Frequently Asked Question: Gut Loading
By Dr. C.

Last month’s article on nutrition certainly created a lot of questions from our subscribers, but by far the number one question concerned gut loading.  When you buy live insects from a pet store or a mail order house, the insects are usually underfed.  This cuts down on the poop and mess that well fed animals leave behind. 

Underfed bugs do not contain the right amounts of fat, protein and other nutrients.  So simply stated, if you are feeding malnourished  insects to your sugar glider, you are under-nourishing your glider as well.  When you buy live feeder insects for your pet, you want to “gut load” them for 48 hours before feeding them to the sugar gliders.  Here is a step by step on how to go about gut loading your mealworms and crickets.  After all, insects need to be well fed, before they are…well…fed!

For mealworms, you will use pieces of carrots and apples to provide a water source and Vitamins C and A.  For crickets, I recommend using oranges for the water source.  You will need to get some bran from the health food store or grocery store.  Mix the bran with a high quality, high protein source insect food such as ESU’s Gut Load.

Use a plastic terrarium or Tupperware style container (with holes in the lid) as your feeder bin.  Mix the bran and gut load together with a small amount of vitamins such as Blueberry Fortifier.

Place this dry mixture on the bottom of the container.  Lay the fruit on top of the dry mixture.  Now just add your insects and in two days they will be well-fortified, nutritional feeder insects for your sugar gliders.  

Do not refrigerate the feeder bin.  The bugs will not eat when the temperatures are too low and you will defeat the purpose of gut loading.  You can refrigerate your insects to slow down their growth, as long as you give them a two-day gut load treatment before using as feed.  Also, do not add extra calcium to this formula.  The ESU gut load formula contains a calcium supplement and too much calcium will kill the bugs.  It’s just as easy to “overdo” vitamins and minerals as it is to give too little, so don’t fall into the trap of believing that more is better.  I do not recommend using potatoes as a food / moisture source as experience shows that potatoes support mold, bacteria and fungal growth.

The SunCoast Sugar Glider Sugar Glider Afficionado Awards!
By Lisa

Within the last month, two of our subscribers have done things that we believe deserve public recognition.  And since we had such a hard time deciding which one to feature in this month’s newsletter, we decided to highlight both of their stories.

Serena is the proud Sugar Mama of six.  She started off with Isaac,Pennie, and Tiffany and both females have recently had joeys.  Isaac has since been neutered and Serena and hubby, Evilio, have creatively designed wonderful habitats for their sugar gliders’ environment.  But their creativity does not stop there.  Serena thinks that humans should have sugar glider stuff too, so with her exceptional creative talents she has come up with a line of clocks that she has cleverly called Sugar Time. 

Kerri and husband Ken are presently the proud parents of an exceptional baby boy sugar glider, but the sugar glider stork is again circling their home and two more babies will grace their home soon. Kerri is just the kind of friend that all sugar gliders need and deserve.

When it came to Kerri’s attention that sugar gliders had been featured on a segment of the Martha Stewart show, Kerri became concerned that the information being provided on such a wide spread broadcast was really not of the highest quality that us sugar glider lovers would expect to hear.  Marc Marrone is Ms. Stewart’s resident pet expert and Kerri just picked up the phone, gave Marc a call and to Kerri’s pleasure and surprise, Marc answered the phone.

Kerri shared with us that Marc was very polite and very attentive to her remarks.  Within days, Marc updated his website to include better information and more links to support the education process.  Our hat is off to Kerri for her proactive approach in facilitating upgraded educational opportunities for sugar glider owners and the sugar glider curious everywhere.  Her one phone call could ultimately make a profound impact on the quality of so many sugar gliders’ lives.  Our hat is also off to Mr. Marrone for his open mindedness and quick action in upgrading his website.  TV personalities, like Marc Marrone, are in such great positions to help enhance the lives of captive sugar gliders worldwide!  SunCoast Sugar Gliders salutes Serena, Evilio, Kerri and Marc Marrone!

Love Bites … Because I loooove you!
By Arnold

Lot’s of times I sit in this room called the office. I like to hang out with Lisa while she types on the big lighted box … that whatmacallit computer thing.  She also talks to this little box called the phone. I like the phone too.  One time Lisa ignored me so I chewed off several of the buttons … yuk yuk.

I like to chew on some things. I think it’s fun.

My other fuzzy friends don’t bite down on things as much as I do. My humans say I’m special.  Us suggies are all unique and we have different ways of expressing ourselves.

I sometimes express myself with looove bites.

Now, here’s the scoop, straight from my brain to your eyes. Us sugar gliders do things sometimes just because we like it.  Ya see, sometimes sugar gliders will bite because they’re scared. It takes us little fellars awhile to get used to you giant furless amazon slaves. But once we like ya, well then we start to love ya! You are our friend and our tree!

We think you are pretty nifty cause you can be two such wonderful things at one time.  Now according to my free ranging cousins, they will bite down on the bark of trees to get some sweet sappy, nectary stuff out of the tree to eat.  Sometimes I chomp down on Lisa or Debbie, cause I think they are real sweet and it’s in my nature to chomp on my tree.

These are love bites, not to be confused with the bites of a scared,
defenseless un-bonded glider.  Love bites are the kind of bites you get when you’re just sitting around, holding us and scratching under our precious little chins and then we just casually go “CHOMP”.  Now, I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think trees are supposed to scream.  So remember that next time we are loving on you with our teeth.  Your screams scare us and when we get scared we could actually do the bad kind of biting.

So here’s what you do if you find our method of affection a bit too
painful.  I’ve trained Lisa and Debbie to feed me treats when I love on them a little too hard.  One teeny tiny light little nip and the next thing I know the mealworm wagon is in town!  Once me little belly is full, guess what, I stop trying to bite the sap out of my tree!

Now another time, Lisa was on the phone with some lady that Lisa said she respects a lot cause this lady is very experienced with sugar gliders.  And so I overhear Lisa saying stuff like “oh really”, “hmmm”, “wow, I never thought a negative reinforcement would work”, “and this is how you really handle your love biters and it works, oh wow”.

Well, I don’t know exactly what was said on the other side of that conversation, but sometimes when I make my presence known teeth first, Lisa will lower her voice and make this sharp (but not loud) sound “NO”.  It’s like she’s trying to communicate with me, but your language is so much less sophisticated than our many vocalizations, but I tell you what, it gets my attention.  

But then I start thinking about what I was doing before I heard that sound and I settle in to take another chomp out of my tree, and then she makes the sound again … and again and again.  Its really annoying, then I forget what the important task was that I was working on so I go on to something else and then she stops with
the annoying sound.

Now one last word of advice for you gargantuan two legged critters, just remember that we have different ways of showing affection, but don’t ever forget that it is meant as affection.  Don’t return us to our cages.  That’s a punishment to be away from you.  And unfortunately some sugar gliders don’t like spending time with their humans as much as I do, and these sugar gliders can be pretty smart.  These sugar gliders might actually think being put back in the cage is a reward, so they may start behaving in ways to train you to do want they want.  In the long run, you both lose out cause sugar gliders and humans can make remarkable friends.

Exotic Pet Vet
What Dr. C Says On…Zoonotic Diseases
By Dr. C., of course!

Zoonoses refers to those diseases acquired from veterbrate animals (i.e. animals with backbones) by humans.  In this newsletter, I will be introducing you to two bacterial diseases of public health concern which have been know to be carried by sugar gliders. 

Now before we go into this, let me allay some of your fears and tell you upfront that these situations can be controlled by good hygiene practices.  Also, you need to be aware that sugar glider incidents connected to such issues are not highly recurring events.  These are simply possibilities and similar possibilities exist from keeping any type of captive animal.

Sugar gliders can be a reservoir for certain diseases, meaning that they may or may not show any outward signs of illness.  The sugar glider may simply carry the bacteria, but not be personally affected by the presence of the bacteria.

Salmonella is a bacteria that has probably received a fair amount of publicity. For instance, the sale of turtles was disallowed in many
communities due to a high exposure to the salmonella bacteria. Salmonella is a bacteria harbored by nearly all species of warm and cold blooded animals.  The bacteria escapes from the animal in feces, is transferred by contact exposure, and may live and multiply outside of the host.  The bacteria typically enters humans by mouth.  This occurs after handling contaminated material and then by eating without washing your hands.  Symptoms may occur 6-72 hours after exposure.  Humans get gastroenteritis (irritation and inflammation of the digestive tract) and some additional unpleasant symptoms, such as diarrhea. 

Small amounts of the bacteria may be carried for up to three months even after you recover from the infection.  If the bacteria spreads from your digestive tract into your bloodstream, they may settle in other organs, such as the liver, kidney, gallbladder, heart, or in joints and cause inflammation or abscess.  This is very rare and most infections are very mild.  Treatment depends on the severity of the infection and whether it traveled outside of the gastrointestinal tract.  Your physician will be able to advise and prescribe appropriate antibiotics, if needed.

Leptospirosis is a bacteria which may be found in dogs, cattle, swine,
rodents, birds and marsupials, such as sugar gliders.  This bacteria
escapes through the urine and is spread through direct contact with
infected animals or contact with contaminated material such as cage
bedding.  Carrier animals may shed the disease for long periods of time.  For example, dogs may shed the disease for four years.

Following infection, human incubation can be from 2 to 30 days.  Human signs and symptoms can include fever, chills, headache, myalgia (muscle spasms), nausea, vomiting, nuchal rigidity, encephalitis, retroorbital pain, jaundice, hemorrhage and occasional death.  Fatality is low in healthy people, but may be increased if suffering from chronic kidney disease.  Your physician can successfully treat leptospirosis with a variety of antibiotics, but good hygiene is the best prevention.

Both salmonella and leptospirosis are prevented by good cage cleaning practices.  These are only two possible bacterial infections  humans can become infected from keeping pets of many varieties.

The best medicine concerning zoonotic diseases is prevention.  Prevention starts with good hygiene practices.  In addition to washing your hands after handling any animals, you will also need to keep the cage and all accessories clean.  This includes frequent changes of the bedding, periodic cleanings of the whole cage, daily food dish and water bottle cleansing and cleaning all other toys and accessories that your animals come into contact with.

Nest boxes, sleeping poucheswodent wheels, and other toys should be cleaned and disinfected periodically.  I suspect this comment will lead to the question of how often is periodically, but its really dependent on the size of the cage, the number of critters housed in the cage and other factors.  Bedding should be cleaned at least twice a week if not more.  Food and water containers should be cleaned daily.  Other items should be cleaned at least monthly.

In order to maximize your cage and accessory cleaning, I recommend a commercial disinfectant called GreenStump. Greenstump is an EPA-registered disinfectant, and works against at least 60 different bacteria, fungi, yeasts, and viruses.  Greenstump is non-corrosive, has minimal to no skin irritation, and retains anti-microbial activity in the presence of organic matter.  

In the absence of this product, you can use a mixture of 4 ounces bleach per gallon of hot water.  A bleach and water mixture is able to kill a wide spectrum of microbes if allowed to stand for five minutes or more and then rinsed thoroughly with fresh, hot water.

I send my wishes for good health to both you and your sugar gliders. I’ll see you again next month!

Dr. C.

P.S. If you have any additional questions about this month’s article, send your inquiries by clicking here and I will follow up on the frequently asked questions in a future edition of GliderVet Newsletter.