Sugar gliders are prey animals and are great at hiding their illness until it’s too late. They tend to isolate themselves from their pouch-mate or colony when they become sick to deter predators away; it’s just a natural instinct! It is important as a Sugar Glider owner to look out for signs of potential sickness.
When in doubt, go see your veterinarian! The Pet Glider cannot give medical advice, nor is this page meant to give medical advice. It’s goal is to describe some of the more common sugar glider ailments so that if this happens to your glider, you are prepared to seek the professional care that your glider needs!
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) - Often caused by overgrowth of bacteria in the cloaca. Glider will hiss and strain when they go to the bathroom.
- Mating or Dominance Wound - A hole found on the back of the neck from mating. Fortunately, gliders don’t have many nerves on the back of their neck, so your glider doesn’t feel much pain from this injury. You MUST separate the glider from his or her cage mates as they will try and “help” by over-grooming (licking) the area, making the wound larger.
- Parasites - Is your glider’s poo runny or smelly? Time to have your vet run a fecal ova and parasite (O & P) Exam. If the poo is extremely foul smelling or liquid we would recommend a giardia test as well. Parasites can be introduced through fruits and veggies, among other things.
- Tail Injury - Can occur if you are using a non glider safe wheel. That’s why we highly recommend the Raptor Wheel! (Sold on our website) Tails will get caught if your wheel has a bar, nub, or any moving bearing piece on the inside surface. These features may even cause the tail to get ripped off, or cause a spinal injury!
- Corneal Ulceration (scratch on the eye) - Could be caused by long nails or something pointy in the cage. You may notice that the eye has turned milky. If left untreated the eye will become swollen, infected, and painful. Always seek a veterinarian's diagnosis for eye injuries!
- Prolapsed Penis (penis won’t go back in) - We advise putting some lubricating jelly on the penis (KY jelly) and getting to the vet ASAP. Peni that are left exposed to the air can go necrotic (dead) and turn black, which will result in a penis amputation.
- Dehydration - The fastest way to check for dehydration is to pinch the back of their skin. If it stays up like a “tent”, then your glider is dehydrated and needs to be seen by a vet ASAP for diagnosis of the cause. If you’re unable to get to an emergency vet, you may feed your sugar glider unflavored pedialyte to keep him or her hydrated until you can see a vet. You can also leave orange slices at the bottom of the cage.
- Prolapsed Intestines - If your glider is pooping too much, some of the intestine can come out of the cloaca. Lubricate with KY Jelly until you can get your glider to the vet.
- Upper Respiratory Infection - It is normal for your glider to sneeze into his or her hands in order to groom themselves. However, if it sounds extra wet and they are sneezing excessively, that is not normal.
- Abscesses - Gliders can get an abscess anywhere on their body. This most frequently happens in the head/teeth area. It displays as a lump or bump. Abscesses grow quickly and need to be examined immediately.
- Broken or Loose Teeth - It is important to get their teeth checked regularly to ensure a healthy mouth. If left undetected, an infection will occur and this will prevent your glider from eating. You may not be able to see any broken teeth since sugar gliders have 40 tiny teeth! So make sure you see an experienced veterinarian for regular teeth exams.
- Strange Bumps - Gliders can get benign and malignant tumors all over their bodies. If you notice any new bumps, make sure to consult your vet for proper diagnosis.
Many pet stores sell supplies for small animals that are not safe for Sugar Gliders' special needs! Remember that these are exotic marsupials, not your average rodent. They have drastically different needs from a hampster or ferret. Unfortunately, many "small animal supplies" are even marketed towards gliders. Be aware of the following injuries, which are just some that can result from using commonly found gear with your suggies:
Wheels - The Pet Glider sells specially designed Raptor Wheels, which are the only wheel on the market which we back as glider safe! Because of the unique way in which these animals run, any type of exposed bearing inside the wheel can potentially catch their tails or patagiums and cause serious injury. Additionally, many wheels on the market contain a protruding bar through the center of the wheel - or even a cover across the front - which are both dangerous features that can cause a glider to break their spine.
*Pictured: The Silent Runner has a cover on the front, which can cause fatal injuries if a glider hits it when trying to exit the wheel. The Stealth wheel has a bearing in the middle which can snag patagiums and tails as the glider jumps through the center. (The Silent Runner also features an exposed bearing on the inside of the wheel which we simply don't see here with the cover in place)
- Harnesses - Sugar Gliders have special skin membranes called patagiums, which extend from their front feet all the way down to their back feet. This is what stretches out and allows them to glide, or "fly". Because of this extra skin, you should NEVER use any type of harness, collar, leash, or other restrictive gear on these animals! These devices can cause serious injury to the fragile skin membrane.
- Heat Lamps or Heat Rocks - The ideal temperature for gliders should be 70 - 76 degrees Fahrenheit (21 - 24 degrees Celsius). Sugar gliders DO NOT EVER need a heating pad, rock, or lamp! These items can be very dangerous and cause serious burns on your gliders! If your gliders' room is colder than the recommended temperature conditions, you can place a space heater about 2ft away from your gliders' cage to warm the surrounding air. Never allow your gliders to have direct contact or close proximity to a heat source.
- Water Bowls - The Pet Glider does not recommend using a water bowl since gliders will play in the water and contaminate their drinking source. Beyond that, though, is the more serious risk of drowning. These guys can drown in very small pools of water so we always use glass water bottles to be safe with our gliders.
- Plastic Water Bottles - At TPG we prefer glass for a few reasons. The biggest reason is that plastic bottles will over time leak chemical compositions into the water source that your gliders are drinking - which is something that we don't ever want to happen! Additionally, some gliders will chew on plastic so it's better to be safe with a bottle that they cannot chew a leak into.
- Metal on toys or pouches - Certain metals and rust can cause UTIs with sugar gliders. Chicken wire is a big no no! Galvanized metals should never be used. Most toys with metal pieces are unsafe for these guys. Stainless steel, however, is a safe metal.