In some species, for example the wooly opossum, the pouch is
distigle and the young are exposed. The young finish developing in the pouch.
The amount of time needed varies by species. In sugar gliders, it is roughly 70 days.
Marsupials also have what is know as a cloaca, which is a common
opening for the rectum,
the urinary tract and the genital ducts (Reproductive system).
The male has a bifurcated
member, meaning it is forked on the end, and might appear as if he has
members. The female has a corresponding bifid reproductive tract,
that is the vagina and uterus are double.
The female has an estrus
cycle and may display some signs of a female in heat.
Without getting into a heavy discussion on biology, it is during this
that the females will be sexually receptive. You are not likely
to notice a visible discharge as you would in other
mammals like dogs. During estrus, you may
notice the female or her mate cleaning the area more often, which is
nature's way of recycling
Of the senses, vision is poorly developed, while the senses of smell, feeling, and hearing are
well developed. A large portion of the brain of the North American opossum is devoted to the sense of smell.
Although considered "primitive", these unique specializations of the
marsupial have allowed
for their survival since the time of dinosaurs. New aspects of their
physiology and life strategies continue to be
researched. I have heard it suggested that sugar gliders may
capable of delayed implantation. What this means is that a
fertilized egg will not implant immediately and remain in a
dormant state until
implantation occurs. Under such conditions,
it may appear that a female became pregnant without the presence of a
of the unique anatomical features of the sugar glider and marsupials in
general, the egg does
not actually "implant" as it does in other forms of mammal.
Without having access to specific
studies regarding the capability of sugar gliders to delay
implantation, my suspicions are that this is not a likely ability
of the sugar glider.
Because of the rather short 16 day gestation period seen in sugar
gliders, one event you might
experience with your breeding gliders is their ability to impregnate
again once babies are
born from a prior mating event. On quite a few occasions at
SunCoast, we've seen
babies in the pouch of apparently different ages. For
example, the mother sugar glider will have one
baby that is 4 weeks out of pouch and will obviously have the signs of
a significantly younger
baby still developing in the pouch. Once the embryo has completed
the gestation period and relocated to the mother's pouch, she is
longer "pregnant" in the terms we normally think of
pregnancy. The birth has happened and it is the unique nature of
the marsupial that
development will continue in the marsupium. It is during this
time that breeding can again occur and the mother may become
with joeys already in the pouch.
If you suspect that babies may be present, I suggest that you increase
the female's protein intake (up to 50%) to provide the extra
nutrition the nursing mom will require. If you are not
already doing so, be sure that the female is given a good vitamin
supplement. I recommend Vionate and Rep-Cal as my choices for supplementation.
and Lisa have chosen to give a third supplement to their breeding gliders, the marsupial
milk replacement formula Arnold's Choice
Possum Milk Replacer. While medical science has not proven the
benefits of adding this third supplement, it certainly will not hurt the sugar gliders when given in small dosages.
Remember from a previous article, too much vitamin/calcium
supplementation can be just as bad as not enough. So please do not get overly enthusiastic
with the supplementation when your sugar gliders have babies. The best course of action is to maintain
appropriate nutrition and protein levels from fresh food sources.
I send my wishes for good health to both you and your sugar gliders. I'll see you again next month!
P.S. If you have any additional questions about this month's article, send your
inquiries by clicking here and I will follow up on the
frequently asked questions in a future edition of GliderVet Newsletter.
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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
GliderVet newsletter, please send them here.
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