Can Sugar Gliders Get Arthritis? 

Arthritis is often thought of as a geriatric disease.  This is not always the case.  Arthritis can strike at any point in a sugar glider’s lifetime.  It is not just a disease for aging animals.  Your pet may develop a mild case without any noticeable signs of arthritis, or you may notice adverse signs that affect your pet’s way of life.

There is not much written on specific cases of sugar gliders with arthritis.  These pets are still considered relatively new as a captive kept species in the veterinary community.  As such, treatment protocols are not readily available and in severe cases, most veterinarians will draw from related experience of treating similarly built and similar sized animals.

The good news is that arthritis is not typically considered a life threatening disease, but impaired movement can certainly occur and impede a healthier, active lifestyle.

So, the purpose of this information is to offer some practical advice in regards to prevention; usually the goal of the conscientious vet is to seek prevention through education over the need to treat disease.  Through awareness of practically applied husbandry skills, you can reduce the risk of a degenerative disease such as arthritis.

Diet has been presented as a primary theme over the years as a possible root causal factor.  Trauma, injury and genetics can also affect the condition of arthritis.  In the discussion of preventing or reducing the effects of degenerative diseases, diet can be a primary contributing factor to alleviating symptoms.  There is not much that can be done to prevent trauma, injury or genetics, but diet can still play a vital role in at least reducing the discomfort an animal may display.  For example, offering foods with anti-inflammatory qualities, such as brightly colored fruits and veggies, should be chosen over foods that increase inflammation (such as highly processed foods that are high in sugar, fat and sodium).

Cage size and type is also directly related to the ability of animals to move around naturally.  The recommended cage structure for sugar gliders is wire construction.  Most glider cages will have wire walls all the way around to afford the maximum opportunity for movement.   The more wire, the more square footage of appropriate type of climbing space is accessible to your pets.  Large cages are recommended with vertical height more important than width as gliders natural movement is to go up and down (as in a tree).

The controllable factors in dealing with animals showing signs of arthritis are diet and the tallest cage one can afford (financially and space wise) to encourage movement.  Running wheels are also helpful in keeping the joints moving to reduce further impairment.

Dear Arnold – Water Sources,  Blending Fruits & Veggies

by Arnold (with heavy assists from Lisa!)

Dear Arnold,

Is it safe to give my sugar gliders tap water?  Or should I be providing them with some other type of water?  I see lots of discussion online about the best water for gliders, and wondering if spring, reverse osmosis, filtered, well or distilled water might be better.  Thank you!

Your Biggest Fan,
Dear Lillie of the Valley,

Thanks for writing!  We suggies don’t drink lotsa water if fed a proper diet – so methinks ya may wanna spring for spring water (yuk yuk!)  But I dunno anything ’bout your friend osmosis, or the rest of that gang, so maybe the Lisa Tree knows better?

Hi Lillie, Lisa here.  

We asked 4 different vets this question and they were somewhat reluctant to make a firm choice because they lacked other details about the water.  Without all the facts, they’re not going to make a “clinical choice” and go with one or the other, because these definitions can have different standards.

But if forced to choose, these vets still don’t make a choice between different “kinds” of water, but favor water that keeps mineral content intact but is known to be free of chemicals and parasites – basically, the same as water quality standards for humans.

Still looking for a “choice”?  Here’s my interpretation of their idea: since reverse osmosis and filtered water don’t always remove all  chemical content, distilled water lacks mineral content, and well water can contain parasites, that pretty much leaves spring water as the “knowing nothing else” choice.

One final note on the subject of water for your gliders.  All the vets we have spoken with are in agreement that it is best not to put any additives in the water.  In other words, do not mix vitamins into the water bottle, as this could promote growth of undesirable things inside of the water bottle. Also, do not add apple cider vinegar to the
water. This is often done with people or other practices to “disinfect”, so to speak. Apple cider vinegar tastes bad and gliders are not huge water consumers to start with.

Be sure to keep the water bottles disinfected by keeping them clean. We like the glass water bottles, since they are the easiest to sanitize. If you offer nectars, or other alternative “drinks” to your sugar gliders, do not use in place of water. Fresh, clean water should be available too. And the recommendation is to not offer the alternative drinks on a daily basis, as many gliders will choose them over water.

We also encourage you to use a water bottle, instead of an open dish for water. The reason is simple. Sugar gliders cannot urinate or defecate into the bottle, but they can in open dishes, which is obviously not sanitary. If you offer both a dish and a bottle, most gliders will go for the easier dish. If they don’t know how to use a water bottle, train them by putting a little dab of honey, or other sweet substance, on the tip they need to lick to dispense the water.

Bottoms up!

…back to you Arnold?

Got it!  So yer best bet is to give us whatever you drink (errr, maybe not yer gin!).  If it’s good enuff for you, then it’s probly good enuff for us.  If ya have “good and good tasting” water that YOU feel safe drinkin’, then we suggies should be fine.  But if ya live in a place where no one would drink the tap (or well) water unless their life depended on it, then methinks ya know what to do!

If ya’re like my mum, ya may wanna just spring for dat spring!

Spring it on!
Love Arnie;-)


Dear Arnold,

I have read information online that advises feeding sugar gliders a combination of fruits and vegetables together in a single meal.  But I’ve also found information online that says blending fruits and vegetables can impair the absorption of nutrients because each uses different digestive enzymes.  I noticed in the SunCoast diet you suggest feeding either a fruit or vegetable at each meal, like the example weekly menu.  Do you suggest that because of this fruit / veggie combination problem?  I’m sooooo confused.  Please help!

Robyn, Tater and Totter
Hiya Robyn, Tater & Totter,

Mmmmmmm, youz are really makin’ me hungry!  Sounds like yer in need of a little “food” for thought about my very favorite subject – FOOD!!  But I dunno nuthin ’bout no n-zymes – just wanna have me some good-tasting grub!!  So I asked the Lisa Tree…

Hi Robyn, Lisa here.  Some people say mixing, especially blending or juicing fruits and veggies together can cause an inefficient digestion process where the absorption of nutrients is impaired.  This nutritional approach is generally referred to as “Food Combining” or Trophology.

In the SunCoast diet, this general idea is not a concern because the Wholesome Balance pellet provides balanced nutrition across the spectrum of needs, including micro-nutrients that may be difficult to provide in the fresh diet.  This is why animal nutritionists and most vets with exotic experience suggest using a staple food designed to meet the entire nutritional need of the animal – you can be a lot less concerned about what is specifically consumed in the fresh diet.  In  other words, on the fresh side of diet, just because the food offered is properly balanced does not mean the food eaten will be.

But, let’s say there is a benefit to the Food Combining approach in the human diet; does that mean it’s a good idea for gliders?  We don’t know a whole lot about the specifics of sugar glider digestion, I’d be hesitant to apply such a concept to glider feeding routines based only on a digestive concept.  However, there are really good reasons to feed one veggie OR one fruit per meal, based on glider behavior:

1)  Helps avoid picky eater problems, the tendency for gliders to fill up on what they like versus what’s really good for them.  For example, filling up on fresh food so not eating the nutritionally balanced pellets.  We call this “overfeeding the fresh”, a situation that does not provide all the nutrients required for best health.

2)  More importantly, provides a wider range of natural nutrition experiences, important to the animal science area called behavioral enrichment, known at SunCoast as the Thrive versus Survive issue.

Got that Arnold?  😉

Sure I getz it Lisa!  

Ya see Robyn, when ya give us gliders too many choices, then we get to eat up all our faves and may leave the stuff we don’t like as much but is good for us!  Kinda like when you hoomans fill up on those potato chip thingies before dinner then don’t clean yer plate!  Plus, if you feed us the same ‘ol veggie-fruit mix of stuff all the timez, we might gets bored with that and be pissy with you!

Here’s to good eats for all!

Yers Truly,

‘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!