Sugar Glider Health Issues

Signs of illness:

The sugar glider’s overall appearance and behavior should be watched for signs of illness. Generally, sugar gliders should have right eyes, a moist nose, pink nose and gums, the ability to grip with all 4 feet, a smooth coat, and good elasticity of their gliding membranes. Signs of illness are like those in other animals and include depression, inactivity, and loss of appetite or weight. Other signs that your sugar glider is not well may include watery eyes, lack of energy, red and scaly skin, sores, abnormal droppings, excessive shedding or bald patches, labored breathing, and dragging the hind legs. If you notice any of these signs, you should bring your pet to a veterinarian immediately. Sugar gliders can very quickly pass the point of recovery if they do not receive prompt medical attention.

X-ray images can help diagnose medical problems in sugar gliders. It is particularly difficult to detect pneumonia in animals of this size without the use of radiography. Even extremely ill sugar gliders will generally tolerate short anesthesia to allow x-rays to be obtained. Behavioral disorders can occur in sugar gliders housed alone, with incompatible mates, or in inappropriate cages. Sugar gliders should have 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, overeating or undereating, abnormally excessive thirst, eating their own droppings, cannibalism, and pacing are also associated with stress.

Sugar Gliders are excellent in hiding their illness, so make sure you're always alert about your gliders when they are sick. If your pet shows signs of illness, do not give it any medications unless prescribed by your veterinarian. Remember that with the appearance of any clinical signs, a qualified veterinarian should be allowed to make a definitive diagnosis. Identifying and treating diseases in their early stages is the key to successful treatment and cure. Like many other exotic species that become ill, sick sugar gliders are very fragile, and require prompt veterinary attention

Hind Leg Paralysis: Pet sugar gliders maintained on a mainly fruit diet are very susceptible to nutritional osteodystrophy, a condition in which the bones soften because of an imbalance of calcium and phosphorus in the diet. Diets should contain a daily protein source—a commercial extruded protein pellet, mealworms, crickets, or small amounts of cooked skinless chicken. Use of a balanced calcium/phosphorus supplement with vitamin D3 and a multivitamin supplement can help prevent nutritional diseases.   

Obesity - Gliders that are obese or overweight generally are inactive and very round in body size. Treatment: A bigger living environment with plenty of toys to stimulate foraging activity and a wheel.

Some Toxic Items - Be aware that apple, cherry, plum, peach, and nectarine seeds are toxic. They contain (Hydrogen cyanide) or HCN. Do not offer your glider these seeds. The fruits are fine, just not the seeds.

Branches from the following trees should be avoided: Almond, Black Walnut, Cedar, Cherry, Pine, Fir, Apricot, Peach, Plum, Prune and Nectarine tree branches can release hydrogen cyanide when ingested. However, the fruit from these trees is okay for your glider.

Trembling or shakiness - Shaking or shivering right after waking up from sleep is normal for a glider. But if it continues after a few moments, especially the back legs and the glider has weak limbs, it could mean a calcium deficiency problem. Treatment: Calcium supplement has to be given if it is the early stages. The diet has to be changed. Best to visit a vet for advice and treatment.

Hair loss - If hair loss is at the center of a male's head, then it is normal as that is the male's scent gland. If hair loss is at other body parts, be it in hairless spots or thinning of hair, it could mean mites or fungul infection or malnutrition. Treatment: Seek a vet for treatment.

Lack of appetite - A drop in appetite or eating very little could mean a few things. Stress can be one of them and this is normally seen with gliders in new homes. Another would be internal parasites, as worms and microorganism in the gut can cause a drop in appetite. Another would be the teeth or jaw. Check the teeth for any breakage and make sure there is no swelling to the gums. Treatment: If it is from new surroundings, it is normal. If appetite is small, visit a vet and get your glider dewormed. If teeth has problems, visit a vet for treatment.

Diarrhea - Watery stool. If the stool or poo is moist like tooth paste, then it is normal but if the poo is wet and has no shape, it is diarrhea. It can be caused by new food, infected or spoiled food, or parasites. Treatment: Home treatment would be to provide Glucose supplement and Gatorade or a non-carbonated isotonic drink diluted with water and increase in food high in fiber. A visit to the vet is a must as diarrhea is fatal, especially to joeys.

Dehydration - A dehydrated glider will have dull looking eyes, very stiff skin. Check your glider's hydration by pinching the skin behind the neck. If it retracts in a second, your glider is safe but if the skin fold is still there after 1 second, then your glider is dehydrated and would need liquids fast. Treatment: Feed water with glucose mixed with Gatorade or a non-carbonated isotonic drink. 1 water to 1 glucose mixture ratio. Sugar gliders can easily become dehydrated either from a lack of drinking water or a medical condition such as vomiting or diarrhea. This can be deadly if not addressed promptly. Signs of dehydration include dry mouth and nose, lack of energy, sunken eyes, loose skin (the skin on the back will stay up after it is gently pinched), abnormal breathing, and seizures. Take the animal to a veterinarian; if needed, the veterinarian can administer fluids by injection. 

Constipation - A glider would have constipation if it doesn't take enough fruits and water. The usual signs are seen when a glider hisses when it is defecating or pooing. Treatment: A teaspoon of pure apple juice twice a day would cure this.

Urinary Tract Infection - This means difficulty in urinating. These may include bladder infections, urinary blockages, and kidney disease. These problems may be more common in gliders on very high phosphate, high-mineral diets, such as large amounts of regular cat food, or large amounts of live mealworms. Signs may include bloody urine, straining to urinate or dribbling urine, lethargy, decreased appetite, increased thirst or urine output, protruding and/or discolored penis, and weight loss. Treatment: Need antibiotics from vet.

Hissing during urinating - It is an early sign of difficulty in urinating. Treatment: Quickly get hold of pure cranberry juice and feed a teaspoon of it twice a day to your glider.

Blindness - Known as partial blindness in gliders, it is actually the cause from a high in fat diet. Gliders taking mainly mealworms or a lot of sunflower seeds in their diet would develop a layer on the eye that may look like your glider turned blind. Treatment: Cut out on fatty food, change the diet.

Hind Leg paralysis - Weakness of the back legs. Can be seen when a glider has problems climbing, walking, excessively having trembling legs and may not be active anymore. Treatment: This is due to a bad diet that lacks in calcium. Seek vet for treatment and change the diet. Include calcium supplements.


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Comments (2)

Cindy _

Does he have a cage mate?

Mary Goble _

My sugar glider is weak and is eating a little. We have cock roaches and we cleaned his cahe a have put those roache motel by his cage but can’t reach them. Am worried about him

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