Bowmanville Veterinary Clinic

2826 HWY 2
Bowmanville, ON L1C 3K5

(905)623-4431

www.bowmanvilleveterinaryclinic.com

NUTRITION

Improper diet can be directly related to many common disease conditions in sugar gliders.  Sugar gliders are omnivores meaning they eat an array of foods including insects.  It is common to hear sugar gliders referred to as insectivore/omnivores as insects are a large portion of their diet.  Insects are significantly high in protein, this being said breeding gliders requires a significant amount of protein in their captive diet when breeding is taking place.

Insect availability decreases in the winter so sugar gliders rely on other sources of food.  Acacia gum, eucalyptus sap and other nectars are plant products that make up a majority of their winter diet.

Sugar gliders eat manna, a crusty sugar left from where sap flowed in a tree trunk or branch in the wild.  Gliders also eat honeydew which is an excess sugar produced by sap suckling insects.  Honey and fresh fruits are good substitutes for the sap. 

Nutritional enrichment is very important in creating stimulation for your pet.  Stimulation prevents boredom, as well as variety of foods enriches the overall well being of your pet (nutrition, vitamins and minerals).  Carrots are rich in vitamin A which is good for your sugar glider when offered in the right form and amount; however corn has a high phosphorus ratio which can elevate disease opportunity in your pet if given too much.

Recommended diet from Dr. Janine Cianciolo:

1. A fresh protein source

2. A fresh source of fruit and/or vegetables. The fruit and vegetable servings should be sprinkled with a daily dose of vitamin and calcium supplements to ensure adequate nutrition. Both fresh components should be fed in the evening with uneaten portions removed in the morning. 

3. A staple food available all day, every day. It is common to find that your sugar glider will eat the fresh foods first and will nibble at the staple food throughout the day and night. 

   1. A fresh protein source

   2. A fresh source of fruit and/or vegetables. The fruit and vegetable servings should be sprinkled with a daily dose of vitamin and calcium supplements to ensure adequate nutrition. Both fresh components should be fed in the evening with uneaten portions removed in the morning.

   3. A staple food available all day, every day. It is common to find that your sugar glider will eat the fresh foods first and will nibble at the staple food           throughout the day and night.

Protein

Offered on a four day rotation with one item offered from the following list daily:

    1. Gut loaded mealworms – Feed 10-12 small, 7-10 medium, or 3-5 large mealworms per glider.

  1. Gut loaded crickets – Feed 3-5 crickets per sugar glider.
  2. Boiled eggs (without shells) mixed with protein/low sugar cereal (ex Corn Flakes or Special K) and mixed with honey or apple juice. One heaping tablespoon is offered per 2 sugar gliders.
  3. Yogurt (blueberry or peach) – 1 heaping tablespoon is offered per 2 sugar gliders.

June bugs and grasshoppers are good insects to feed your sugar gliders as a protein source.  DO NOT feed lighting bugs to your glider.

Note:  Just weaned Joeys are not ready for the mealworms or crickets so substitute Gerber chicken baby food mixed with applesauce or sweet potatoes for the protein portion of the diet. Offer small mealworms weekly until the Joey learns how to eat them without any difficulty.

Fruits or Veggies

Offered in single portions daily and varied from day to day depending on the time of year and availability of these items. This is a list that SunCoast uses and not intended to be all inclusive.  The amount to feed is equal to one apple cut into 8 pieces with one piece fed to 2 sugar gliders.

Apples – Pears – Sweet Potatoes – Watermelon – Honeydew – Cantaloupe – Carrots – Kiwi – Mango – Oranges (only once a week and never to joeys) – Blueberries

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

Vitamins and calcium should be given daily. Dr. Cianciolo recommends Vionate as a vitamin for small animals.  To supplement calcium levels Dr. Cianciolo recommends Rep-Cal Calcium (phosphorous free without Vitamin D3 added).   Vionate already contains Vitamin D so you do not need it in the Calcium. Vitamins should be sprinkled on the offering of daily fruits or veggies.  You will just add a pinch of both Vionate and Rep-Cal.  Do not overdose the vitamins as too much can be harmful.

Dr. Cianciolo also suggests a third supplementation for breeding sugar gliders.  Using milk replacer products such as Arnold’s Choice Possum Milk Replacer, sprinkled on the fruit and vegetables has shown to be beneficial to the lactating female.  1/8 teaspoon every day is the amount used by SunCoast.  During pregnancy, it is advisable to gear the diet more towards the needs of the female and it is OK if the male is eating the same foods.  If the male is gaining weight from this diet a Wodent Wheel can give him access to exercise.

Staple Food

Offered in the cage at all times, a Wholesome Balance Chicken and Brown Rice Blend is an example of a staple food used.  It is very important that small animals have access to food continually throughout the day.  This is particularly important for breeding animals.

There is no commercially available food recommended for sugar gliders as well do not feed cat food as a substitute for a staple food as cats are carnivores and sugar gliders are not.

*Fresh, clean water should be available to your sugar glider at all times

If you plan on giving your sugar glider treats, do so after they have consumed a significant portion of their meal. You can also use ordinary meal items as treats by hand feeding your pet.  Hand feeding also enhances your bonding and friendship with your pet. 

Dr. C’s Top 10 Nutrition Tips

  1. Fresh water should always be available.
  2. Never add vitamins to the water supply.
  3. Offer meals that are at least 40% protein for non-breeding gliders and 50% protein for breeding sugar gliders.
  4. Supplement proteins with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  5. Keep a high quality staple diet in the cage at all times
  6. Feed fresh portions of fruit and veggies in the evening and remove any foods that can spoil in the morning.
  7. Avoid preservatives and pesticides in the diet.
  8. Avoid excessive fat in the diet – meat products should be lean.
  9. Maintain positive Calcium/Phosphorous ratios.
  10. Gut load your bugs before feeding to the sugar gliders.

The Most Frequently Asked Food Question:

What is your recommendation of Leadbeater’s Formula?

The original Leadbeater’s formula was developed by the Taronga Zoo as just part of an extensive feeding schedule for captive sugar gliders.  Here is the total Taronga Zoo diet as published by one of Dr. Cianciolo’s veterinary handbooks.

3 grams apple
3 grams banana/corn
1.5 grams dog kibble
1 teaspoon Fly pupae
3 grams blueberries/ kiwi fruit
2 teaspoons Leadbeater’s mixture **
4 grams orange with skin
2 grams pear
3 grams sweet potato

On Wednesday's: feed day old chick when available or large mealworms.

** Leadbeater’s mixture
150 mL warm water
150 mL honey
1 shelled hardboiled egg
25 grams high protein baby cereal
1 teaspoon vitamin supplement (Vionate)

Mix water and honey, blend egg in separate container, add water/honey mix, vitamin powder, and baby cereal, blending each until smooth.  Keep unused portion refrigerated.

Leadbeater’s mix was designed as just a small part of an overall feeding plan.  There are several variations of this mixture designed to make it more complete, however there are some reservations.  Dr. Cianciolo’s first reservation is based on how the necessary vitamins are administered.  If the product is refrigerated, or frozen as suggested by some recipes, Dr. Cianciolo is concerned that the vitamins may lose some potency.  Common sense supports certain vitamins will change or lose value is kept in a way other than as recommended by the manufacturer.

Dr. Cianciolo is an advocate of feeding fresh foods to exotic animals as she is not convinced there is an adequate pre-packaged food product available that meets all the needs of the sugar glider.  If you want an exotic pet you should be willing to feed it an exotic diet. 

All the above information is directly from www.sugar-gliders.com, written by Dr. Janine Cianciolo .