Sugar gliders are one of the newest exotic pets in the United States. These adorable small animals aren't rodents; they're marsupials and nurse their young in pouches on their stomachs just like kangaroos. Sugar gliders are native to Australia and New Guinea and, according to the Merck Vet Manual, were first introduced as pets in the United States in 1994.
While popular small pets like hamsters and guinea pigs don't live longer than five years, sugar gliders have an average life expectancy of 12 to 15 years. To help them thrive during those years, it's advisable to take your sugar glider to a vet for regular checkups. The vet will provide a general physical exam, including a dental check, and examine your pet's droppings for signs of parasites or harmful bacteria.
Regular Checkups Are Crucial
Regular checkups (with professionals such as those from Northwest Animal Hospital) can be invaluable for your pet's health because since sugar gliders are a small prey animal, they will conceal any signs of pain or illness for as long as possible. By the time they're showing visible symptoms of sickness, there's a good chance that the disease has progressed very far. Additionally, due to their tiny size, they are exceptionally vulnerable to starvation and dehydration. Quick treatment of any illness is critical.
The Most Common Killers of Sugar Gliders
According to a publication from Purdue University, one of the most common causes of death in sugar gliders is poisoning from unfiltered tap water. If there's a spike in the levels of chlorine and other chemical additives in tap water, as often occurs in water from metropolitan sources, it can quickly cause death in tiny sugar gliders. To keep your glider safe, always provide it with bottled or filtered drinking water, and make sure to replace your water filter as needed, so it continues to remove chemicals properly.
Contaminated food can lead to a range of health issues for your sugar glider. It's recommended to avoid feeding sugar gliders peanuts because they may be contaminated with a fungus that can cause a deadly liver disease in gliders called aflatoxicosis.
Sugar gliders are messy eaters and will often throw and spit out food. They also randomly urinate and defecate in their cage, which can contaminate any food that's lying on the floor of the cage. To prevent food from becoming contaminated with dangerous bacteria, use a covered plastic bowl or box as a dining room inside your pet's cage to keep their food clean and safe for consumption. Cut an entry hole that's about an inch and a half in diameter into each side of the box.
With proper care, your sugar glider will keep you company for many happy, healthy years to come.