Sugar Glider Illness: Signs Your Sugar Glider is Sick!
Since the topic of the day is related to health, by law it’s important to stop for a second and remind you of the following. :-)
*************************** DISCLAIMER ******************************
All the information provided to our customers and published on the Pocket Pets website has been reviewed and approved by multiple licensed animal care professionals and at least one Licensed Doctor of Veterinary Medicine – all of whom specialize in Sugar Bears (also known as sugar gliders). Pocket Pets, and its directors, employees or agents are not licensed veterinarians and nothing associated with this communication is to be construed as – or relied upon – as veterinary advice. As such, you are strongly encouraged to consult with a licensed Veterinarian who specializes in Sugar Bears/Gliders regarding any specific health issues, questions or concerns.
Ok, now that we’ve got all that “legal stuff” out of the way, let’s dive into today’s topic. :-)
We will try to lay out some of the most common health related issues to look out for. Realistically, the chance of having any health related issue is very slim however nothing is more important than you’re baby’s wellness so it’s important that you are very familiar with this guide in particular so you know what to look for and how to deal with it. That said, we do recommend taking your animal(s) to a vet 1-2 times a year for a checkup if possible, just as you would any other animal.
I do apologize in advance because this is one of the longest guides you’ll ever read. But it’s VERY important you read (not skim) the entire thing to help ensure your baby lives a long healthful life. Just like people, most these issues are no big deal AS LONG AS YOU CATCH THEM EARLY AND TAKE APPROPRIATE MEASURES. This is why we are giving you all this information. If you ever encounter a health related issue or concern you should email [email protected] (also available under “contacts” on our website). If you email us we can usually recommend a sugar glider specialist within driving distance of you.
As we’ve already covered in the Quick Start Audio CD and this guide, Sugar Bears (also known as sugar gliders) – in general – are not really prone to any particular illness or disease. However, as tiny babies, the two most common things they are susceptible to are dehydration – and hypothermia.
Since we’ve already covered both these topics already, in this email we’re going to focus on giving you some very specific tips on:
- Warning signs to look for, and
- Tips for HOW to deal with anything that might come up…
Before we get started here, it’s important to briefly remind you of the importance of always keeping your babies nice and snuggly-warm; especially during the first few weeks you have them. The simple fact is that most of us can’t keep the room where our baby’s play and sleep at above 75 degrees, so if at all possible, you’ll want to make sure and get a good, quality heat lamp (along with a fleece cage cover) – to go along WITH their heat rock – for at least the first few weeks they are in their new home. With baby sugar bears especially, in the rare case that they would start to exhibit any signs of sickness – giving them plenty of heat right away is a big MUST – so that they don’t have to waste any of their valuable energy just trying to stay warm. For more specific information on: 1) why this is important, 2) where to get the right lamp & bulb, and 3) why NOT to use a space heater near your babies cage, check out the free report entitled: “Keeping Healthy”.
Ok, keeping all this in mind, let’s dive in and start with the topic of dehydration. When it comes to this topic, the thing we always tell customers is to always ASSUME your sugar glider baby is dehydrated for the first few weeks you have them (even though they’re not). This way, it automatically kind of “pre-empts” anything that might happen while they are still tiny like this – and you will have the “peace of mind” of knowing that your baby’s welfare is well in-hand.
Now, right off the bat, you should already be mixing your baby’s water bottle with a 50/50 mixture of Gatorade (or apple juice) and purified bottled water. Any citrus flavor will usually work fine. If you don’t want to use apple juice or Gatorade, you can also substitute Pedialite (made for human babies) because it doesn’t have the high-fructose corn syrup contained in Gatorade – but either works equally well in most circumstances. About the only thing you have to do is switch out this mixture every other day or so, in order to keep it fresh. :-)
Secondly, for the first 6 weeks you have them, the ONLY fruit you should feed them is apples. NOTHING else. No matter how tempting it is to watch them eat other stuff – save that for later in their lives. The basic reason for this is simply that baby sugar bears get MOST of their liquids from their apples – and apples contain PECTIN – which is a VERY important digestive agent for their little tummies. Remember, as little babies, their tummies don’t have all the necessary digestive enzymes yet that they need to eat other foods – so it’s best to play it SAFE for the FIRST SIX WEEKS – and stick religiously to the diet we lay out for you.
The basic rule of thumb here is that baby sugar bears are a lot like little kids – especially when it comes to their eating habits. In other words, if you give them sweet, FUN stuff all day to eat – they’ll definitely eat it. However, that doesn’t mean it’s GOOD for them.
For example, every year we get FAR TOO MANY frantic emails and calls from new parents, saying things like: “Help, my baby is throwing up”…or “has severe diarrhea” ..etc..etc.. In almost EVERY case when we dig into what’s happening, these well-meaning moms/dads got some CRAZY information off some credible-LOOKING website or chat room that told them sugar gliders LOVE this kind of food – or that our diet is terrible and that they should immediately switch their baby to a different diet – etc..etc… The problem is that by the time they figure out they got BAD advice, their little baby’s digestive system is all out of whack – and it could easily die in less than a day or two.
WARNING REGARDING CHANGING DIETS: Suddenly changing a diet that any animal has become accustomed to over time can be very dangerous. This is true for almost any animal, but it is especially important for young baby sugar gliders, whose tiny digestive systems are very delicate at this young age. Changing a baby’s diet automatically forces their entire digestive system into a state of extreme stress – as its digestive system is suddenly forced to cope with and process a whole range of strange foods it has never experienced before. This stress extends all the way down to the cellular level – causing every system in the baby’s body to effectively go into “crisis mode”. Once this happens, the baby will often develop diarrhea very quickly – and it can die as a direct result of JUST changing their diet. It’s essentially the same principle as how a full-grown dog or cat will usually get diarrhea if you switch their brand of food – except that these little darlings only weigh a couple OUNCES at this age – and subjecting their entire body to such an extremely high level of unnecessary stress can be deadly.
Bottom line… The diet that is laid out for you in the audio CD and these Special Reports has been designed – and approved – by multiple Doctors of Veterinary Medicine who specialize in these animals; and all our babies are already used to eating it. PLEASE stick to this exact diet FOR AT LEAST THE FIRST SIX WEEKS – and you’re little darling(s) will get off to a GREAT start :-) Another issue that is rare, but can theoretically occur from any diet, (including the Glide-R-Chow) is an abscess. An abscess is a swollen “bump” on or around the face, and they can occur in many animals, even humans. Most often it’s caused when a piece of food gets stuck in an animals gum and eventually causes an infection – since they’re usually not great about “brushing their teeth”. J Usually, you will be able to spot an abscess very easily because it inevitably causes a swelling in their face under their eye or on their cheek. Just like any type of infection, if you catch it early, it’s usually not a big deal and just requires an oral antibiotic, which is relatively inexpensive at any vet. If, however, you don’t catch it early, it can get serious very quickly, require surgery, and even kill an animal. That’s why it’s so important to always keep a close eye out for any sort of puffiness in your little buddy’s face so (in the rare case you should happen to notice something) you can get it taken care of right away. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to actually prevent an abscess from happening in the first place, but the good news is that they’re rare and easy to treat.
Now, having said all that, it’s important to understand that sugar gliders, like almost all mammals, typically host trace levels of various bacteria and/or parasites (such as Giardia) in their digestive systems. Many of these organisms are believed to naturally exist in sugar bears, in much the same way as we humans have thousands of organisms that normally live in our digestive tracts. Under everyday circumstances, they normally don’t cause any significant harm to the animal, and don’t require treatment. HOWEVER, under periods of stress (like the kind associated with traveling across the country and moving to a new family) it can SOMETIMES “bloom” inside their digestive tracts and cause a wide range of problems; including severe dehydration.
If you’re pet has a VERY mushy or liquid stool you need to see a vet ASAP so they can get it some meds. If however, the stool is a little loose or soft, you may be able to treat it by doing the following. (Obviously it’s always good to err on the side of caution and go see a vet if there’s any concern).
- Get a cup of blueberry or peach flavored yogurt. This is like “crack” to most baby sugar bears and they can’t resist it :-) Just like kids, some sugar bears will only like certain flavors, so before you move on to the next step, be sure to FIRST find a flavor that your baby(ies) like…. Once you’ve found a flavor they like, THEN
- ***VERY IMPORTANT*** Mix a small amount of BOTH: 1) Kaopectate (or Peptobismol) and 2) Glide-a-Mins into the yogurt. Use about 1/2 TEASPOON of Kaopectate (or Peptobismol) – and 1 TEASPOON of Glide-a-Mins per standard-sized cup of yogurt. It’s VERY important to mix this together thoroughly, and not put too much of either into the yogurt. The tiny amount of Kaopectate (or Peptobismol) will help combat any digestive stress they might be feeling, and it usually helps keep Giardia and diarrhea from becoming a problem. The Glide-a-Mins have a specially-formulated mixture of good digestive bacteria and enzymes that – along with the yogurt – will help ‘jump-start’ their little digestive systems. After you make it, keep this mixture refrigerated, and just give it out as follows:
- Dip your finger in the mixture and let them lick it off. Give them about a HALF-teaspoon – per baby – every day for the first 3-4 weeks. Not only does this little “exercise” ensure that you KNOW they are getting their vitamins (in addition to the other two methods laid out in the other Special Reports) – but it is also a FANTASTIC way to speed up the whole bonding process (because to them, you kinda become the “ice-cream man”)!
- Take a small bottle-cap (from a drinking water bottle) and fill it about HALF full every day with the yogurt/Glide-a-Min mixture. This is roughly about HALF a teaspoon. Just put it in their cage (or dining room assuming that you’ve already made one) every night just before you go to bed – and take whatever is left out of the cage first thing in the morning.
Keeping all the above in mind, the primary signs of a baby sugar bear being sick or dehydrated are simply that:
- they are very lethargic or “wobbling” when they walk,
- they have diarrhea for more than a day or so,
- their stool is “sticky” (possibly a sign of a Giardia “bloom”), and/or
- they are not eating their apple.
If you notice anything like this, be sure to email us right away at [email protected]…and give us the specifics of what is happening. These emails – while rare – are our TOP PRIORITY – and we will ALWAYS try to get back to you immediately. However, if you feel the situation is serious – or for some unknown reason you do not hear back from us within a couple hours – don’t hesitate for a second to take the sick baby to a vet right away.
Having said that, if you should notice that your baby suddenly starts “wobbling”(which again is usually a sign of severe dehydration), TIME is of the essence. Therefore, in addition to getting them to a Vet ASAP, the most important thing is to get them eating and drinking IMMEDIATELY. Giving them a half a slice of canned peach (or applesauce or fruit cocktail if they don’t like the peach) – with lots of syrup – will usually help give them a much-needed boost of energy, but that’s just a start…
In addition, the following is a special “EMERGENCY RESCUE MIX” that we’ve found works wonders in a very short period of time. It was developed by a Vet specifically to counteract the above symptoms (pretty much regardless of the cause) and we’ve seen near-miraculous turnarounds even in cases dehydration when it is caught early enough – and given often. It only takes about 5 minutes to throw together – and to make it you will need:
EMERGENCY RESCUE MIX (ERM):
- 10 Tablespoons of warm water (bottled of course – Remember to NEVER give your baby city or tap water because of potential “spikes” in chlorine levels.)
- 10 Tablespoons of honey
- 1 hard-boiled egg (still in the shell)
- 20 pellets of Glide-R-Chow, and
- 1 Teaspoon of Glide-A-Mins
- Using a blender, thoroughly mix the warm water, honey, and Glid-A-Mins.
- In a separate bowl, crush the Glide-R-Chow into fine powder.
- Place the hard-boiled egg (still in the shell) in the bowl with the powder, and crush it by hand into the smallest chunks you can.
- Scrape the egg/powder mix into the bowl containing the water mixture, making sure to scrape out as much of it as possible.
- Stir everything together by hand, and then blend for approximately 3-5 minutes using an electric blender. Start on low – and increase the speed until the entire mixture is completely chopped up and liquefied.
- Serve approximately 2-4 Tablespoons of this mixture to the potentially-sick sugar bear evenly THROUGHOUT the course of each day. They probably won’t be able to eat all this, but you should begin to notice an improvement within the first few hours, and two full batches of this mix will normally help get almost any sick sugar bear “out of the woods”. Keep refrigerated or frozen until served.
Now, we’ll warn you right off the bat that even the most “finicky” sugar glider (even the rare ones that won’t eat the yogurt/pepto mix) will usually go absolutely NUTS the first time their little tongue tastes this “heavenly concoction” – so be prepared for a surprisingly enthusiastic response when you give it to them :-) In fact, this makes it a PERFECT food for them to lick off your finger while they are sick. Over the days you administer this mix, ALSO continue to give them their normal standard diet of apples, Chow, Gravy and bread as outlined in previous emails. They will almost always eat this mix before anything else, (which should be about 50% of their overall diet while they are sick), but this way they will have PLENTY of other nourishment to heal their little body.
Now, if you happen to be one of those “extra cautious” parents who wants to be prepared for anything, you can go ahead and whip up a batch of this and just keep it in the freezer. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but this way it’s ready just in case. Also, even if they aren’t sick, you can still feed a LITTLE bit of this mix to them once every 2-3 WEEKS or so as a “super-treat”. They’ll LOVE it, but only feed it to them as an OCCASIONAL treat.
While this “Emergency Rescue Mix” is GREAT for nursing a potentially-sick baby back to health, if it becomes a main part of their diet for more than 30 days, they WILL probably start to develop a very musky odor that is extremely hard to get rid of. Therefore, if you find it necessary to give them this mix, it’s usually best to discontinue it as soon as they have been acting normally for 5-7 days with firm stools :-)
Now, in the rare case where your sugar bear will NOT eat the ERM, immediately try giving them the individual parts of it separately (ie. egg, honey, etc..). If they STILL don’t like it, the best thing is to probably get them to a Vet RIGHT away – because this usually means that whatever is wrong has already gotten to the point where only medication will help. If you are going to take them to a Vet, email our customer service department ASAP and we can often recommend a vet in your area that we know is very familiar with sugar bears and their treatment.
As we’ve said in previous emails, dehydration in a small baby sugar bear (or a severe Giardia “bloom”) can kill it within a day or two – so it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Therefore, if you are EVER in any doubt, ALWAYS err on the side of caution and take a sick baby to the Vet. They will easily be able to tell if the baby is dehydrated, and a quick fecal-exam (called a “float”) will tell them if bacteria or parasites are the problem. Although identifying the specific type of bacteria or parasite can sometimes be almost impossible without extensive testing, in most cases a couple simple, inexpensive tests will quickly tell your Vet exactly what needs to be done.
That being said, when looking for a good Vet, here are a few important considerations that can save you a LOT of money.
First, in almost every situation, your normal neighborhood Vet (that already sees hamsters & gerbils) can easily work on Sugar Bears (aka Sugar Gliders) – even if they’ve never seen one before. This is simply because the process for treating diarrhea, dehydration or intestinal bacteria/parasites is identical to virtually any other small mammal.
Now, in many cases if you call ahead to their office, they may tell you they do not work on these animals. However, it’s been our experience that if you simply “show up” at their office with your baby – armed with the following two printouts:
- This Special Report You’re Reading Right Now
- Both Special Reports “Transitioning your Sugar Bears to a Healthy & Nutritious Diet” and “What Every Veterinarian Needs to Know about Sugar Gliders”
They will at least take a look at them for you. You can print all this information out at one time simply by going to the links above.
Also, always ask if your Veterinarian is a member of the Association of Sugar Glider Veterinarians™ (www.ASGV.org ). As we have mentioned in previous emails, the ASGV™ is a “vets-only” association that is free to all licensed Doctors of Veterinary Medicine. If for some reason your Vet is not already a member, just ask them to join. The ASGV™ is always on the cutting edge of veterinary medicine for these little guys – so by going to a member Vet you can rest assured that they will be up to date on all the latest dietary and care information you might ever need. :-)
Now having said that, if your baby is exhibiting any of the symptoms outlined above, in most cases your Vet can quickly determine the source of the problem by simply doing a quick fecal check (or “float”). Once this is done, the typical treatment consists of:
- Giving the baby a quick “Hydro” shot (to push much-needed liquids into their system),
- Giving them an ongoing oral medication for a few days; like either Albon (a banana-flavored paste that also goes by the scientific name: Sulfadimethoxine), Panacur (scientific name: Fenbendazole) or Flagyl (scientific name: Metronidazole). For example, the typical dosage for administering Flagyl is 25 mg/kg orally, twice a day for 7-10 days.
- Giving them an anti-diarrhea medication like Endosorb.
- Possibly an additional hydro shot every other day for the next week or so (depending on how severe the dehydration was)
In any event, any Vet will always be familiar with one – or all – of the above procedures and medications; and once they read the above reports you bring in with you, they will quickly know both the appropriate medicine and dosages for your particular situation. Again, for much more detailed information on how to treat this – or any kind of medication condition in these animals – simply ask them to go to www.ASGV.org and join the Association of Sugar Glider Veterinarians™. Tell them they can find something called a “Formulary” – and all treatment information – on that site (they will know what that means). Also, once they are members they can speak directly with some of the top Vets in the world who specialize in these little guys, and get any other answers they might need right over the phone. :-)
From there, all you have to do is just follow their instructions. :-)
IMPORTANT NOTE ON MEDICATIONS: One of the most common mistakes people make when giving their animals prescribed medications is that they stop giving it to the animal before the medicine runs out. For example, even if the baby’s stools become firm, always finish any prescribed medications exactly as outlined by your Vet, because that will prevent any re occurrence down the road. :-)
All that being said, while we are still on the subject of potential illnesses, one more quick thing I want to cover is about the importance of washing your hands both before – and after – playing with your new little darling(s).
First off, it’s very important to always wash your hands BEFORE taking your babies out of their cage. This is because there’s a pretty good chance that – during the course of your ordinary day – there might still be toxins and other residues left on your hands or underneath your fingernails that could potentially hurt your sugar bears if they lick it. Remember, sugar bears have a GREAT sense of smell, and if they sense something strange on your hands or underneath your fingernails, they will probably try to check it out :-)
Now, as far as washing your hands afterwards goes, this is always a good thing to do immediately after handling ANY pet. In all our research, even though we’ve never been able to find even ONE SINGLE verifiable, documented case of a sugar bear ever passing along an illness to a human, it’s still always strongly recommended to wash your hands after handling ANY pet – including sugar bears. Most household pets, including: dogs, cats, birds, and reptiles routinely pass along all kinds of sicknesses to humans – and studies have shown that in almost every case where this has happened, the whole thing probably could have been avoided by owners simply washing their hands. Therefore, getting in this habit both before – and after – handling your pets is always a good idea :-)
****************** ONE LAST THING ********************
About the only other kind of non-life-threatening “illness” (if you can call it that) which baby sugar bears can occasionally come down with is an eye infection. Usually when this happens, it’s simply the result of accidentally scratching their eye while cleaning themselves. Like everything else covered so far, this is an easy problem to detect – and very simple to treat…
Basically, you can tell if an eye infection is starting when all of a sudden one of your baby’s eyes swells shut – gets crusty – or noticeably turns either blueish or a milky white. If this happens, it’s pretty easy to treat using a warm, wet cloth and a substance called “triple antibiotic”..
Triple antibiotic can be found on the shelves of Walgreens, CVS, Wal-Mart, and Target. It’s in the First Aid Section. Just make sure you get one that is JUST triple anti biotic, and doesn’t have other “added” things like a pain reliever etc. If your baby’s eye is matted shut, just take a warm, moist cloth and gently rub the “matting” off the eye until it opens. Then, if it’s not blueish or milky white in color – just wait a few hours and see if it closes again.
If it does, (or the eye is already blueish or milky white in color), just put a TINY bit of triple-antibiotic directly on the problem eye twice a day. Always wipe the eye clean with a warm, wet cloth each time before re-applying. It will probably take a few days to see a change, and it may turn a milky white before it starts to get better – but it should take care of the problem if you just keep it up… Again, if in doubt, don’t hesitate to take them to a Vet. They should be able to identify the problem very easily :-)
Now, having said that, it’s important to point out that there is a BIG difference between having a simple eye “infection” or a much more serious problem called an “abscess”. An abscess is simply an infection (usually caused by getting a small cut inside their mouth) that is under the skin – and while it is rare – with sugar bears it usually first appears as some sort of “bump” on their face. If you do happen to notice a “bump” or “lump” ANYWHERE on your sugar bear’s face (not on the eye itself) – take it to your Vet immediately.
Again, while rare, an abscess can get very serious – very quickly – because it can spread into their sinus cavities and respiratory tract and quickly cause death if not treated as soon as it is noticed. Fortunately, it’s extremely rare that something like this might happen, and it is usually a very simple, inexpensive problem to treat – as long as it is caught early. :-)
One last reminder in case you end up needing to take your baby to a Vet… Again, be sure to PRINT OUT: 1) this report, 2) the special report entitled: “Transitioning your Sugar Bears to a Healthy & Nutritious Diet”, and 3) the Veterinary Article entitled: “What Every Veterinarian Needs to Know about Sugar Gilders” – and BRING THEM WITH YOU to the Vet.
All this information can be found in the “Health & Safety Reports” pdf here.
Bringing all this with you to ANY vet – no matter how often they see these little guys – will often save you a lot of valuable time & trouble when you right in the middle of an urgent health emergency. For example, as we state in several other reports, unfortunately many Vets who don’t see Sugar Bears/Gliders on a regular basis are still relying on very outdated dietary information that has not been updated for many years. If this is the case, you can bet that they probably will not be familiar with our diet – and they may immediately conclude that you are not feeding your baby(ies) correctly. Therefore, by printing out all the above information and taking it with you to the Vet – (as well as asking them to join the ASGV™) – it will save you a lot of time; and your Vet will be reassured that all aspects of our care and diet are in fact OPTIMAL for these little guys. :-)
Well, that’s about it for now! Like I said at the beginning of this email, if you follow the precautionary instructions exactly as we’ve laid out above for the first few weeks of their lives – you will be WAY ahead of the game and probably NEVER have a health problem with your new little addition(s). We just love these little guys SO much that we always want to go waaaaaay OUT of our way to be extra safe :-)
You’ll find that the “yogurt” trick is especially rewarding when they start licking it off your fingers and you begin to notice how much more quickly they are bonding – so HAVE FUN with all this!
As always, if you have any other questions on this topic – or anything else – make SURE to log-in to the “Family Circle” Section of our website. In addition to all the other Special Reports and Instructional Video Clips – you will also find a VERY helpful publication entitled: “Quick Medical Reference Guide: A-Z”! This covers a wide range of other, less-common health issues that can happen to these little darlings.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how much helpful information, (including SEVEN additional “Health & Safety” Reports), is right there in the Family Circle – at your fingertips – 24 hours a day :-)