Dear Arnold: Can Gliders Get Rabies?

By Arnold

Dear Arnold,

Can sugar gliders get rabies and do you guys need any shots or anything like that?


Hello Me! Or would that be You!

Ya know, at the bequest of me many friends out there, I had the occasion to chat it up with my good pal Dr C a cupple ‘o years ago about this topic.  To tell you the truth, me didn’t even know what rabies meants.  So come to find out it means that a nice little furry critter would turn into a wild frothy beast, because they come in contacts with this stuff called rabies.

Scared the pattoty outta me really.  So we went on to talk more. She said any mammal can contract rabies.  Which made me go “phew” cuz I’m a marsupial.  Then she said marsupials are also mammals!  Yikes!  But she said “it would not be common for a captive sugar glider to contract such a disease”.  She also recommended to keep your sugar gliders away from all wildlife and unvaccinated dogs and cats.

The way me sees it, seems like the rabid beasts like to share the frothy beast concept.  Then what Dr C said gave me a better feeling, I think.  She said that we would likely have to get bit by a big rabid beast and the bite itself would prolly kill us dead before we would actually get rabies and be able to pass on the frothy feeling.  Omy. Me not so sure me likes the sound of that.

But here are some real true facts.  We are not aware of any time a sugar glider has become a frothy beast from rabies.  And when asked about a rabies vaccine, just in case, Dr C said no can do.  They don’t even make a vaccine for sugar gliders.  Which makes me happy ‘cuz I don’t think I’d like to get a shot.  We don’t need to get shots or vaccines like dogs and cats.  Sometimes we might have to get a shot of medicine or vitamins or ‘sumptin like that, but no vaccy-nations.
So dont’cha worry about us turning into frothy little beasts.  

From the sounds of it, we would become fuzzy little angels first!

The Gliders That Own Me

by Lisa

For those of you who’ve been with this newsletter for awhile or who have read the past issues, you probably know that over the years I’ve been the lucky glider servant to four blessed little critters.  

Arnold, of course, is the most public of them all, with Buddy, Naomi and Janine having been just as important to me as the Great Silly One himself.  When you are with pets for such a long time, it seems like the time will never come that we have to say goodbye.  I found myself having to do that this month, and for those of you who’ve shared this experience, it’s almost surreal.

Quite honestly, I’m surprised Janine was with us as long as she has been.  You see, my colonies of sugar gliders are also a little band of misfits.  Each has a story to tell about an unusual beginning in life with the exception of Buddy.  I hope you don’t mind that I share their stories now.  It helps clear my grief and honor the nature of each and every one of the gliders who own me.

I’ll start with Janine, in honor of her memory and to share her story, which is the most humble of all of my babies.  I remember well when Janine was born.  She had the most beautiful chocolate covered fur.   I’ve not ever seen another glider since that had the same hue of color as she did.  Her fur was also thicker than any of the others. 

Now here’s the hard part of the story.  I actually placed her in a new home.  When you are in the business of breeding, as tempting as it may be, you CANNOT keep them all.  A lady not far from me fell in love with her, had gliders before (allegedly), and promised to give her a great home.  Even though she claimed experience, I asked her to still allow me to go through my education process as I may have information she does not.  I also think it’s important that a new keeper is consistent in diet and housing to the home the gliders come from.  This does indeed help with the transition process.

Well, I learned a lot from that experience.  I found that my explanations fell on deaf ears.  The woman in question called me a week later basically yelling at me for selling her a sick animal. 

I immediately questioned her on diet.  And she basically said I heard what you said, BUT sugar gliders do just fine with grapes.  Then all I heard was silence.  I was waiting to hear more about the diet she was following.  Well, that was it.  She only fed Janine grapes.

Needless to say, I was infuriated (which if you knew me, it’s hard to get me in that state).  I drove over to her home and basically took Janine back.  We went to see Dr C.

Dr C was not hopeful.  Janine was undernourished, weak and had a lot of diarrhea.  Dr C explained the condition as septic and she held little hope for her survival.  We asked if we used a baby formula, like joey BML, did she think it wise to start hand feeding Janine around the clock?  Dr C said we could certainly try, but the situation did not look very hopeful for her survival.

Well, lo and behold, the little girl glider fought her way back and she is actually named Janine after Dr C as this is Dr C’s first name.  The recovery was not without issues, however.  Janine lost one of her eyes.  It was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen with a sugar glider.  I had her out playing one day and she was sitting up on an umbrella pole.  I noticed her scratching toward her eye with her paw and also noticed that the eye had become very cloudy.  As she continued to fidget with her face, it appeared that the lens of her eye literally popped out.

Of course this led to another immediate vet visit, but there was little that could be done at this time.  So Janine lived her long and peaceful life half blind.  At first, she did not like being approached from that side, but in time, I think her other senses developed to a point that she recognized others by scent or sound.  She was very comfortable with her three companions.

Another side effect of her traumatic short stay with an unworthy keeper was a seeming fear of starvation.  Janine became one of the biggest woof hounds of a glider I’ve ever known.  And I believe that due to her blindness, she seemed a bit adverse to exercise.  

Her nickname was “Broach” because wherever I put her on my shirt, she stayed.  She was quite under-active by sugar glider standards.   She did love a good ride in the wodent wheel though.  Now don’t confuse this with a good run in the wodent wheel because she was not real inclined to do that much work!  She’d let one of her companions run in the wheel and she’d jump in and hold on.  You could just see her with her face peeked out of one of the holes and the holes moving around.  There goes Janine at twelve o’clock, three o’clock, six o’clock, nine o’clock.  Around and around and content letting someone else pull double duty!

We tried and tried to get her to lose weight and have actually discussed some of our experimentation in this article about putting gliders on a diet.  I finally found out that with three wheels in the cage that she would start to run and did trim down for awhile.  But as she got older, she became even less ambitious.

Janine … she passed while in a pouch on my chest.  She had developed cardiopulmonary issues likely from her tendency toward obesity and lack of exercise and again the Dr said there’s not much hope.  This time the Dr was right.  As she took her last soft little breath, I could only think .. Janine … to infinity and beyond.  I will always have fond memories of this unique, dear, special little being.

You know, after sharing this story, I think I will stop here and save the stories of my other little misfits for a future newsletter.  Buddy and Naomi deserve their tributes as well, but it feels right to save this time just for Janine.

And to all of you who have loved and lost, please remember to always cherish the memories.  There is nothing like the unconditional trust and connection between man and beast.  We are truly blessed to have these encounters and opportunities.  The moments of grief are totally worth the years of joy.

Nutritional Values of Bugs 

Data collected from The Food Insects Newsletter, July 1996 (Vol. 9, No. 2, ed. by Florence V. Dunkel, Montana State University) and Bugs In the System, by May Berenbaum 
(Reprinted on Iowa State University Website)

Nutritional Value of Various Insects per 100 grams


Protein (g)

Fat (g)


Calcium (mg)

Iron (mg)

Silk Worm Pupae












Small Grasshopper






Large Grasshopper






June Beetle












I get asked a lot about the acceptability of feeding certain bugs to sugar gliders and thought this chart found on the University of Iowa website would be helpful.  But I also suggest that if you are buying packaged bugs, you look at that information as well.  This is not the complete list, I only included those listed items that we get asked about most often.

The trick to a good plan of nutrition is not only balance but variety.  As you can see, the nutritional values vary quite a lot on this chart. Too much fat is not a good thing, so small grasshoppers are something I personally would avoid.  Too much iron also is not a good thing.  As you know, we offer a variety of Zoomed insects on our website for the gourmet glider.  Zoomed also offers a canned caterpillar product.  We’ve not been comfortable carrying this because of the high iron content.  Also, the fat content is not listed on this chart for caterpillars, but I understand it’s very high.

In the reptile world, it’s recommended for skinny animals.  But please don’t use them to fatten up your gliders.  They do not have a tendency to digest fat very well.

So, do you see a favorite bug of sugar gliders conspicuously missing from this list? Where are the mealworms?

I spent literally hours researching this via university websites as I trust this information more than non-academic sites. And what I found was quite interesting.  I’ve been told by many vets and animal nutritionists that mealworms are high in fat.

I started by reviewing the product we offer online called Zoomed Can O Worms and found the nutritional labeling to be consistent with that of crickets.  The protein level for these worms is 17.0% and the fat percentage is 5.0% (Min)

Then I found a nutritional analysis for frozen mealworms showing significantly higher fat percentages listed at 13.64%.  That is nearly triple the labeled content of the Zoomed product.  What this indicates to me is the process of “cooking in the can” Zoomed uses to process these worms significantly reduces the fat content.

OK, now here’s the fun part.  It seems that even freezing mealies has the effect of reducing the fat percentage as I found one University website listing the fat content of the larval stage of mealworms (this is the form that we feed worms to sugar gliders) as 40.46% fat.

Holy schnikey!  That is indeed a lot of fat and obviously why Dr C has always told us to only offer live mealworms 2-3 times and week and limited amounts during those feedings.  The amount you would feed would be highly dependent on the size of the worms.  Tiny worms may be feed in quantities 10-12.  Medium/large worms in quantities of 5-7 and Giant mealworms are recommended to only 1-2.

Dr C has always been an advocate of rotating the insect offerings as well, because protein and fat are not the only nutritional values found in bugs.  And by rotation, you are offering a broader range of nutritional elements that will better support your pets’ health.

As you choose your insect offerings for your sugar gliders, I hope you will learn along with me that the form of the offered insect will greatly impact the nutritional values and may significantly impact the fat content.  It’s important to control fat content in your sugar glider meals as too much will cause long term health issues.

In other words, canned bugs versus freezed dried (we don’t use these as we like the moisture aspect of other forms) versus frozen (we don’t use these either) versus live will all be different from a nutritional analysis point of view.

Now, I’m going to wrap this up with a community question.  

I get asked this question a lot but I don’t have much familiarity with the concept of feeder roaches.  I spend the big bucks every two months to get rid of those insects in and around my home as they tend to be quite abundant.  Here in Florida they grow extra large with wings and I personally am not a fan of the giant flying cockroach.

That is at least what I call them.  Most Floridians choose to go by a more attractive name such as palmetto bug.  So if you have any information on feeder roaches, please pass it on to me.  If we can verify the sources, we will offer this information in a future newsletter, in spite of my personal feelings on the subject!

‘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!