Sugar Glider Cleaning and Hygiene

by Lisa

Last month, we reviewed Sugar Glider Grooming, Causes of Odors, Popular Cleaning Methods and SunCoast’s Weekly & Daily Cleaning Processes. If you missed it, click here to review.  This month, we thought it would be helpful to review several types of items and the best methods we’ve found for cleaning – and preventing – odors.

Two of the most challenging types of items to keep clean and odor-free are those which are either porous and / or contain cracks and crevices.  Wood toys and Nail-O-Matic Nail Trimmers are examples of porous items, which absorb urine, food splatters and other odor-causing bacteria strains.  Wodent wheels and Glider Cages are examples of items that have corners and crevices where the aforementioned bacteria collect, attach and cause odors.  Items made of cloth, such as fleece pouches, can also become embedded with odors, so be sure to launder weekly.

Whenever you have an item that is severely impregnated with odors, it may take some serious elbow grease to decrease the odor-causing bacteria.  In some cases, it may not be possible to remove the odor-causing bacteria because they have permanently attached themselves to the item.

If you have a toy that is soiled and stinky, we recommend you first remove as much of the surface dirt as possible by using good ole soap, water and a scrub brush.  Add a teaspoon of Dawn dish detergent to a couple of gallons of warm water and immerse the dirty item for about 20 minutes (the only exception to this is the Nail-O-Matic, which we recommend soaking for only a couple of minutes).  Dawn is good at cutting grease and can help break up some of the soiling.  For sturdy toys, such as those made of wood, we recommend using a scrub brush with stiff bristles.  

For smaller and / or more delicate items, such as a Wodent Wheel or Nail-O-Matic, use a soft toothbrush.  Work the brush in a back and forth motion, using slight-to-moderate pressure, which will help to loosen as much dirt as possible.  If the water turns black, repeat the process until the water is clear.  Then follow up by rinsing well with water to remove all soapy residue.  

If the item has been used for years and is heavily soiled, the water may NEVER come back clean.  In this case, we recommend you throw it out, since it is laden with bacteria that could potentially be a health hazard to you and your sugar gliders.

Once you are able to wash the item to the point at which the soapy water is no longer black and dirty, let the item air dry until it is 100% dry.  To speed the process up, you can set it outside and let it dry under the sun.  After the item is completely dry, you may notice an odor has returned, but hopefully, the smell will have dissipated and not be quite as pungent as before.  Again, use your judgment here: if it’s still really stinky after, it’s probably time to toss.  Slight residual odors can be worked on in stages over time; items that maintain  odors indicate bacteria may have permanently attached themselves.

You probably won’t EVER want to clean like this again – it is very frustrating to spend hours cleaning your sugar glider habitat and toys weekly, only to have odors return almost immediately.  But if you stop here, the odor-causing bacteria will re-attach.  Now is the time to start breaking the barrier.  Cage & Toy Wash will provide the cumulative barrier protection to keep your sugar gliders’ habitat and toys clean and odor free.

As indicated last month, SunCoast uses a weekly application of Cage & Toy Wash to prevent odor-causing bacteria from attaching to items, and a followup application of Cage & Toy Shield to leave a slick, easy-to-wipe surface – future cleanings are very quick and easy.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  When it comes to making the cleaning process easier AND preventing odors, this phrase comes to mind.  To avoid the rigorous, timely cleaning process that many sugar glider owners complain about, try implementing a “preventative cleaning system” by pre-treating new items with Cage and Toy Wash to prevent odor-causing bacteria from ever attaching in the first place.  Talk about a time saver!

Raising Glider Selling Standards Across the Industry

by Lisa

Over the last several years, we have received an overwhelming number of phone calls from consumers who have unknowingly purchased a sick animal from unethical breeders / brokers / pet stores.  Many people have ended up having to foot huge veterinary bills within a few days of acquiring their new sugar glider.  To make matters worse, a large percentage of these sick animals ended up dying within the first few days or weeks of the purchase.

Breeders who do not provide a guarantee on the health and well-being of the animals they sell, in our opinion, should not be allowed to sell animals.  Unfortunately, there are few, if any, laws in place to protect consumers.

Some sellers make a big deal out of being USDA licensed.  This license does not require a guarantee and is almost as silly as asking your cab driver if he has a driver’s license (which by the way doesn’t exactly insure he / she is a good driver, right?)  Nor does it guarantee that that cab driver even has active insurance in case of accident.  You wouldn’t let a contractor work on your home without having a certificate of insurance, would you?  We feel that having a healthy animal guarantee in writing is just as important as a USDA license.

SunCoast Sugar Gliders is working to raise standards across the breeding industry and recently posted the idea of encouraging all breeders to make their sugar glider guarantee publicly visible.  By advocating this level of integrity, fairness and consumer protection, we hope to make an impact in decreasing the emotional and financial burdens caused by the small percentage of sellers who, unfortunately, cause a large percentage of distress.  Further, if most  breeders / brokers / pet stores make their animal guarantees publicly visible, the folks who don’t will stick out like a sore thumb and perhaps even cause people to ask, “What’s your animal guarantee?”

Please understand, we’re not saying every breeder should have the same guarantee, just that they have one and make it publicly visible.

The idea seems to have been well received by the sugar glider community at large.  Click here to read the thread on Glider Central.  And as always, we’d love to know your thoughts, ideas and suggestions on this particular subject.

Do Gliders Need Food Available Around the Clock?  Part II

by Lisa

If you missed Part 1, it’s right here.

So, let’s say you agree that it’s a good idea – especially for the target groups of babies, breeders, elderly and / or sick – to have food available in the cage during the day.  You can’t really leave BML, HPW, or many of the other diets in the cage all day because they may spoil.  That means using a high quality pelleted food designed for sugar gliders, like Wholesome Balance Chicken & Brown Rice Blend.

“What, a pellet food, you say?  I thought pellet foods were an awful, horrible thing to feed to sugar gliders – everybody says so.”

Everybody who?  Vets?  Animal nutritionists?  Like anything else, there are poor quality pellet foods and high quality pellet foods.  Many people have had bad experiences using pellet foods with a corn and / or soy base, but that does not mean all pellet foods are bad.  In fact, we have never talked with a vet or nutritionist with extensive exotic experience who did not think feeding high quality pellet foods daily as the main ingredient of a varied, balanced diet (like the SunCoast Diet) was the best way to approach exotic animal nutrition.

For example, here is an email sent by such a vet to us, completely unsolicited.  As a very experienced exotic animal specialist, he provided some comments on the general state of glider diets:

“Besides general nutritional concerns, the biggest problem we see with handmade diets is that virtually none have had a guaranteed analysis of the end product performed to guarantee that no deficiencies (or excesses!) are present.  Mineral excesses don’t hit you over the head; the animal grows fast, has strong bones, and looks great – then dies younger than it should.  No one usually suspects the diet supplements in such cases, because, hey, it lived for 2 years on the stuff!  Only thorough necropsy and pathology testing reveals the cause of death in those cases; most owners never know what hit their pet because they won’t spend the money to find out.”

“Exotic pet enthusiasts seem to desperately want to feed ‘exotic diets’ to their pets, as if this makes them more special.  The simple truth, be it not very glamorous or sexy, is that a simple pelleted diet with a guaranteed analysis, is far safer than most of the currently recommended home made mixes.  There are now good glider diets on the market, which when combined with some fruit / veggie intake, make for a very balanced diet…and in treating exotic pets for 24 years now, I’ve not seen ONE case of rickets or other deficiencies, NOR excesses / overdoses, on this type of diet.  I cannot say the same for ANY homemade diet formula out there.”

“I doubt that this will become the standard recommendation any time soon, as again it seems exotic pet people WANT to feed home made diets; they seem to feel that a mundane pelleted food isn’t ‘exotic’ enough to meet their pets needs!  Not very scientific, to be sure, but it’s the main mindset of the exotic pet owners / breeders I deal with every day.  It also is the main reason we see obese gliders, gliders with rickets, and gliders with organ failures due to excess calcium or D3 in their diets.”

“Oh, you probably wonder who I am!  I run an exotic animal practice, and also teach exotic animal medicine classes for both veterinary students and veterinary technician students at 2 colleges in my area. I’ve been a guest lecturer at both national and international veterinary conferences, and have written multiple medicine articles in veterinary journals, as well as chapters in medical textbooks (I’m working on a sugar glider chapter for a textbook now, which is why I happened to be browsing through the internet glider sites lol).”

Sounds like a guy who knows what he is talking about.  Sounds like all the vets and animal nutritionists we have talked with, including the folks responsible for exotic animal nutrition at zoos and sanctuaries.

What they want is a food of known nutritional quality

Read: not just vitamin / mineral balance, but the right proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and important trace nutrients

that consistently delivers the right balance in every single bite.

Read: does not allow selective feeding, which gliders are known for.  

For example, many people feed “what my glider likes”, which is a sure bet the glider is not consuming a properly balanced diet.  Just because your glider prefers corn to a pellet does not mean it’s a good idea to feed a lot of corn, which has a very poor nutritional profile for gliders.  And any pellet based on corn is probably a bad idea to feed as well.

It’s not about whether the food is pelleted, it’s about whether the food consumed has the right balance.  A high quality pellet food gives you both known nutritional quality and consistent nutritional delivery.

Some docs believe that ONLY a pellet food should be fed.  Here at SunCoast, we prefer the concept of enrichment, which includes providing not only a well-balanced pellet food, but also a variety of fruits, veggies and proteins.

But the majority of the food offered delivers exactly what the animal needs to not just survive, but thrive, in every single bite.  

Won’t you try some for your gliders?

Seriously, one “complaint” I often hear is that someone’s gliders don’t like ANY pellet.  This is often a case of overfeeding fresh foods “they like”.  You can try pellets for only a few nights without doing any damage; also you might read the two-part article in our past newsletters about dealing with picky eaters here:: Part 1   Part 2

Before we sign off this month, I would like to ask for your feedback on this topic.  What we are looking for in particular is ANYONE who has first hand knowledge of a veterinarian or animal nutritionist with zoo or exotic experience who believes that a diet without a good high quality pellet food is the best approach.  Many message board members swear up and down that this is absolute truth.  Please contact me with a name and phone number of those doctors.  I will try my best to contact them for an interview in a future newsletter.

It is never our intention to be close minded on any topic, but we’ve never found such a doctor and we’ve worked with many vets and animal nutritionists with PhD’s.  I would like to believe that a lot of information being perpetuated on the boards is based on some level of science and expert knowledge, so please, if you know a qualified vet who believes all pelleted foods are bad for sugar gliders, please contact me at [email protected]

As always, I am grateful to all community member contributions.  The more information we are all willing to share, the better life will be for captive sugar gliders everywhere. 

‘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!