Four Things Sugar Glider Owners Need To Know About Nutritional Osteodystrophy

Posted on: 28 June 2016

Sugar gliders are adorable exotic pets, but if they're not fed an appropriate diet, they could develop serious conditions like nutritional osteodystrophy. Nutritional osteodystrophy is a malnutrition disorder that can damage your pet's bones. Here are four things sugar glider owners need to know about nutritional osteodystrophy.

What causes nutritional osteodystrophy?

In the wild, sugar gliders eat a lot of insects. Insects contain high levels of protein and other nutrients. During the winters when insects are harder to find, wild sugar gliders will eat crusted tree sap and other natural sugar sources. This diet is hard to replicate in a captive environment, so it's easy for pet sugar gliders to develop nutritional imbalances.

A poor diet can lead to imbalances in vital nutrients like calcium and phosphorus. These nutrients are essential for good bone health, so without enough of them, your pet's bones could become weak and brittle.

What should sugar gliders eat?

You can prevent nutritional osteodystrophy by feeding your pet a varied diet that simulates their wild diet as closely as possible. A protein-rich dry food designed for sugar gliders should always be available in their cage. Everyday, supplement this dry food with insects like pet gut-loaded mealworms or gut-loaded crickets. If you're too squeamish to feed them insects, foods like boiled eggs and yogurt also provide necessary protein. Supplement these high-protein foods with in-season fruits and vegetables. Vitamin supplements that include calcium are also essential for captive sugar gliders.

What are the signs of nutritional osteodystrophy?

If your sugar glider has nutritional osteodystrophy, you'll notice that their back legs are weak or paralyzed. Their bones may also become fractured. Muscle tremors may also be seen, and in severe cases, sugar gliders can even have seizures.

Can nutritional osteodystrophy be treated?

As long as your pet is treated in the early stages of malnutrition, they should make a full recovery. Your vet will administer the necessary vitamins to your pet, and if necessary, perform assisted feeding. They will also go over your pet's diet with you to make sure the diet is balanced. If your pet is having seizures, medications can be given intravenously to stop the seizures. Bone deformities that have occurred as a result of fractures may be able to be surgically corrected in some cases, though it may not be possible to correct severe deformities.

If you think your sugar glider has nutritional osteodystrophy, take them to an exotics vet or emergency veterinarian, like Robert Irelan DVM, right away.