Consequences of Glider Inbreeding
Thank you for the great article on pedigrees. If anyone wants to see the results of inbreeding they need look no farther than my little Luna. Luna and her three cage mates were part of a group of 19 sugar gliders that were abandoned in a rental property last year. We kept four of the gliders and adopted out the others in groups of four or more (except for two who were adopted out to be companions of two other gliders).
Anyway, little Luna and several of her siblings were born without eyes (picture). It is our suspicion that the original keepers had purchased a single male and female and then just let them go crazy. Amazingly, although the gliders were in a filthy, tiny cage, no one had MBD (metabolic bone disease aka hind leg paralysis), but several were half blind, completely blind, or, like Luna, basically eyeless.
First I want to thank you and sharing Luna’s story and picture. A picture says many more words than I can and we can discuss this over and over and a lot of people still miss the point. I think sharing Luna’s picture will have a great impact on better husbandry and she will be known a great teacher to us silly humans.
I hear often from people who’ve “accidentally” inbred, often the result of getting gliders that were already impregnated and then questioning after the fact who the father is. This is why it’s important to question your sugar glider supplier about their method of preventing inbreeding. Now granted we have to take part of this on faith, but I also urge people to trust their gut instinct. If you are getting mostly sales pitch and not getting a sincere sense of responsibility to the animals, then simply don’t buy your gliders from that source.
You’ve also given me a great opportunity to discuss the flip side of this coin. What I mean by that is too many people need to be able to “see” the effects of inbreeding. Just as easily as inbreeding can affect a visible defect that is obvious in Luna and her relatives, just as easily the results of inbreeding can manifest a not so visible effect.
In other words, the problem may not show up on the outside of the glider. There could be organ damage, or a higher risk for disease like cancer, stroke, heart attack or any internal condition affected by defective organs. Just because an animal looks healthy, doesn’t always mean it is healthy. Inbreeding does not support the long term optimal health of these animals.
I hope the community embraces Luna’s story and sees her example as just one way inbreeding can be detrimental to health. By the way, I think she is just beautiful and she is blessed to have you as her human, as another person may have just put her down because she can’t see. Animals are way more resilient than we are. They tend to adapt to deformities easier than humans. But this is not a reason or excuse to inbreed. This is simply a statement to Luna’s good fortune to have an accommodating family that cares for her and loves her in spite of her differences.
Thank you again for this picture . I’ve never seen such solid evidence of the harms of inbreeding and your story will make a difference.
Is my Lifestyle Suitable for Owning Sugar Gliders? Part 2
Thank you for the informative newsletters – they’ve been a big help for me in caring for my two gliders. There was something, though, that I thought should have been added to the Lifestyle for Owning Gliders article. You failed to mention the fact that gliders are vocal. Highly vocal. In the wee hours of the morning.
Their barking – and barking as loud as a Yorkie or other small dog – was a major point of contention between me and my spouse. Even with the gliders in a separate bedroom behind a closed door, they would still wake us up at 3AM, 4AM, and 5AM.
I personally wouldn’t recommend gliders if they are going to be living in the bedroom, or if the doors and/or walls are thin. I’ve lived in some apartments where the walls were thin enough that the neighbors wouldn’t have been amused with gliders next door.
You bring up a very valid point. We’ve discussed barking in the past and you can read about it here. They are nocturnal and that can be a lifestyle plus or minus. Not all sugar gliders are huge barkers and some, well they just can’t seem to shut up at night.
People have tried things like night lights in the room. I’ve not tried this personally, but I live in an old solid built home with all wood floors, ceilings, and walls. Wood absorbs sound. I did keep gliders in my bedroom at one point, but I suppose I was a sounder sleeper then. As I get older, I find that I don’t sleep quite as well and the gliders in the bedroom can become an annoyance.
Barking is one thing, and jumping in a large cage can make rather loud thuds, the sounds of toys and wheels a spinning can all make sounds that can be sleep disruptive.
Most people find that keeping them in a separate bedroom is all that you need to do to keep them from waking the family. I don’t think I’ve ever lived anywhere with paper thin walls. I’m going to go out on a limb here a bit, as a good sugar glider would do, and say that I’ve met people who snore a lot louder than gliders bark, so if that adds any perspective to the degree of sound then I’ve made my point.
Thanks for bringing this up. We do try our best to cover topics thoroughly and at times we just don’t anticipate all that may be on the communities mind. And this is a community publication, so your thoughts do matter.
Humidity in the Glider Environment
My daughter Lauren and I purchased a pair of gliders from you some years ago. They are doing really well and are much loved. Thanks for your continuing help, through the advice on your site, in keeping “the girls” healthy.
I feel that there’s an area of glider care, however, that you need to alert our fellow “providers” to – that is … air humidity.
Where you and Arnold live, in sunny, warm Florida, it’s easy to forget that many gliders live at latitudes that experience non-warm conditions for much of the year. We northerners refer to this season as “winter”. You may have heard of it. Up here, it gets so cold that the air is unable to hold much moisture. Our skin dries out, necessitating the use of skin creams and lotions to prevent “cracking” (don’t ask – just think any “before” picture in an ad for hand cream ).
And going indoors provides no relief: Believe it or not, we actually have to heat our homes ( the places where we keep our glider cages). We use a couple of methods: either we blow air through huge flames ( a furnace, it’s called ) and then distribute it to the rooms of our homes, or we have electric heaters in each room that accomplish the same thing.
The result is that we stay warm, and can pretend that we’re in Florida. Unfortunately, this “air conditioning” removes just about all of the moisture from the air – so much, in fact, that we have to add it back in by using humidifiers, devices usually found on our furnaces. Otherwise the dry air causes problems with our skin layer – sinuses, throats and airways, including our lungs. Dry air causes nose bleeds and makes us more susceptible to colds and flu – any bacteria or toxins that are airborne.
Which brings me to the reason for this letter. Our beautiful little friends share the same winter air with us, and likewise need lots of moisture. But we find it necessary to use an electric heater in their cage room to boost the temperature to what they like – high 70s.
So, their air is at risk for dryness from three factors …
1. It’s winter
2. Our furnace dries the air in the house and
3. We use of an electric heater in their room
Recognizing this, for the last several winters, I’ve been “conditioning” the air in their room through the use of a simple “wick” humidifier. That is, I fold up a fairly large towel, put it on top of their cage, and pour warm water onto it – about 3/4 of a quart every 24 hours. I replenish the dampness when I change the papers in the cage bottom. Invariably, the towel is dry after 24 hours. It scares me to think about what would happen to the health of our “girls” if they were left to breathe un-humidified air.
And so, I thought I’d better share my experience with you and thereby hopefully with many other loving and conscientious caregivers. Love your site!
From the Great White North
Brian and Lauren
Dear Brian and Lauren,
What can I say? This is an awesome email. Winter? You make it sound so brutal. I guess we are naïve in sunny Florida. We define winter as having to wear long pants.
You’ve pretty much said it all, but I am compelled to make one comment. I’m a little concerned about using a terry cloth towel for the wick. OK, a brief aside, I guess I have two comments. I guess you need the wick because your brand of winter sounds so wicked…
Back to my original thought, is there another type of fabric you can use for this wick? Gliders can get nails caught in terry cloth and it pulls out stringy which could create a whole new hazard outside of dry air. Or can you put some sort of barrier between the sugar gliders and their moist towel? Now I can only guess at this because as you so eloquently pointed out, us Floridians are a little bit uninformed about winter. We recommend fleece as a fabric to use in/near the glider environment, but here’s the guessing part. I don’t think fleece will hold the moisture as long as a terry cloth towel.
Microfiber cloths may be worth experimenting with, but that may be too similar to fleece and require more wet downs. I think a barrier, even if made of cardboard might accomplish the much needed moisture as well as keep the gliders out of harm’s way from close contact with terry cloth.
We have discussed this topic in the past and have heard several cases of sugar gliders ears basically cracking off. The ears are rather thin and will crack and literally fall off if the humidity is not present. So while we don’t have this particular problem ourselves, we agree that humidifying the air is critical. They are tropical rainforest animals and not intended by Nature to live in dry environments. Desert dwellers would be better suited. We also don’t recommend that you put lotion on the gliders, but fully concur with Brian and Lauren that the best way to achieve the right environment is by running humidifiers.
Fact is, we have had a couple of cold winters (granted they only last a few days) and I do use electric space heaters. I also put pans of water out because the electric heaters make a noticeable difference. We use high/low thermometers in our glider areas that measure humidity as well. I got mine from Radio Shack. Just for giggles I measure the humidity in my glider rooms as compared to my home and because of different heating systems, their air can get dryer than my air and my sinuses nose (I mean knows) when things get too dry for my comfort. As small animals with smaller sinuses and smaller lungs, it is a critical factor to be mindful of the humidity.
Thanks guys for such an informative and fun email!
And thanks to all three above for creating this month’s newsletter with your great questions. We love our community and meeting like minded people who care so much for the well being of sugar gliders.
‘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!