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Pender Veterinary Centre

Caring For Your Pet Sugar Glider

A sugar glider sitting on a person's shoulder

Basic Husbandry

General Information

Vital Statistics

  • Body Weight:

    • Females 80-130g

    • Males 100-160g

  • Life Span: 7-14 years

  • Sexual Maturity: Females 8-12 months, Males 12-14 months

Behavior and Handling

  • Sugar gliders are extremely social animals. It is recommended they be housed in groups of 2 or more. If housed alone, they require at least 2 hours of socialization per day.

  • Sugar gliders may self-mutilate or develop depression if not given sufficient interaction.

  • Basic handling is best achieved at night, when these animals are interactive and playful.

  • While gliders enjoying cuddling in shirt pockets or pouches, special consideration should be taken when this is allowed to avoid risk of injury.

  • Children handling sugar gliders should sit on the floor and hold the animal in their lap. Children should only handle sugar gliders under adult supervision.

  • Advantages of sugar gliders as pets include their small size, playfulness and intelligence. Disadvantages include their nocturnal nature, housing requirements, specific dietary needs and musky odor.

Reproductive Information

  • Both male and female sugar gliders have a unique reproductive system which may lend them to special reproductive problems, especially when joined with obesity or inappropriate social situations.

  • The estrous cycle of the female is 29 days long and the gestation period is 15–17 days. Litters commonly consist of only 1–2 joeys.

  • Females have a special pouch where their young reside for 70–74 days, and then they are left in the nest until they are weaned at 110–120 days.

  • Males may be neutered to prevent reproduction in male-female pairings. Females can also be spayed, but the procedure carries higher risk and must be performed by a more specialized surgeon.


  • Sugar gliders require a large amount of space and do best in a cage at least 16 times their body length and at least 1.8 meters high (About 36”x24”x40”)

  • Wire spacing should be no larger than 0.5”x1.0” to prevent escape.

  • Branches from nontoxic trees should be made available for climbing

  • The ideal temperature range for housing sugar gliders is 75 to 80 °F, and night time temperatures should not drop below 70°F.

  • The use of supplemental heat is recommended, such as a heat rock or ceramic heat emitter. Follow product instructions for use to avoid fire hazards or animal injury.

  • Gliders should be allowed permanent access to a nesting box for sleeping and hiding during the day, with bedding consisting of recycled paper substrate.

  • The cage should have designated areas for food, water, shelter and exercise.

  • These animals enjoy a variety of objects to entertain them such as bird toys and plastic wheels without open rungs.


  • Since sugar gliders are omnivores, captive diets should include a variety of protein sources, nectar, insects and a minimal amount of fruits and vegetables.

  • Commercial diets for sugar gliders and insectivores are available at pet stores and over the internet.

  • In addition to commercial diets, other protein sources may include mealworms, crickets, egg, and newborn mice.

  • A lead beater’s formula consisting of 150 ml water, 150 ml honey, one shelled hard-boiled egg, 25 g of high-protein baby cereal and one teaspoon of vitamin/mineral mixture can be fed daily. Commercial lead beater’s pre-mixes are also available.

  • Leafy green vegetables may provide a good source of fiber and vitamins as well as other fruits, vegetables and seeds; however, since this is not a significant component of their natural diet, these treats should constitute less than 5–10% of the captive diet. Other acceptable treats may include diced fruits, bee pollen and gut-loaded insects.

  • A broad spectrum vitamin or calcium supplement may be recommended by your veterinarian. Consult your veterinarian before starting a supplement.

  • Fruit based diets are harmful to sugar gliders and provide inadequate protein and calcium predisposing them to osteoporosis and dental disease.

  • A simplified diet has been proposed as 50% commercial insectivore diet, 50% lead beater’s mixture and treats consisting of less than 5% of the daily intake.

  • Water should be offered in a sipper bottle and/or spill proof bowl and should be changed daily.

Common Medical Conditions

Conditions Requiring Veterinary Attention


  • Malnutrition is a common condition in sugar gliders because of misinformation of dietary requirements.

  • Common conditions associated with malnutrition include low protein, low calcium and low red blood cell count.

  • Malnourished sugar gliders may be lethargic, thin, dehydrated and are often at risk for seizures, pathologic fractures and infection.

  • Treatment involves supportive care and correction of the underlying dietary deficiencies.


  • Obesity is common in many captive sugar gliders fed a diet too high in fat or sugar and a lack of exercise.

  • Obesity can lead to diseases of the heart, liver and pancreas. It can also cause fat deposits to form on the eyes, especially in juveniles if the mother is fed a diet high in fat.

  • Treatment consists of increasing exercise and change in diet.


  • Stress in sugar gliders can result in self-mutilation of tail, limbs, scrotum and penis.

  • Sexual frustration may be factor and castration is recommended for sexually mature males.

  • Increased steroid production from stress may also result in hair loss.

  • Providing proper nutrition and hygiene, normal social groupings, appropriate nesting areas and protection from potential predatory animals can help reduce stress.


  • Trauma, including bite wounds from dogs and cats, are common and potentially fatal injuries for sugar gliders.

  • Gliders can also be injured by household activities such as falling from heights, chewing on electrical cords, or being stepped on.

  • Eye injuries are also common because of the way their eyes slightly protrude. Corneal scratches and conjunctivitis are the most common eye injuries in sugar gliders.

Tumors and Abscesses

  • Cancer of lymphoid tissues such as cutaneous lymphosarcoma is relatively common in captive sugar gliders.

  • Treatment may consist of surgical removal of the tumors and immunosuppressive drugs, however, the tumors may return.

  • Abscesses are caused by small/deep cuts or bites for in the mouth from severe dental disease. The skin over the wound heals, and under it, infected abscess material forms a lump. Treatment includes surgically opening and cleaning the abscess and starting the pet on an oral antibiotic.

Emergency / Critical Care

All emergencies require veterinary assistance. Use the following guidelines to assist you in caring for your pet until you can contact a veterinarian.

Traumatic Injuries

  • Broken Bones

    • Provide your pet with soft bedding such as a towel or blanket.

    • Minimize handling.

    • Keep your pet in a warm, dark, and quiet area.

    • Keep your pet as calm as possible and contact a veterinarian or local animal emergency clinic immediately.

  • Skin Injuries/Blood loss

    • For any type of injury with blood loss, use direct pressure with a towel or clean gauze to prevent further blood loss. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you are unable to stop the bleeding.

Severe Illnesses and Other Conditions

  • Head Injuries and Head-Tilt

    • Provide your pet with soft bedding such as a towel or blanket.

    • Minimize handling.

    • Keep your pet in a warm, dark, and quiet area.

    • Keep your pet as calm as possible and contact a veterinarian or local animal emergency clinic immediately.

  • Respiratory Distress

    • If your sugar glider experiences open-mouth breathing or gasping for air, remove all bedding and minimize handling and stress.

    • Keep your glider in a comfortable, dark, and quiet environment until you are able to reach your veterinarian or local animal emergency clinic.

Health Recommendations

Annual Physical

  • Always have an initial physical exam performed on any newly acquired sugar glider. During the exam, the doctor will check the teeth, eyes, ears, heart, lungs, and abdomen. The doctor will also check the hair and skin for external parasites.

  • You should have your pet’s fecal sample checked for internal parasites.

  • Your glider should have an annual physical done by a veterinarian every year.

Overgrown Nails

  • Sugar gliders may need to have their nails checked/trimmed on a regular basis. If the nails get too long, they can become caught on the cage or toys and break off causing pain and bleeding.

  • If any of the nails break off and begin to bleed, apply styptic powder, flour, or cornstarch to encourage clotting, and apply direct pressure to the nail. If you cannot stop the bleeding, contact a veterinarian.

Over-the-Counter Medication

  • Over-the-counter topical triple antibiotic ointments or any other types of over-the-counter medications are not recommended without first consulting your veterinarian. Productions such as triple antibiotic ointment (for the use of minor skin injuries) can cause digestive problems if ingested and can cause digestive problems if ingested and can potentially become toxic over time.