Common Diseases In Sugar Gliders

Both referred to as a ‘pocket’ and exotic pet, sugar gliders are famous and well-liked in the US and other parts of the world. It is a fluffy, tiny marsupial that is native to Australia and Indonesia. Its body resembles that of squirrels with its black markings and gray fur. 

Sugar gliders are playful and curious pets that can be prone to a myriad of diseases. Like humans, these small animals can suffer from various illnesses — including traumatic injuries, infections, and organ failure.

Continue reading to know more about the common diseases of sugar gliders, their symptoms, treatment, and prevention!

List Of Diseases

Sugar gliders are prone to several diseases and illnesses. Some are minor, but a good deal of them can be life-threatening if left alone. Here are some typical health conditions you should look out for.

1. Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic Bone Disease, sometimes called Nutritional Osteodystrophy, is more typically seen on pet reptiles, though it is also quite common on pet sugar gliders. A sugar glider needs calcium as part of its daily diet to maintain and keep its proper bone strength. 

Without sufficient calcium, its bone turns soft due to the improper balance of minerals and vitamins in its bodily system. It is when secondary health problems come knocking — seizures, broken bones, heart disease, and pneumonia. 

2. Skin Infections

Sugar Gliders can be susceptible and vulnerable to various bacterial skin infections, though Mycobacterium might be the most likely and common. Skin infections could potentially be secondary to another disease, such as self-mutilation. 

3. Dental Disease

The teeth of a sugar glider do not grow continuously, unlike rodent teeth. The frequency of dental disease in sugar gliders is because they prefer soft, sugary foods. 

This diet often leads to periodontal disease and tartar buildup. A veterinarian can easily remove the tartar under anesthesia.

More advanced periodontal disease or a traumatic tooth fracture can result in exposed roots and tooth decay. More severe cases can lead to tooth-root abscessation.  

4. Diarrhea

Among the common health problems in sugar gliders is diarrhea. Various microscopic parasites, including trichomonas and giardia, can result in diarrhea and even occasional vomiting.

Since these parasites can also infect humans, handling sick sugar gliders with extra care is advisable. Thoroughly clean their cages and separate them from other pets to avoid further contamination.

Other potential causes include stress, malnutrition, bacterial infection, GI parasites, and metabolic disease.

A sugar glider eating its meal.

5. Bacterial Infections

Sugar gliders are highly vulnerable to infection, especially with common bacteria. The clinical signs that indicate bacterial infections are usually nonspecific, with weight loss, depression, and loss of appetite being the most easily detected.

Bacterial infections in sugar gliders may appear as skin infections that are related to trauma. The common culprits that spread the bacteria are hands, unsanitary conditions, and improper handling of food.

6. Obesity

Obesity is another common health issue in gliders. It usually occurs when they are fed with high amounts of calories without enough exercise to compensate for it. Obesity can also lead to more severe health problems, including liver and heart disease. 

7. Pouch Disorders

Similar to kangaroos, female sugar gliders also have pouches where they raise and carry their young offspring. It also means that they could occasionally experience pouch prolapse. This disease could be secondary to another infection as a result of mastitis or excessive grooming. 

8. Bone Fractures

Sugar gliders are curious beings with an instinct to glide, hence their name. They love to jump around from place to place. Unfortunately, this habit of theirs can lead to a few broken bones and fractures — either from landing wrong or falling off high places. 

It is recommended to create a safe space for them to explore and play in. Ensure soft landing areas by using blankets, pillows, or mats.  

9. Self-Mutilation

What most pet owners seem to forget is that animals can suffer from mental health issues too. Sugar gliders can undergo self-mutilation when they are under extreme stress.

It could be as simple as excessive licking or over-grooming to more severe cases of chewing the skin off to making open wounds. It is especially dangerous since it could cause tremendous damage for them.

10. Dehydration

Dehydration is a common health issue that could also be a symptom of another illness. It might seem like a minor issue, but when left dehydrated for about 12 hours, the chances of death are high.

You may check for dehydration by pulling the skin at their shoulders. If it goes down slowly or stays up, then the sugar glider is possibly dehydrated. 

Signs & Symptoms Of Diseases

In looking for signs or symptoms of diseases in sugar gliders, you will need to consider the marsupial’s overall appearance and behavior. You should be able to know how to tell if a sugar glider is healthy or not.

Generally, healthy gliders have a moist nose, the ability to grip with all their feet, good elasticity of their gliding membranes, and a smooth coat. If you see something off with their appearance, be on alert and start looking for other signs.

Signs of illness in gliders are similar to other animals — inactivity, depression, and loss of weight or appetite. Other signs are excessive shedding, low energy, watery eyes, bald patches, red and scaly skin, labored breathing, sores, and dragging the hind legs. 

Sugar gliders can also experience behavioral disorders, primarily due to inappropriate cages, being housed alone, or incompatible mates. Deliberately injuring themselves, excessive thirst, pacing, and overeating/undereating are possibly associated with stress. Meanwhile, anxiety can lead to fur loss from over grooming. 

A sugar glider holding onto a piece of wood.

Prevention Of Diseases

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. That is also the case with sugar gliders. You can help your pet avoid diseases as long as you take preventive care seriously.

Ensure that they have a cage that is appropriate for their size. It should also have an adequate amount of climbing branches for exercise and play to prevent obesity.

Malnutrition is also a common health issue for sugar gliders, so be sure to give them a proper diet and enough supplements. Additionally, provide clean and fresh water every day. Clean their cage, food bowls, and nest box regularly to keep them healthy. Throw out all uneaten fruits and vegetables from their cage.

Avoid giving your gliders a soft, carbohydrate-rich diet since it could result in tartar buildup and gum disease. You can reduce the tartar buildup by adding mealworms, crickets, or insects with hard exoskeletons to their diet.  

Treatment Of Diseases

The treatment for diseases in sugar gliders are different, depending on what they caught or have. Simple health issues like stress and obesity are easier to treat, though the latter does take time. Obese sugar gliders will need to increase exercise, adjust their diet, and deal with secondary conditions for treatment. 

Gliders suffering from dental diseases are usually given anti-inflammatory medications and antibiotics. They are syringe fed and would undergo surgery. A diet correction paired with vitamin D3 and calcium supplements would be needed for illnesses such as metabolic bone disease.

Other diseases would require their own specially designed treatment. They have their own tests, medications, and surgical procedures.

Conclusion

A sugar glider in white background.

Sugar gliders are prone to several common and infectious diseases. As a pet owner and parent, it will be your duty to identify, prevent, and treat these diseases. You can learn to recognize the first signs of a developing or existing disease to halt its chances of pestering and progressing.

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