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,

What is the point of a sugar glider’s maturity?

Karin B.

Dear Karin,

Sugar gliders are considered mature when they say “more mealworms, please”, instead of “gimme worms … gimme worms!”

Mr. Arnold E. Tiquette

P.S. Karin, Lisa here!  While politeness may be an indicator of maturity, I don’t think Arnold really understood your question.  In our experience, gliders hit sexual maturity somewhere around 10-12 months out-of-pouch age.  We’ve seen some mature as young as 6 months out of pouch, and we’ve had some pairs not begin breeding for two years … so it can be a pretty big window.


Dear Arnold,

I have a question to ask.  My male sugar glider loves his licky treats, but once he is done eating whatever is on my finger, he tends to nip or ‘taste’ my finger rather hard.  It has not been a problem but it seems to be getting harder each time and I was wondering if there is anything I can do about this.  When he does it, he doesn’t seem to be agitated, so I was just wondering if you possibly knew why a glider would do this?

Thanks, Lauren

Dear Lauren,

Most sugar gliders (me included) don’t quite get it why the licky treats run out!  You offer us this delicious snack on your limb (just like a tree, see) and then it’s all gone!  In the wild, gliders will chew on branches to be able to access gum, sap and manna … when the surface good stuff is gone, the glider may have to chomp down a bit to be able to access more yummies!  So as a responsible “tree”, reload that finger!  After all, that is why they are called Licky “Tree”ts.
And if you do get more in touch with your inner tree, perhaps you should change your name to Laurel … yuk yuk yuk!  And a-nuther thing, in gliderdom, fambly tree has a whole different meaning … we chew on our fambly’s tree!



And now for Arnold’s favorite holiday story!  This item was submitted by one of our subscribers last holiday season, and we have not been able to track down the author, but Arnold thought it was simply T-Riffic.  We believe credit for this story might go to Pamela East, so if anyone knows Pamela, please send her our thanks for writing such a clever story.  We wish everyone a Hoppy Holiday Season! 

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the place, 
All the gliders were stirring, throwing food in my face. 
The Mamas a’gliding in their cages with care, 
In hopes their joeys would soon be outta there. 
The joeys were nestled in pouches all snug, 
Dreaming of sugar cubes and gross little bugs. 
When all of a sudden there arose such a crabbin’, 
I turned on the light to see what was happenin’. 
When to my surprise I am startled to see, 
Four cages are empty and EIGHT GLIDERS ARE FREE!!! 
When what to my wondering eyes should appear, 
But a miniature sleigh with my gliders for deer. 
With a little old driver, St. Nick, I could tell, 
I knew in a moment, I must not be well. 
He crabbed and he chattered and called them by name: 
Now Sonny, Now Cher, Now Scarlett and Rhett! 
On Boris, On Natasha, Robin and Marion, you bet! 
From the floor to the cage to the top of the wall, 
Dash away, Dash away, Dash away all!!! 
So up to the house-top, the gliders they flew, 
With a sleigh full of toys and St. Nicholas too! 
And then in a twinkling St. Nick exclaimed from the roof, 
“They’ll be back by morning!” I wish I had proof! 
So, all of these years I believed it was deer 
Who made St. Nick’s sleigh fly around giving cheer. 
When all of this time it’s been gliders…WHO KNEW! 
But then it figures, they fly and they’re night creatures too. 
So next time you hear sleigh bells ring just remember; 
It might be your glider’s turn next December!! 
Now my message to you, hold your gliders very dear, 
And Merry Christmas to all and to all a Happy New Year!!!

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…Raising Breeder Standards

By Dr. C., of course!

This is the second month straight that I’ve chosen a topic covering animal welfare type issues.  I typically answer “frequently asked questions” that are submitted by our subscribers and I do intend to return to that format next month.  But sometimes I simply need to cover topics I think will ultimately have the most positive impact on the largest number of animals, and this “End of the Year” newsletter seemed like a good forum for a discussion on breeder standards.

One of the goals here at SunCoast is to raise the standards of sugar glider breeding programs in the U.S. and abroad.  The primary purpose of this newsletter is to educate and it is through education that we hope to move toward our stated goal.  The content of this newsletter is driven mostly by requests from sugar glider caretakers.  Many of you are also small breeders, and we know that many of the larger breeders are taking advantage of this free service as well.  We are glad to have all of you as part of this growing community.

I’m going to talk about a rather sensitive subject this month, but I think it is necessary to speak out on this topic of lifting breeding standards to higher levels.  While many breeders, smaller and larger, demonstrate care, concern, and knowledge in their craft and educate potential customers, properly, there are many who do not. 

I first question the motivation of why many people who enter this business do so in the first place.  There are certainly a large number of breeders who have a true passion for the critters that they keep and raise.  These breeders tend to hold extremely high standards not only in their husbandry practices, but also in their screening practices to place animals in new homes as well as education efforts that support their customer base.

There is another group of individuals that get involved in animal breeding because they see it as a way (they think) to make a lot of money.  These types of breeders tend to have much less regard for the well being of the animals.  This is, in my opinion, an approach that could very loosely be called a “herd health” approach and is not appropriate to companion / exotic animal pet trade.  Again, this is simply my opinion.

Why is this approach such a bad idea?  The approach is not about the health of each animal individually, but rather about numbers.  If it costs more to treat an animal than it brings in revenue, the animal is viewed as an economic liability and often euthanized. 

To be honest with you, when I first met Lisa and Debbie, I was a bit hesitant to sign on as their staff veterinarian.  They told me the plan was to raise 200-300 pairs of sugar gliders.  I had no personal inclination to be affiliated in any way, shape or form with a “mill” type of operation.  But as I got to know them, I realized they cared deeply about their sugar gliders and hoped to bring this passion to their business and customers. 

They have embraced every suggestion I’ve made on dietary improvements, housing upgrades, and enrichment opportunities.  I can tell you from personal observation that their animals are healthy, well adjusted and living a very peaceful and safe life.  And they take the time to educate all new customers and make sure the household is fully aware of what owning a glider involves.  SunCoast is not the only breeder who demonstrates this level of concern about their animals.  But many don’t, and here is an example.

I’m going to share with you an excerpt from a care sheet that is being provided to sugar glider buyers by one of the largest breeders in the country.  It is this type of information that frustrates me, as a veterinarian, since it can lead to inadequate care.  This breeder typically sells their sugar gliders at Home Shows, fairs, and other public gatherings where the purchase is made on impulse and buyers are not particularly well-informed.  These people often use a very human-centric, hamster-like approach to caring for sugar gliders that won’t kill them, but won’t make them very happy either.  We call this the Thrive versus Survive issue.

Quote: “There are two reasons a baby sugar glider gets diarrhea.  The first is due to diet….. The second reason is more serious.  It is almost always due to a bacteria picked up by being stressed from being too cold.  If you think this is the reason for diarrhea in your baby, do the following.  First, provide a heat rock and t-shirt as in point one above.  Secondly try giving your baby a shallow lid with the syrup from a can of peaches.  If this treatment does not improve its condition, buy an antibiotic at your local feed store called LA-200.  The medicine is in a vacuum bottle, so you will also need a syringe. Place three drops in a small amount of peach syrup to dissipate the medication, but little enough that the baby will eat all of it.  Provide this each day for seven days.  If the diarrhea is due to bacteria this will usually turn them around.“

It’s unfortunate that many people will trust what this breeder claims. As readers of this column realize, there are many, many reasons a baby sugar glider can develop diarrhea and antibiotics do not always treat the cause.  In fact, some antibiotics cause loose stool as a side effect.  Recommending the use of LA-200 is irresponsible.  The “LA” is used in “Large Animals” – as in cows and horses.  LA-200 is designed to be used as an injectable medication, not one that is “ingested”. 

In addition, besides not being a first choice antibiotic for small marsupials, dosing an animal must be done individually, based on current body weight and debilitation.  While peach syrup is very sugary and will raise blood glucose (sugar) levels, it will do nothing to correct the dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which usually accompany diarrhea.  

Heat rocks, even when covered with a t-shirt are not recommended for the majority of animals including reptiles, as their temperature control is questionable at best.  I have treated many severely burned animals, a variety of species, due to contact with heat rocks.  But also of concern is that sugar gliders chew, and placing any kind of electrical cord in their cage is dangerous, as potential electrocution or fire could occur.  Working as an emergency clinic veterinarian, I have seen a number of “crispy critters” – not a pretty sight!  It is quite often fatal for the animal involved, not to mention the psychological stress suffered by the owner.

As I have said in previous articles, if your glider, baby or adult, is sick or exhibiting unusual behavior, call your exotic animal veterinarian immediately.  Even a wait of 24 hours can have serious, if not fatal, consequences.  I recommend taking medical advice only from a licensed veterinarian, NOT a vet assistant, veterinary technician, breeder, chat room or friends.  Your glider must be physically examined and the overall health taken into account before any type of medication is given.  This includes natural remedies and supplements.  Some products we use ourselves from health food stores can actually kill your pet.  Just because it’s “natural” doesn’t mean its safe.

I again urge you to purchase from reputable breeders and knowledgeable pet stores.  If the community continues to support breeders (through purchase) who care more about money than their animals, nothing will change.  Unfortunately, change often occurs only when economics are affected.

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)