Frequently Asked Question:

What’s the Best Way to Trim a Sugar Glider’s Nails?
Trimming Nails – Part I  (Part II here)
By Lisa

Well, as the cliché goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words” and we’ve been asked at least a thousand times about tips and techniques on how to safely trim a glider’s nails. So today we present you with Part I of Two Parts on trimming your glider’s nails.

The traditional method of trimming nails requires only a nail trimming device (and the nails that need to be trimmed).  Sound easy?  As you will see in this well-done illustration by Gil, the nail clipper used is just a regular human type tool.  Gil took these pictures while a glider owner showed a group how to safely take care of this pesky task.

This glider owner works at an exotic vet clinic, so the technique was learned from the “pros”.  By the way, the nail clipping “victim” is Gil’s 8 month female glider named Scrabble.  And as Gil puts it, revenge is sweet!  He claims his back and arms were a sight to see before Scrabble had her nails trimmed. 

And that brings us right to the point of why you want to trim your glider’s nails.  In a captive environment, gliders don’t run up and down the heavy bark of trees all night so those little points can get awfully sharp.  Sharp nails and human skin are not exactly an ideal combination.  Many people have found that when they first get sugar gliders, little red bumps will appear on the skin.  In most cases, it’s not really a rash or allergic reaction, it’s just what happens when pointy little glider claws race up and down human arms like a runway.

Another benefit of keeping your gliders well manicured is to prevent their claws from getting stuck in pouches and other fabric items you may have in the habitat.  If a glider gets stuck on something due to its nails being too long, it is quite possible that an injury could occur should the glider have to fight to get itself free.

This article focuses on trimming the nails with a clipper, which is the traditional method most people use to maintain this grooming function.  We will discuss other methods of nail maintenance next month in Part II of this series.

When trimming the nails you just want to remove the very tip of the nail while being cautious of not going below the bloodline.  Just like other species of animals, if you clip the nails too short, the nail will actually begin to bleed.  So before you get the nail clippers out and get to work, make sure you have a product like Quick Stop on hand (or some other product that will help quickly clot the bleeding if a nail is inadvertently trimmed too short); you can find them at pet stores.

The point of clipping isn’t to get them as short as you can, but rather to take off that very sharp little tip.  Another hazard of going too short is the inability of the glider to climb and hold on to objects well.

When trimming the nails on the back paws, note that two of the toes are fused together.  These two fused digits are used primarily in grooming and it’s recommended that you don’t trim those two claws.  It is OK to trim the remaining three claws on each back paw.

Glider nail trimming is the least favorite chore we have to tend to here at SunCoast.  It’s as unpleasant for us as it is for the gliders, so be sure to check in next month, when we will discuss alternatives to using a clipper for trimming nails.

Another Exciting Episode of DEAR ARNOLD
By 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,

Do you like using a hamster ball?  We’re getting two sugar gliders of our own soon and have started buying stuff for the new toy box. Thanks for helping us.

Patsy and Paul (FL)

Dear Patso and Paulo!

Hamster?  What do I look like?!  Why the cockadoody would I want to use a hamster ball when I am a much more sofisticated sugar glider? As if! Hmmmpph!  Well??  What do you have to say to that?!

Ahem .. Arnold .. pssst .. pssst .. Lisa here: I hate to tell you this, but
you do have a hamster ball and you have used it before.  You know what that is … we just call it the Roll Aid, remember?

Ooops! I sowwy … I guess I didn’t understand this hamster bizness. And Lisa, for your information, I don’t call it a Roll Aid anymore.  I have a new name for it!  It’s my fabulous Sphere of Invincibility!  P&P, I think that this is a good toy for your new toy box.  ‘Specially if you have kitty cats or puppy dogs in the house and you want to let your gliders out for some playtime, but you can’t watch them non-stop! The sphere of invincibility could be just the ticket to keep your new fuzzy kids out of some trouble.

XOXOXOXO, Arnikens


Dear Arnold,

I really love playing with my Pikachu and Eevee, but we have a problem.  I am home all evening, ready to play, but the gliders are sleeping.  They don’t wake up until about 11:00 p.m.  By then I am too tired to play for long.  When I get up in the morning, they are already back asleep.  Sometimes I wake them up to play, but that isn’t very nice. I  know my babies want to play AND sleep.  Is there some way to adjust their cycle so they wake up earlier?

Thanks for your help, Arnold!,


Dear Betty,

Have you considered adjusting your schedule?  Maybe get a new job?  Maybe quit your job? yuk yuk yuk

ARNOLD!  Lisa here … that wasn’t a very nice thing you said to Miss Betty … I think you better give some thought to this excellent question and consider giving her a better answer … 

Ooops, sowwy again …. OK, well, see Miss Betty … all I can tell ya is that I wake up at 9PM … on the dot!  Every night!  That’s cause the sun is all down and my mommy turns all the electric lights off in the house right before she feeds me at 9pm.  Us suggies like to have a rootine …. and we is very sensitive to the lights.  So I think if you go on a schedule that is the same all the time, then maybe your suggies will change their rootine and wake up a bit earlier to spend some nice time with you.

Now Lisa has splained to me that not everybody’s house is like our house.  We don’t have any young two leggers here and our life is always the same every night.  Lisa says this is not so for lots of humans in the rest of the world.  And methinks cause we have this rootine going that I get up the same time just about every night.

And you are soooooooo right, Miss Betty! (Lisa , was that a nice thing to say?)  Us suggies do need our sleep, but if you pick a time when its darkness out and start waking your suggies at that time every night, then maybe you can keep your job, have more time with your suggies and get you a nice little rootine just like we have!

Face Hugs to ya Miss Betty and nose kisses to Pikachu and Eevee.


P.S. The TV on in my room doesn’t bother me or Janine or Buddy or  Naomi either.  That light is not too bright, so Lisa has enough light to see me handsome face and its not too bright to make me want to go back to my sleepy place.


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 Spaying and Neutering
By Dr. C., of course!

One of the most common procedures that I regularly perform on sugar gliders is elective neutering of male pets. It’s a safe and simple procedure that many glider owners will choose for two primary reasons.  First, it’s the most effective method of birth control that I can recommend for prohibiting paired gliders from breeding.

However, neutering of the male will also greatly reduce the musky odor associated with male gliders, as well as decrease marking activity.  Male gliders will mark territory not only by the use of their dominant scent glands, but will also urine mark anything that the glider identifies as its own, including cage and accessories, other gliders and human companions.  

A frequent question that I personally get asked, as well as a question that has been asked by a good many number of you who receive this publication, concerns the process of spaying female gliders.  I don’t recommend spaying female gliders unless it is medically necessary.

Spaying is the same as having a hysterectomy.  This is a major surgery where the abdominal cavity is opened and reproductive organs are removed.  It is more challenging with marsupials than it is with other mammals because of the presence of the pouch.  This procedure is an invasive procedure and the recovery time is significantly longer than the minimal recovery required for males recently neutered.

As with many small animals, it can be challenging to prevent excessive attention to the incision area and stitches.  Animal instincts are to clean and groom the area to try and remove foreign objects like stitches.  This increases the likelihood of infection, and obviously stitches should not be removed until proper healing has taken place.

The male neutering procedure is simple enough and the incision is so much smaller than a spaying incision size that I have not personally encountered complications with the male surgery as the healing time and recovery time is quite fast.

If a female glider’s ovaries become infected or a mass is located, then spaying may be a necessary procedure.  But I feel it is too invasive and risky for elective contraceptive surgery.  To prevent babies, neuter your male glider instead!

While we are on this topic, I’ve also been asked why a veterinarian should be employed to perform neutering services when cheaper methods are available.  While there are less expensive ways to neuter males, I believe these methods are both cruel and medically unsound.  Descriptions of these methods follow and you may find them a bit shocking; I’m not trying to shock you, but educate you.

For instance, a common method some breeders utilize to neuter males is to constrict the blood flow to the testicles.  Placing a tight tourniquet-like device on the part of the scrotal sac hanging from the body does this.  It is left in place for several days or weeks until the testicles and scrotum literally die from lack of blood supply.  When the tissue is dead it is removed.  Keep in mind this is done without the benefit of anesthesia and/or pain medications.  Besides being painful, this can make the glider predisposed to infection.

Another method employed is to clamp the base of the scrotum, and then castrate the glider with a razor using only a powdered coagulant to stop the bleeding.  The argument of the breeders who employ such practices is that is does not hurt the animal or cause undue pain.  As a medical professional and avid wildlife rescuer committed to rehabilitation, all I can ask is “How do you know this?”  Many species found in the wild do not make “pain” sounds when hurt, sick or injured.  If they did cry out in pain, then predators would be alerted to the exact location of the injured, leaving little chance for recovery.

A reputable exotic animal veterinarian will always take your gliders welfare – both physically and psychologically – into consideration. Anesthesia is used to prevent pain, sterile surgical equipment is used to prevent infection and follow-up care is available.  If you are considering the purchase of sugar gliders, you must be willing to be responsible for its care and well being.  Good medical care is not “cheap”, but it is invaluable for your animal’s health and your relationship with your little friends.

SunCoast Sugar Gliders has never offered the availability of neutered males in the past, but some people are attracted to this offer and buy neutered gliders from cruel breeders.  I have previously advocated that sugar gliders should be approximately four to five months out of pouch age before the neutering procedure takes place.  And like you, I continue to learn about sugar gliders.

I spend many hours researching material available to me on safe medical practices for exotic animals.  Recent information I’ve encountered has given me a comfort level in safely performing this procedure at a younger age.  I also would like to protect as many male gliders as I can from the neutering procedures above.  To this end, in the near future I will be offering my services for neutering young male gliders on behalf of SunCoast prior to delivery to their new homes.  If you would like more information on this issue and service, please contact (Sorry, no longer available).

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 them 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)