Sugar Gliders - Feeding

By Gregory Rich, DVM; Laurie Hess, DVM, DABVP; Rick Axelson, DVM

What do sugar gliders eat in the wild?

Sugar gliders (Petaurus breviceps) are opportunistic omnivores which means 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 seasons change.

Are there risks associated with improper diet?

Diseases such as obesity, malnutrition, and osteodystrophy are among the more common disorders in sugar gliders and are directly related to being fed an improper diet. The majority of non-traumatic problems in sugar gliders seen by veterinarians are related to nutrition. It is essential to feed a diet that approximates what sugar gliders eat in the wild to help prevent nutritional problems.

"It is essential to feed a diet that approximates what sugar gliders eat in the wild..."

There is plenty of unregulated nutritional information on the Internet for "homemade" sugar glider diets. The nutritional science behind sugar gliders’ needs (and that of many other animals) is constantly evolving. The recommendations in this handout are based on some of the information and guidelines provided by the Association of Sugar Glider Veterinarians.

What should I feed my sugar gliders?

Daily, sugar gliders should consume approximately 15-20% of their body weight of a diet where:

1/3 is from nutritionally balanced pelleted kibble

1/3 is from a nectar/sap-basted mixture

1/3 consists of a small number of insects (every other day), a calcium-based multivitamin, and a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits

Extruded kibble formulated for sugar gliders should be freely available by choice, all day. A pellet formulated for insectivores 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 critical to offer only a small portion of the daily intake as fresh fruit. Sugar gliders are sensitive to toxins and preservatives, so fresh or organic foods are preferred.

How should I offer water?

Fresh, preferably filtered, water should be available to your sugar gliders at all times. You can offer the water either in a dish or a sipper bottle (if your sugar glider is familiar with them).

What should I NOT give my sugar gliders?

"Chocolate and dairy products should NEVER be fed to your pet sugar glider."

Chocolate and dairy products should NEVER be fed to your pet sugar glider.

Canned fruit should never be offered as they contain excess sodium and preservatives that may be harmful to your 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.

If you plan to change your sugar glider’s diet, it should be transitioned very gradually and special care must be taken to ensure it is eating enough.

Consult with a veterinarian experienced with sugar gliders for more information.

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