Can Sugar Gliders Get a Cold or the Flu?
By Lisa

Lot’s of hype is going on these days about the H1N1 virus a/k/a swine flu and with that, concern by pet owners wondering if the tiniest members of our family are vulnerable to such things.  Here’s what we’ve found out.

We’ve asked a couple of vets and simply put, the answer is likely no. That is to say that there are no known cases of pet to human (or vice versa) transmissions.  Well, unless maybe if you keep a pig!

I’m not going to go into all the issues surrounding swine flu as I’m sure most of us have heard most of what we need to know concerning our own health and our families.  I will share with you some of my experiences, corroborated by a couple of our vets in regards to contagion between pets and humans.

Care should always be taken to use proper hygiene in all cases of illness, especially around the very young and the very old.  I am always concerned that if I get a cold or bad sinus infection (which happens more than I would like) to exercise caution with the sugar gliders, particularly if I’m sneezing a lot.

It is always good practice to wash hands frequently when handling different animals.  Because we raise baby sugar gliders, we have adopted the policy to wash even between joey cages, and those practices have served us well in never having an infection problem in our breeding facility.  But when I or any of my part time helpers feels a bit under the weather, we take a few extra steps.  We increase the number of hand washings and we run around like cowboys.  Using a face mask (mine is a bandana) can go along way to stopping those sneeze germs from jumping from you to another.

I’ve only seen a sugar glider with a cold one time and it was many years ago.  These little guys do not seem at all susceptible to respiratory disorders although our docs have seen a few cases and I’ve heard from others that have had such experiences; it is not common with sugar gliders.  Other animals, like ferrets, are known for having a susceptibility to respiratory issues.  I’m personally glad sugar gliders do not seem to fit into that category.

OK, back to the cold story.  When we were very early into our breeding program, we built up our colony over time.  So we would bring in 10-15 pairs of sugar gliders as soon as we had proper housing and space prepared to maintain them.

I brought in a group of gliders from another breeder who was getting out of the business.  One of the gliders in that group was obviously not looking well.  He had a runny nose and watery eyes.  He also seemed to sneeze or sniffle.  It wasn’t the type of sneezy sound a sugar glider makes when grooming, but more sounding like a cold.

We made a vet appointment for him and while at the vet’s office a news reporter was there doing a story on treatment of exotics.  I had just received this sugar glider into our facility and had not even officially named him yet, which we ended up doing on the spot.  Not only for the vet record, but “Mr. Sniffles” ended up being in the local newspaper as a feature article in the pet section.

A weeklong treatment of antibiotics ensued which cleared up what appeared to be a simple head cold and he was fine after that, for many years to come.  This is the only time I’d ever seen a sugar glider with cold like symptoms.  Like I said earlier, it just doesn’t seem to be a prominent problem with sugar gliders.

Our best advice to you is to just use good common sense when handling any of your pets when you feel under the weather.  There are different types of influenza and when most of us get the flu, we don’t really know what type it is.  I don’t know about you, but when I get the flu, I really don’t care what type it is.  I just want to feel better and while getting there, I try not to spread my germs to any of my loved ones, human or otherwise.

It seems from conversations we’ve had with doctors and other glider keepers that often environmental conditions can be causal in sugar gliders catching cold-like symptoms.  Drafty conditions where the air  temperature is lower than gliders like (70 – 85 degrees) seem to be a common thread in these conversations.  For example, keeping the glider cage near the front door during winter months.

Either way, I know in this case, it was easy to treat.  If your pet exhibits symptoms out of the ordinary, please see a veterinarian as soon as possible.  Conditions like this can be treated easily if treated early.  Your little ones’ lives may depend on your quick action.

Fix Minor Rust Spots on Cages – Delay Future Rust
By Lisa

Ahhh Florida!  This time of year, I feel like we are the envy of America.  Our weather is picture perfect (well maybe a little humid) and the sun is shining bright!  We’ve paid our dues through the high heat of summer (and did I mention humidity?) and now we all realize why it is we live in Florida, even if it is humid.

Humidity does not really bother me.  I’ve lived most of my life in the deep South and it’s just what we do here.  But while humidity and I have become good friends, I can’t say that is true of my “stuff”.

As you know, we are notorious testers of sugar glider products before we offer them for sale.  I’m often asked if there is a cage out there that is totally rust proof.  I’m tempted to say that stainless steel should fit that description, but fact is I have some stainless steel around my outdoor cooking area and even that is showing some signs of rust, even though its under cover.  Humidity is not kind over time and will take its toll on anything made of metal.

Is there anything we can do about it?  You betcha!  I had a terrific conversation with a lady awhile back who also raises animals and we were talking about how often we have to change out cages and what we do to maintain them and extend the lives of the cages.

I enjoy having conversations with respected colleagues and exchanging experiences on how to best manage breeding groups of animals.  This individual has used a much larger variety of types of cages than I do as she raised a variety of different species.

One thing I thought very interesting was when she shared with me the results of rust on her PVC wire coated cages (see PVC warning here).  The internal wires had rusted so completely that the wire had disintegrated, yet the PVC coating was intact.  It appeared that these cages were in good shape; that is until you touched them.  Instead of being rigid in all places as a good cage would be, it was more like a springy net.  Any animals clever enough to realize that this could be easily chewed could adeptly be well on their way to freedom.

Now I don’t have any solutions for PVC cage problems for you this month, but I do have a solution for you if you used powder coated cages, which most of the manufactured painted cages are.  Oh, they might be called epoxy coated or baked enamel or some other name, but the paint type of process of coating is really the same.  These are just different terms used by different companies to try and make themselves stand out as unique.  

This solution will also work for stainless steel cages if you are unfortunate enough to live in a super high humidity zone like we do and find even your expensive cage is showing some signs of rust.  Last, but not least, this is also a super great idea for keeping the center bar of the wodent wheel clean and smooth as rust can be an issue on this product (or any product with metal parts) as well.

Let me say first, if you have a severe rust problem, you really should consider replacing your cage, wheel or other toys.  Rust can be problematic for sugar gliders (or any pet for that matter).  But if you see some beginning signs of rust or minor rust, this is just the ticket to save you money and extend the life of your products.

Start by hitting any rust spots with a wire brush or sandpaper.  Remove what you can with the brush or sandpaper, being careful not to mess up paint near the rusty spot.  Now here’s the fun part.

Coca Cola contains phosphoric acid, the same ingredient found in many rust removal products.  But the thing is, Coca Cola costs less and is non toxic.  I would be concerned using most rust removal products in a sugar glider cage, wouldn’t you?  But a Coke?

So get yourself a Coca Cola.  Not a diet coke, not a Dr. Pepper, not a Mountain Dew.  Pour or wipe Coca Cola on the affected area.  Some time later, maybe even a couple of days later, you will end up with a blackish looking residue on the area.  

Our suggestion is to let it sit a few days and then rinse it off.  The rinsing will get rid of some residue and stickiness.  Wipe it down again and perhaps hit with the sandpaper again lightly. 

This next step is very important.  You now have to seal the spot because it could be more susceptible to rust if you don’t seal it.  While getting rid of rust, we’ve also set the conditions for rust to prosper!  Again you want to use something that is safe and non toxic.  A product that we found works well in slowing future rust growth is GreenStump.  I’ve gotten into the habit of using this product weekly on our cages and toys, particularly in areas that are more prone to rust.  It will build up a nice protective coating over time with no potential to harm the fuzzy ones.

If you are comfortable that certain paint products are non toxic, you may try those.  But BE SURE it is a completely non toxic paint.  Call the manufacturer to find out if that product is suitable for your project.  I’ve never chosen this route personally; I am more comfortable using the Cage and Toy Shield as a protectant because I know it is safe and it has other nice benefits as well, such as stopping food and feces from sticking to the cage wire.

This is a particularly good habit to use when cleaning wodent wheels. We’ve heard the stories of gliders getting tails stuck on the center bar and some people have decided to use a “bar cover” to minimize this risk.  But we feel the bar covers many people are using could present a whole new pinch hazard.  The best remedy to this concern is to keep the bar smooth and clean.  Using a protectant like Cage and Toy Shield will not only help slow the process of rust, but it will also help grime, dirt and other gooky things from sticking in the first place!

We’re all aware that our economy is not what it used to be, so finding ways to extend the life of sugar glider cages and toys can be very helpful and we hope you find these tips useful.  To those of you who live in less humid climates, you can just drink the Coke!

‘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!