Boiled eggs (without shells) mixed with high protein/low sugar cereal (like corn flakes or Special K) and mixed with either honey or apple juice. One heaping tablespoon is offered per 2 sugar gliders.
Yogurt (blueberry or peach) – 1 heaping tablespoon is offered per 2 sugar gliders
Special Note: Just weaned joeys are not quite ready for the mealworms or crickets yet, so substitute Gerber chicken baby food mixed with applesauce or sweet potatoes for the protein portion of the diet. Offer small mealworms weekly until the joey learns how to eat them without any trouble.
June bugs and grasshoppers are also good insects to feed your sugar gliders. While SunCoast does not feed either of these insects, I do recommend them as good protein sources. Never feed lighting bugs to your gliders.
Fruits or Veggies
Offered in single portions daily and varied from day to day depending on the time of year and availability of these items. This is merely the list that SunCoast uses and is not intended to be all inclusive. The amount to feed is about the amount that would equal one apple cut into 8 pieces with one piece fed to 2 sugar gliders.
Apples – Pears – Sweet Potatoes – Watermelon – Honeydew – Cantaloupe – Carrots – Kiwi – Mango – Oranges (only once a week and never to joeys) – Blueberries
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Vitamins and calcium should be given daily. I recommend Vionate as a well rounded vitamin designed for small animals. To supplement calcium levels, I recommend Rep-Cal Calcium, the phosphorus free without Vitamin D3 added version. Vionate already contains Vitamin D, so you don’t need it in the calcium. The vitamins should be sprinkled on the offering of daily fruits or veggies. You will just add a pinch of both Vionate and Rep-Cal. Do not overdose the vitamins. Too many vitamins can be just as harmful as not giving them at all.
I also suggest a third supplementation for breeding sugar gliders. We’ve found that using a milk replacer product like Arnold’s Choice Possum Milk Replacer, sprinkled on the fruit and vegetables has shown beneficial effects to the lactating female. 1/8 teaspoon every day is the amount used by SunCoast. During pregnancy, it is advisable to gear the diet more towards the needs of the female and its OK if the male is indulging in the same foods. If you find the male is getting overweight from this diet, I suggest that you purchase a Wodent Wheel or some other device that will give him access to good exercise.
Offered in the cage at all times, Wholesome Balance Chicken & Brown Rice Blend is the staple food used at SunCoast; it is a balanced formula and sugar gliders really like it. This protein rich dry food product is a great supplemental food to your gliders fresh diet. (Note to readers: ZooKeeper’s Secret was our staple food for 7 years; like Wholesome Balance, animal protein is the main ingredient but it’s a semi-moist food.) It is very important that small animals have access to food continually throughout the day. This is particularly important for breeding animals. There is no commercially available food that I would recommend as the single source of nutrition for your sugar glider.
I do not recommend that you substitute cat food as your choice of staple diet for your sugar glider. Cat food is designed for cats and cats are strict carnivores. To put this in perspective, many years ago when ferrets were becoming popular, ferret owners fed cat food, and over time it was discovered that this incorrect nutritional balance was ultimately bad for the ferrets. We have no reason to believe this is not the case with sugar gliders as well.
Fresh, clean water should be accessible at all times!
If you plan to give additional treats to your sugar glider, do so after they’ve eaten a significant portion of their meal. You can also use ordinary meal items as treats, for example, hand feed your pet its mealworms. You enhance your bonding and friendship and are feeding your pet what it already needs. If other treats are offered, the quantities should be very small in relation to the whole diet consumption. Think of it as dessert! And too much dessert leads to obesity. Obesity in any animal leads to significant health problems.
Dr. C’s Top 10 Nutrition Tips
1. Fresh water should always be available.
2. Never add vitamins to the water supply.
3. Offer meals that are at least 40% protein for non-breeding gliders and 50% protein for breeding sugar gliders.
4. Supplement proteins with a variety of fresh fruits & vegetables.
5. Keep a high quality staple diet in the cage at all times
6. Feed fresh portions of fruit and veggies in the evening and remove any foods that can spoil in the morning.
7. Avoid preservatives and pesticides in the diet.
8. Avoid excessive fat in the diet – meat products should be lean.
9. Maintain positive Calcium/Phosphorus ratios.
10. Gut load your bugs before feeding to the sugar gliders.
What is your recommendation on Leadbeater’s formula?
The original Leadbeater’s formula was, as I understand it, was developed by the Taronga Zoo as just part of a rather extensive feeding schedule for captive sugar gliders. Here is the total Taronga Zoo diet as published in one of my veterinary handbooks.
3 grams apple
3 grams banana/corn
1.5 grams dog kibble
1 teaspoon Fly pupae
3 grams blueberries / kiwi fruit
2 teaspoon Leadbeater’s mixture **
4 grams orange with skin
2 grams pear
3 grams sweet potato
On Wednesdays: feed day old chick when available
or large mealworms.
** Leadbeater’s mixture
150 milliliters warm water
150 milliliters honey
1 shelled hard boiled egg
25 grams high protein baby cereal
1 teaspoon vitamin supplement (Vionate)
Mix water and honey, blend egg in separate container, add water/honey mix, vitamin powder, and baby cereal, blending each until smooth. Keep unused portion refrigerated.
OK, now back to the question. My first thought on this is that Leadbeater’s mix was designed as just a small part of an overall feeding plan. I am aware of several variations of this mixture designed to make it more complete, however, I have some reservations. My primary reservation is based in how the necessary vitamins are administered. If the product is refrigerated, or frozen as suggested by some recipes, I am concerned that the vitamins may lose some potency.
Look at it like this. Have you ever read your own vitamin containers and noticed that it may contain language like “keep in a cool, dark place” or “store between 65 and 80 degrees”? Have you ever noticed that certain vitamins are packaged in brown or some other dark packaging? While I do not purport to be a nutritionist, common sense tells me that certain vitamins will change or lose value if kept in a way other than as recommended by the manufacturer.
In closing, I am an advocate of feeding fresh foods to exotic animals. I see a great number of exotic animals in my practice, and because exotics are relatively few in number as compared to the more traditional domestic pets, I am not yet convinced that there is an adequate pre-packaged food product available that meets all the needs of the sugar glider. If you want to keep an exotic pet, you should be willing to feed it an exotic diet. If you want easy, then get a more traditional pet that you can feed once a day in a bowl on the floor. It is difficult as a professional in my position to see that the demise of most exotic pets is due to the owner’s lack of knowledge on proper nutrition and environment.
This is a diet plan that I can endorse as I’ve seen firsthand the success of this program. I would prefer not to comment on the many variations that are published as I do not have good firsthand experience with them. If you believe that you have a program is that is healthy for your sugar glider, I suggest that you review the plan with your veterinarian to insure that it is appropriate. Remember, there is more than one path to good nutrition, this is just the path that I recommend to my clientele.
I’ll see you again next month!
P.S. If you have any additional questions about this month’s nutrition program, send your inquiries here and I will follow up on the frequently asked questions in a future edition of GliderVet Newsletter.
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