Health & Your Glider

The potential lifespan of sugar gliders in captivity is 12 - 15 years; sadly, however, the average lifespan is only 6 - 8 years. Why is there this large difference between potential and actuality? There are a number of factors that account for this difference.

Many sugar gliders die each year due to accidental death. They are very small animals and consequently they can get into very small places. The most common cause of accidental death is drowning in a toilet. Glider owners need to make sure that toilet lids are kept closed at all times - even when gliders are "secure" in their cages. As many have found out, a glider can use its opposable thumbs to open cage doors and "escape". Although gliders can swim, they can not get out of a toilet once they have fallen in. Eventually, they become exhausted and end up drowning. Other causes of accidental deaths include electrocution, poisoning and having been caught by other pets within the household.  Other factors that reduce the lifespan of a glider include poor nutrition, exposure to toxic chemicals, untreated illnesses and illnesses treated too late.

By educating yourself about the various risks and illnesses that gliders can succumb to, you will be able to help your glider live a full, healthy and long life. To that end, this web-page has been created to help you learn about the important facets of keeping your glider healthy. Many of the articles have been written by sugar glider owners who have become experts. Their articles are based directly on their own experiences. I am deeply grateful to these owners for taking the time to write about their experiences so that we can all learn from them.

I strongly suggest that you read this page and its links in their entirety. Bookmark it on your web browser so that you can refer to it in the event of an emergency. Feel free to print out any or all of these articles so that you have them available when needed. Please keep in mind that all pictures on this site are copyrighted by the individuals who took them. Do not use these pictures for anything other than as a reference in conjunction with the articles.

Finding a Veterinarian

Finding a veterinarian who is familiar with sugar gliders is a very important thing to do BEFORE your glider gets sick. Sugar gliders are exotic pets and glider-experienced veterinarians are still rare. All too often, gliders become ill and their owners don't have a clue where to bring their glider for emergency care. I live in the metropolitan Cleveland area, where there are well over a hundred veterinarians listed in the yellow pages. However, of all those vets, there are only two within 30 minutes of my home that accepts sugar gliders as patients. I am very fortunate because the one I take my gliders to is an excellent vet and is actually relatively close to my home. However, for after-hour calls, I have to drive almost an hour away to an emergency hospital in Akron because neither of the vets who are close to me have clinics open 24/7. I have my regular vet's phone number memorized and it is written down and kept next to all phones in my house.

Even before getting a sugar glider you should phone around and find out where the nearest vet is that is glider-experienced. Phone each number in the yellow pages and ask two specific questions: 1) "Do you accept sugar gliders as patients?"; 2) "Does the veterinarian have experience with sugar gliders? If so, how many other gliders has he/she seen?" Don't feel awkward about asking these questions. They are vital to the continued well-being of your glider.

Once you find a glider-experienced vet, find out what the vet's normal office hours are, not just what the clinic's hours are. Find out if the clinic is available 24/7 for emergencies. If not, inquire about where your veterinarian would recommend that you bring your glider in the event of an emergency. Follow up by checking with the emergency facility to make sure that they also accept sugar gliders as patients. Many do not. Find out where the emergency facility is located and print out a map to keep in your Emergency Medical Kit.

I can not stress the importance of knowing, in advance, where the nearest glider-experienced veterinarian is. It could mean the difference between life and death for your glider in the future.

Emergency Medical Supplies

Having a well-stocked Emergency Medical Kit on hand can mean the difference between whether or not your glider survives in the event of an emergency. Once, I was called to the home of a glider owner whose glider was "acting sick". Fortunately, I brought along my kit. Upon arrival, the glider was extremely dehydrated and was not getting adequate oxygen because of it. It was apparent that immediate care was needed if this glider was going to survive. I used a 1.0 c.c. syringe (without a needle) to administer Pedialyte to him. En route to the emergency vet hospital an hour away, while the glider's owner drove, I continued to administer Pedialyte to him and was able to get him to drink about 3.5 c.c.'s by the time we reached the hospital. Although they were unable to determine what had caused his dehydration to begin with, they administered sub-cutaneous (sub-q) fluids and he revived. If I had not had the supplies on hand, he would have died before we even reached the hospital. He fully recovered without any adverse effects from his bout with severe dehydration.

The following items are those that I recommend stocking in your Emergency Medical Kit. Keep everything together in an easily accessible spot. Although you may not ever need any of them, it is better to be safe than sorry...

  • Q-tips  [for cleaning wounds and applying topical medications]
  • Unflavored Pedialyte [for treating dehydration]
  • Esbilac Puppy Formula -or- Wombaroo Sugar Glider Milk Replacer [for emergency feeding]
  • Feeding Tips [for emergency feeding, used in conjunction with needleless syringe]
  • Neosporin  [antibiotic ointment for treating sores and wounds]
  • Neosporin Plus Pain Relief  [antibiotic ointment with analgesic for treating sores and wounds - only to be used in conjunction with an e-collar]
  • Baby Fingernail Clippers -or- Cuticle Clippers  [for trimming nails]
  • Sterile Cotton Balls -or- Sterile Gauze Pads [for cleansing sores and wounds]
  • Self-Adhering First Aid Gauze Wrap [for dressing wounds]
  • Spare Small Cage or Reptarium [for use as a "Hospital Cage" to isolate sick gliders]
  • Human Heating Pad without auto shut-off [for heating the "Hospital Cage"]
  • Corn Starch [for treating nail bleeds]
  • Vitamin E Oil or Capsules [for treating wounds]
  • Tweezers
  • Small Scissors [for possible thread entanglements]
  • Moleskin Plus Padding [for use in making an E-Collar]
  • Molefoam [for use in making an E-Collar]
  • Heavy-Duty Clear Mylar (sold as notebook covers or as "flexible cutting mats") [for use in making an E-Collar]
  • Clear Duct Tape [for use in making an E-Collar]
  • Bird Feeder Dispensers [for feeding glider wearing an E-Collar]
  • Microwaveable Heating Pad [for keeping glider warm during transportation in cold weather]
  • Several Large Fleece Blankets, (12" x 12") stored in airtight bag or container to keep clean [for wrapping glider]
  • Bonding Pouch [for confining glider during transportation]
  • Emergency Contact Card with normal & emergency vet's names, addresses & phone numbers
  • Map and Directions to Emergency Vet Hospital

If you feel your glider is sick, please seek immediate veterinary assistance. The information on this page and in the correlating articles is for general educational purposes and is not intended to replace proper vet care. Please do not try to self-diagnose or self-treat your glider.