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Care Guide

About Care Guides[x] These care guides are written to help your clients understand common conditions, tests, and procedures, as well as to provide basic information about pet care. They are based on the most up-to-date, documented information, recommendations, and guidelines available in the United States at the time of writing. Pharmaceutical product licensing, availability, and usage recommendations are based on US product information. Use the Download Handout button to generate a PDF for printing or e-mailing to your clients.

Caring for Sugar Gliders

    • Sugar gliders are popular pets because they are clean, attractive, and relatively quiet.
    • Sugar gliders are hardy and don't have a lot of health problems.
    • Because of their social nature, sugar gliders should always be kept in pairs or small groups.

    Sugar gliders have quickly become a popular pet in the United States because of their many good characteristics: they are clean, attractive, and relatively quiet. Their housing and dietary requirements are reasonable. Sugar gliders are hardy and don't have a lot of health problems. However, before deciding to own a sugar glider, be sure you understand how much commitment and time are required.

    Biological Facts

    • Sugar gliders are tree-dwelling, nocturnal (active at night) marsupials (mammals with a pouch) from Australia and New Guinea.
    • Sugar gliders live in large family groups (colonies) of 15 to 30 individuals.
    • A thin membrane between their wrists and ankles allows them to glide through the air for distances up to 150 ft (45.7 m).
    • An average adult weighs 4 to 6 oz (113.4 to 170.1 g) and is about 12 inches (30.5 cm) in length.
    • Their captive life span is 12 to 14 years of age.
    • They are sexually mature by 9 to 12 months of age.
    • Males have a scrotal sac (reproductive organ) that looks like a little pom-pom on the abdomen. They also have a bifurcated (forked) penis. At maturity, unneutered males develop oily bald spots (scent glands) on their forehead and chest; neutering prevents this.
    • The female pouch (marsupium) on the abdomen has a u-shaped opening, holds the joeys (babies) as they develop, and contains two teats for nursing.
    • In the wild, the sugar glider’s diet during the spring and summer consists almost entirely of insects and other prey; during the fall and winter, the diet consists of eucalyptus sap, acacia gum, nectar, and manna (sap that oozes from wounds on trees).

    Behavior

    • Sugar gliders are extremely social, so they prefer to be kept in pairs or small groups.
    • Solitary sugar gliders require a lot of attention from their owners and are prone to behavioral problems due to loneliness.
    • The best time to adopt and socialize joeys is when they have been out of the pouch for 7 to 12 weeks.
    • Sugar gliders are very vocal: they bark or chatter for attention and make a sound called crabbing when they are excited.
    • Scent marking allows group members to recognize each other.
    • Unneutered males mark their cages with urine. Neutering reduces this behavior.
    • Sugar gliders breed readily in captivity.

    Diet

    • Sugar gliders can be fed Bourbon’s modified leadbeaters mixture (BML; see the recipe below) or a commercial diet for insectivores/carnivores (e.g., cat food kibble).
    • They need fresh (not canned or dried) fruits and vegetables, such as chopped apple, mango, grapes, carrot, and sweet potato.
    • The diet should be mostly insectivorous, including gut-loaded (pre-fed) crickets, mealworms, wax worms, and moths.
    • Sugar gliders require a diet of about 50% protein, which can be supplied by insects; lean, boiled chicken or turkey; scrambled eggs; cottage cheese; or yogurt.
    • Fresh foods and insects can be dusted with mineral supplements recommended by your veterinarian.
    • Recommend daily diet for one sugar glider:
      • 1 tablespoon BML
      • 1 tablespoon chopped fruits
      • 1 tablespoon chopped vegetables
      • 3 tablespoons insects

    Environment

    • Because of their social nature, sugar gliders should always be kept in pairs or small groups. Fighting is rare; same- or mixed-sex groups are usually fine.
    • The cage should be as large as possible (minimum size: 2 cubic ft).
    • Wire caging is best, with holes no larger than 0.5 to 0.75 square inches.
    • They require nontoxic branches (manzanita, apple, citrus) for perching, chewing, and exercise.
    • Near the top of the enclosure, they need a pouch or nest box for resting and hiding.
    • Aspen or paper bedding should be used. Cedar and pine should be avoided because they can cause respiratory problems.
    • The environment should be 70°F to 90°F (21.1°C to 32.2°C) and free of drafts. It should not be in bright sunlight.
    • The cage and bedding should be kept very clean to help prevent odor and behavioral problems such as self-barbering (pulling out or chewing their own hair) and self-mutilation (biting themselves).

    Preventive Care

    • Sugar gliders require a routine physical examination every 6 to 12 months. Consult a veterinarian with experience in treating exotic pets if you have any questions or concerns about your sugar glider’s health.
    •  An annual fecal examination should be performed to check for parasites.
    • Your veterinarian may recommend blood tests.
    • Their toenails require regular trimming.
    • Neutering males prevents the development of prominent scent glands.
    • No vaccinations are required.

    Common Medical Disorders

    • Malnutrition and its consequences (e.g., hindlimb paralysis, tremors, rickets [deformed bones], cataracts [clouding of the eye lens], blindness)
    • Stress-related diseases (e.g., self-mutilation, self-barbering, pacing, eating disorders, cannibalism [eating] of young, abnormal aggression)
    • Pneumonia
    • Diarrhea
    • Internal parasites

    Bourbon’s Modified Leadbeaters Mixture

    • 0.5 cup honey (do not use honeycomb, raw, or unfiltered honey)
    • 1 hard-boiled or scrambled egg with the shell
    • 0.25 cup apple juice (not frozen or for human infants)
    • 1 (4 oz) bottle premixed Gerber juice with yogurt (mixed fruit or banana)
    • 1 teaspoon Rep-Cal Herptivite vitamin supplement or a comparable supplement
    • 2 teaspoons Rep-Cal Calcium supplement (non-phosphorous with vitamin D3) or a comparable supplement
    • 2 (2.5 oz) jars stage 1 or 2 Heinz, Gerber, or Beechnut chicken baby food
    • 0.25 cup wheat germ
    • 0.5 cup dry baby cereal (Heinz or Gerber, mixed or oatmeal)

    Blend the first three ingredients together until well mixed. Add the remaining ingredients, and blend well. Pour into ice-cube trays, and freeze (one cube is approximately 2 tablespoons). This is good for 1 month.