Sugar Glider Rescue

Dear SunCoast,

I am thrilled that you are gearing up for debating this topic!  As far as issues with rescues, some people think they are free gliders or wanting to get them to use them as breeders to make a fast buck.  One aspect of rescue I think needs to be clearly defined is this idea a rescued glider will bond and make an awesome pet.  I don’t agree with that and this is why: Rescues often have a history of neglect or abuse.  It takes a long time to learn to trust a human, and a mutual respect between a human and glider may be all you ever achieve….

Critterville Rescue

I thought it would be appropriate to begin this series of articles with an excerpt from an email that I’ve received as part of ongoing correspondence between myself and Peg (of Critterville Rescue).  I think this succinctly sets the tone for the message we wish to relay as we proceed through this topic.  We have the opportunity to speak with a great many people who wish to obtain rescue gliders as their first gliders, as well as a lot of people who wish to give their gliders up for adoption after only a short period of time.

In this series, we hope to address many issues beginning with the definition of adoption.  What exactly constitutes a rescue?  It seems the more people we’ve posed this question to, the more distinctly different responses we receive.  It appears that many definitions are accepted as to what a rescue really is.

Let’s begin by discussing what a rescue is not.  I do believe that all of those involved in true rescue operations would agree with excluding the following scenarios from an appropriate definition of rescue:

“I went into a pet store and I saw this poor pathetic little creature stuck in a ten gallon aquarium with no shelter to hide in, only peanuts in the food dish, and sitting right next to the cash register.  I felt so bad for it that I had to rescue it from this obviously bad situation.”

My first question to such an individual is how much did you have to pay for this creature or did the pet store give it to you?  The response is typically “well, I paid full price, but I simply had to rescue it.”

Folks, this is not a rescue.  Granted such individuals have caring and tender hearts for wanting to “save” such a critter from a situation of obvious abuse and neglect.  But the fact remains that this is not a rescue in the true sense of the word.  The pet store is now likely to go back to their local breeder, buy another glider at wholesale and subject a brand new critter to the same abuse and neglect as its predecessor.  Each time some tender soul comes in to “save” a critter, some new critter is next in line to fall victim to the same treatment.  And its only a matter of time before another sensitive and caring person strolls by and decides to “rescue” this new critter making way for yet another critter to suffer the same story.

I do hope that my point is well made here.  We strongly advise that you don’t let your emotions hinder you from making the best possible decision in choosing the right sugar gliders to make part of your family.  You might just end up with health issues, bonding issues, and behavioral problems that are difficult to deal with.  And ultimately the underlying problem still exists in the very store from which you purchased this pet.

I really want to drive this point home and share with you another scenario that we’ve encountered concerning a particular breeder that sells most of their gliders via home shows throughout the country.  Within one week, I had personally spoken to five separate and unrelated individuals that had attended the same weekend home show and “rescued” three legged gliders from this particular vendor.  

From countless personal conversations over the years with actual purchasers of these maimed animals, as well as conversations with others in direct contact with this vendor, we are conservatively estimating that approximately 10-15% of all animals raised and bred by this company are maimed.   Most of the maimed gliders are missing a foot or missing a tail and the reason is because the breeder raises the animals in extremely small cages with walls that adjoin the cages of other breeding pairs.  It is likely that the “next door neighbor” gliders are injuring the joeys.

Because this breeder sells at home shows, most of the potential buyers have never heard of or have never actually seen a sugar glider in person.  When these buyers see just how cute the young sugar gliders are, the first question is “how much?”.  This vendor sells their gliders for an average of $200 each.  And often the potential buyer will react with “Wow! That’s a lot of money!”  This is when the vendor pulls out a three legged glider or a tail-less glider and offers the buyer a discount to buy the glider for $100.00 because of the problem.

Most of the people I’ve spoken to think this is the only “needy” glider in the lot and feel like they saved the day by giving this little critter a new home.  Unbeknownst to most, there are other “needy” gliders in a box underneath the table just waiting for the right person to come along, to ask the right question, to be offered a “special” glider at a “special” price.

Folks, this is not a rescue.  Just as with the pet shop scenario, this is a perpetuation of an ongoing problem with slick business people who are out for one thing only – YOUR MONEY!

Please join us again next month as we get more into the nitty-gritty of what rescue is truly about, the challenges rescuers face, and the unexpected and unpleasant surprises that newbies to these efforts will likely find themselves faced with.

Another Exciting Episode of …. DEAR ARNOLD

Note: Some of Arnold’s fan mail may be edited cause Arnold wants some of them to be shorter so he can have more space all to himself!  Yuk Yuk Yuk!

Dear Arnold,

I bring my bird out to my sun room to bask each day… would my gliders like that too?


Dear Anon,

Me not sure me understands your question????  Are you asking if your gliders would like the sun or like your bird?

As creatures of the night, sun tanning is not very high up on our list of things to do!  Now bask me in the glow of the big full moon, and me is happy as a didgeridoo.  And would me and me pals like to bask in the presence of a bird?  Hmmmm …. Only before dinner!  We think birds are DA-licious!  My idea of a romantic evening is a bit of finch a- la-mode under the soft glow of the moon.

Liiiiiiissssssaaaaaaaa! Could I have fresh bird for dinner tonite?

Lisa:  NO Arnold!  You’ve never had live bird and you never will!  You know birds have feelings too!  How about some canned chicken from Sam’s Club?

OK!  Thanks Lisa!  And thanks Anonymous for your yummy question.

Dear Arnold,

Please thank Dr. C for explaining electrolytes and why they are important, particularly for sick little gliders.  I always wondered why vets suggested using fluids like Pedialyte as part of the treatment.

Enlightened (PA)

Dear Enlightened,

Hehehehe.  I guess learning more bout electric lights would make you feel “brighter” .. I don’t know a lot about this stuff ’cause I sleep most of the day and don’t much like lights at all.  Not electric lights, not sun lights, not flash lights or nuttin’ like that.  But I’ll pass your message on to Dr. C.  I’m sure she’ll know what you is talkin’ about.

Your friend,
Arnold the Moonlight Man
Dear Arnold,

Now that my baby sugar gliders are full grown, do I have to replace their baby food, etc. with cooked meat for protein or can I just continue to give them protein as I did when they were babies?


G’Day Nat!

Methinks real protein like chicken and mealies and crickets are much better than mushy protein in a jar overall.  Ya gotta look at the ‘gredients IN it .. that’s why they call it “IN”gredients.  Ya might find that the protein ‘gredient in baby food stuff not as much as the protein ‘gredient in real food.  It’s OK for a now and then, but give some of the other stuffs too.  My mommy tree actually gives us very little of the baby food and yogurt anymore, much to me displeasure. These are, after all, the funnest foods to throw on the wall!

Yours truly,
Arnold Da “Finger Flinger”

P.S. Don’t ferget to pick up yer new copy of me cuzzin’s top selling CD by Tony Arnoldo and Dusk called “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” (’round the old gum tree)


Well, That’s all Blokes!  Tune in again next month for another exciting episode of Dear Arnold!  Don’t forget, you can share your short comments or fun questions with me by clicking here.

Exotic Pet Vet
What Dr. C Says On…Glider Hair Loss – Part II
By Dr. C., of course!

Last month we began a discussion on glider hair loss. If you missed this newsletter, you may find this article by clicking here.  And now we will continue on with this topic.

After last month’s article we got a surprisingly high number of emails from individuals asking why their male glider was losing hair on top of its head.  I was not originally planning to cover this topic, as we have covered it in past issues of the GliderVet Newsletter.  However, the question came up so many times I think it important to mention again that intact male gliders will develop what appears to be a “bald spot” on top of its head once it is matured.  This is the result of gland development prominently displayed in the male of the species.  It is perfectly normal and nothing to be alarmed about.

Some common medical causes of abnormal hair loss besides poor nutrition can be bacterial or fungal infections and possibly ecto-parasites (those that live on the outside of the body).  Your veterinarian, through skin scrapings that are examined microscopically, can diagnose these conditions.  In some instances skin biopsies (i.e. removing a piece of tissue) may be necessary.  These will then be sent to a diagnostic laboratory for a procedure known as histopathology.

A very common cause of hair loss is over-grooming.  The reasons gliders may tend to over groom themselves can be rather lengthy. Stress factors from a variety of sources can cause over-grooming. Dry skin could be a contributing factor to this event.  Slight trauma to an area, while not visible to a physical examination, may cause slight irritation to the animal encouraging over-attention to that particular area.  Other sugar gliders kept in a joint habitat could also be the source of over-grooming.  In other words, a companion glider may over-groom the animal experiencing the hair loss.  Colony dwellers, as gliders are in the free range, will typically groom each other.

I suspect that low humidity may be a factor to consider in some cases.  Here in Florida, we tend to stay quite humid year round.  In other parts of the country, as weather gets cooler, humidity levels drop.  Just as human skin will be drier during these weather conditions, animals will suffer the same effect.  As stated above in my comments on over-grooming, dry skin is an issue to consider.  All glider keepers in colder climates may be well advised to keep a humidifier in your glider room.  This would best emulate the type of conditions that gliders prefer.

We have seen a few cases of hair loss here at SunCoast.  In the absence of any other signs that may indicate illness, I’ve advised Debbie and Lisa to keep a watchful eye on the affected critters to make sure that no other behaviors seemed out of the norm and no presence of other signs develop.  In the few cases that have been experienced, the hair grew back in to a healthy and normal appearance.  Hair loss is not necessarily a life threatening condition, but may indicate other problems exist.

Before we close on this topic, I do want to mention that hand reared joeys (those that at taken from the parents prior to weaning and fed formula until weaning is completed) may often lose hair at some point during the hand rearing.  I do not recommend that you hand rear joeys unless the mother is ill or has passed.  There is no substitute for parental rearing of young. Hand rearing is a last resort effort that should only be employed if the life of the young or the female parent is in jeopardy.  

The types of formulas often employed in hand rearing efforts are soupy and sticky.  Some formula will undoubtedly get “on the joey” instead of “in the joey”.  Parent sugar gliders spend a great deal of their time cleaning and grooming their offspring.  One part of hand rearing young gliders is to thoroughly clean the babies after each feeding.  Failure to do so will leave sticky food on the skin and fur and the fur will start thinning.  I generally suggest just a warm, wet cloth for cleaning.  However, if you need more than that, a single drop of Dawn dish soap is one of your better choices.  Be sure to rinse well, dry baby gliders thoroughly after washing, and keep them warm. 

As the gliders get older, they will learn to keep themselves groomed, so routine bathing of gliders is not generally recommended.  Like cats, sugar gliders typically do a good job keeping themselves clean and will not enjoy being wet down.  Doing so will not exactly enhance your bonding experience either.  If you feel that your glider truly needs to be bathed, you might consider one of the “dry formula” cleansing agents for older gliders.

To summarize, I would not suggest that you panic if some hair loss is noticed.  If you are confidant that your diet plan is health supportive and typical behavior patterns are consistent, then continue your observation.  Plan a veterinary visit to rule out skin conditions or external parasites as possible causes.  Hair does grow back.

Sometimes stress conditions can occur that we are not aware of, even when no obvious changes have taken place in your sugar glider’s lifestyle.  But if questions exist or it has been awhile since your glider’s last physical, consider a visit to see your vet.

Tune back in next month for a brand new topic.  These topics are driven by your requests, so send your questions about glider health care issues by clicking here and we will do our best to include in a future edition of the GliderVet Newsletter.   I send my wishes for good health to both you and your sugar gliders. 

I’ll see you again next month!

Dr. C.  
(Janine M Cianciolo, DVM)