What do sugar gliders eat naturally?
Sugar gliders are opportunistic omnivores in the wild. That is to say they will eat a wide range of food items according to what is available. In the wild they eat the sap and gum of the eucalyptus and acacia tree, plus pollen, nectar, manna (a sugar deposit from the sap oozing from wounds on tree branches or trunks), honeydew (sugar secreted by sap-sucking insects) and a wide variety of insects and spiders. Their natural diet will vary throughout the year as the seasons change. Fruit should not form a significant part of a controlled sugar glider diet. In captivity, it is essential to feed a diet that approximates what sugar gliders eat in the wild in order to prevent nutritional problems. Dietary-related diseases such as obesity, malnutrition, and osteodystrophy are among the more common disorders in sugar gliders and are directly related to an improper diet. The majority of non-traumatic problems in sugar gliders seen by veterinarians are related to diet
Proper nutrition is essential.
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"Diseases such as obesity, malnutrition, and osteodystrophy are among the more common disorders in sugar gliders and are directly related to an improper diet."
There is a lot of unregulated nutritional information on the Internet for "homemade" diets. The nutritional science behind sugar gliders’ needs (and that of many other animals) is constantly evolving. What is being presented in this handout is some of the information and guidelines provided by the Association of Sugar Glider Veterinarians (ASGV.org).
What should I feed my sugar glider?
Sugar gliders should consume approximately 15-20% of their body weight daily which includes a nutritionally balanced pelleted kibble (approx. 1/3 of the diet), a nectar/sap-basted mixture (such as leadbeater’s or acacia gum - approximately 1/3 of diet, a small number of insects (every other day), plus a calcium based multi-vitamin and a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits. Extruded kibble specifically formulated for sugar gliders should be freely available by choice, all day. The most widely used are Glide-R-Chow® kibble (www.sugarbears.com) plus Glide-A-Mins® multi-vitamin supplement or Nutri-Max ® Kibble plus Vita-Max® multi-vitamin supplement (www.vetspride.com). A pellet formulated for insectivores, such as Mazuri Insectivore Diet (www.mazuri.com) may also be used. Since sugar gliders love sweets, fruits will be eaten preferentially to the exclusion of a healthy balanced diet, so it is very important to manage how much fruit is given. This is very important to remember to avoid serious nutritional health issues. Sugar gliders are sensitive to toxins, so organic foods are preferred.
What about water?
Fresh, preferably filtered water should be available at all times. You can offer the water either in a dish or a sipper bottle (if the sugar glider is familiar with them).
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What should I not give my sugar glider?
Chocolate and dairy products should not be fed to your pet sugar glider. Avoid foods treated with pesticides. Fruits and vegetables known to be high in oxalates should be avoided as they will impair calcium absorption. Those of concern include raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, spinach, carrots, beets, pears, lettuce, figs and collards. Raw corn should be fed only very occasionally, as it is very sweet as well. Changing diets should be done very gradually, with careful attention paid to ensure that the animal is actually eating enough. Consult with a veterinarian familiar with sugar gliders if you have any questions or problems.
Contributors: Rick Axelson, DVM with editorial review by Laurie Hess, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian Practice)