Sugar Gliders - Diseases

What are some of the common diseases of pet sugar gliders?

Common conditions of pet sugar gliders include malnutrition, obesity, nutritional osteodystrophy, traumatic injuries, dental disease and stress-related disorders. Sugar gliders can also be afflicted with various respiratory problems, neurologic disease, and occasionally with bacterial, parasitic, or cancerous diseases.

What are the signs of these diseases?

sugar_gliders-diseases-1Malnourished sugar gliders are weak, lethargic, thin, dehydrated and debilitated. Depending upon the severity of malnourishment, other signs may be seen such as difficulty walking, trembling, seizures, easily broken bones, bruising, and pale mucous membranes. Many of these pets will have low levels of blood glucose, protein, red blood cells, and calcium and may suffer from liver or kidney failure.

Obesity results from lack of exercise, overfeeding and an inappropriate diet that is too high in fat or protein. An overweight sugar glider may suffer from heart, liver, or pancreatic problems.

Nutritional osteodystrophy (metabolic bone disease) results in lameness or paralysis of the hind limbs. The bones may break easily or appear swollen, due to osteoporosis. Nutritional osteodystrophy is caused by calcium deficiency and malnutrition; the blood levels of calcium are often low.

Traumatic injuries, most often fractures, can occur if an open-track exercise wheel is used and the sugar glider catches a leg in the open track. Cuts and wounds from attacks by other household pets, as well as falls can be significant and sometimes fatal to sugar gliders. They can accidentally fall into open toilets, be stepped on, be caught on the top of a closing door, or be electrocuted by chewing on an electrical cord.

Dental disease, including tartar accumulation, is commonly due to the feeding of soft, carbohydrate rich diets. Advanced disease may lead to rotting teeth, tooth fractures and tooth loss. Sugar gliders with dental disease are often anorexic and sickly. To minimize dental disease, ensure that the proper diet is being provided and have the teeth checked regularly by a veterinarian familiar with sugar gliders. Any dental cleaning and repair will be done under a general anesthetic.

"Stress is most often seen in intact (not neutered) male sugar gliders."

Stress is most often seen in intact (not neutered) male sugar gliders. These frustrated pets often self-mutilate their tail, limbs, penis and scrotum. Stress may also manifest as overeating, over drinking, pacing, and eating feces (coprophagy).The problem is particularly pronounced in solitary animals. To relieve this problem, either get the sugar glider a mate, or castrate him.

How can I tell if my sugar glider is sick?

sugar_gliders-diseases-2With some diseases, symptoms may be specific, such as a nasal discharge with a respiratory infection. Most commonly, however, signs are vague and non-specific, such as anorexia (lack of appetite) and lethargy, which can be seen with many diseases. You should be concerned if your sugar glider shows ANY deviation from normal, and you should seek immediate veterinary attention.

How are sugar glider diseases diagnosed?

A thorough history and physical examination will give the veterinarian some clues as to the possible problem (obesity, malnutrition, osteodystrophy.) Often diagnostic testing, such as fecal examination for parasites, aspiration of lumps and bumps to check for abscesses or tumors, X-rays to examine bones and soft tissues, and blood tests to determine if organ disease is present, must be done.

"Due to the nature of sugar gliders, most testing is done under gas (usually isoflurane) anesthesia."

Due to the nature of sugar gliders, most testing is done under gas (usually isoflurane) anesthesia.

How are sugar glider diseases treated?

Diseases related to diet are treated with dietary correction, including supplementation with any necessary vitamins and minerals. If the condition is serious, the pet may require hospitalization for force-feeding and fluid administration. Bacterial and parasitic diseases are treated with the appropriate medical therapy. Sugar gliders with serious disorders of the internal organs are treated with supportive therapy and drug therapy as indicated.

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