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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Special Considerations for Sugar Gliders

By Rosemary J. Booth, BVSc, Principal Conservation Officer, Department of Environment and Resource Management, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services

Because sugar gliders are nocturnal, they should be kept in a fairly quiet area and allowed to sleep during the day. They can be easily stressed if awakened and taken out of their cages in daytime hours. This can increase the risk of illness. Sugar gliders are most active and playful in the evenings and at night. This is also when they are most vocal.

Sugar gliders should be provided with a large cage that is both sturdy and safe. Injury can result if the proper enclosure is not provided (see Providing a Home for a Sugar Glider : Housing). A sugar glider should never be allowed to roam unsupervised outside of its cage as this may lead to injury. Bite wounds from other pets or other household hazards could be deadly.

The sharp claws of sugar gliders sometimes get caught in the fabric of clothing or other objects. Care must be taken when freeing them from the cloth or object; their toes, wrists, or ankles could easily be broken.

Sugar gliders are not domestic animals, and it is illegal to own them in certain states in the United States. Check with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Care Sector Office for your state to find out whether the laws in your area permit ownership of sugar gliders. If you own 4 or more breeding female sugar gliders, you may be subject to the Animal Welfare Act, which may require you to obtain a license and register your pets.

Behavioral disorders can occur in sugar gliders housed alone, with incompatible mates, or in inappropriate cages. It is very important to provide sugar gliders with a secure nest box or pouch. Anxiety may lead to overgrooming and fur loss, particularly at the base of the tail. Deliberately causing injury to themselves, over- or under-eating, abnormally excessive thirst, eating their own droppings, cannibalism, and pacing are also associated with stress. Priapism (persistant erection of the penis) has also been reported in adult male sugar gliders. This may result in trauma to the penis requiring surgical removal.