Obviously, the requirements of sugar gliders are of importance to their overall health, and they are prone to metabolic bone disease resulting from an improper ratio of calcium to phosphorus in the diet. If a diet is relatively higher in phosphorus than calcium, calcium will be leached from the bones and other tissues to balance the levels in the blood. This results in a softening of the bones, making them susceptible to fractures, along with a myriad of other health problems related to calcium imbalance.
Sugar gliders in the wild feed on eucalyptus gum, sap, insects, nectar, and honeydew (an excretory product of nectar eating insects). They will also eat bird eggs, lizards, small birds and other small prey items. This diet is pretty difficult to replicate in captivity. So a variety have food have been fed, in an attempt to somewhat mimic their natural intake and to see what makes them thrive in captivity.
But what is the ideal diet? I don't believe that is an easy question to answer, and I do not keep sugar gliders so cannot speak from personal experience.
What follows is dietary advice from well known exotic animal veterinarian and and (next page) an Australian Zoo.
Dr. Johnson-Delaney Recommendations
Dr. Cathy Johnson-Delaney is an experienced exotic animal veterinarian and respected author and speaker. Her feeding recommendations are based on studies of the natural diets of sugar gliders designed in consultation with Australian zookeepers and veterinarians. The suggested amounts are per sugar glider, per day, fed in the evening. The amount should be adjusted depending on activity, size, reproduction, etc.
- 1 Tablespoon Leadbeater's Mix (recipe follows)
- 1 Tablespoon zoo quality insectivore diet (e.g. Reliable Protein Products Insectivore Diet) , or insects. If using insects, variety is important (crickets, meal worms, wax worms, moths, spiders, etc), and the insects should be fed high quality food such as commercial cricket food, and dusted with a complete vitamin/mineral supplement.
- treat: small amount of fruits, chopped together so the gliders can't just pick out their favorites.
- Leadbeater's Mix Recipe
150 ml Warm water
150 ml Honey
1 Shelled, boiled egg
25 grams high protein baby cereal
1 tsp vitamin/mineral supplement
Mix warm water and honey. Blend egg, then gradually add water/honey mixture. Then blend in vitamin powder until smooth, and then blend in baby cereal until smooth. Keep refrigerated until served.
- Leadbeater's Mix Recipe
General Diet Advice
As mentioned previously, the recommendations for feeding are many and varied. Important considerations are maintaining a calcium phosphorus ratio that is in the range of 1-2:1 calcium to phosphorus, and avoiding fats and refined sugars. If you decide to change a diet, you must do it gradually and make sure that the gliders do not get stressed by the change and are in fact adapting to the new diet. If you maintain multiple gliders in the same cage, careful attention must be paid to make sure all the gliders are consuming an appropriate amount and combination of foods.
Note: never feed chocolate as it is toxic!
References and Resources
- Feeding, Diet, and Common Nutritional Problems of Sugar Gliders - by Holly Nash, DVM; from PetEducation.com.
- Sugar Glider Nutrition - by Dr. Janine M. Cianciolo, DVM; from Suncoast Sugar Gliders
- Food - from the Gliderpedia on Sugarglider.com
- Formerly on Ruth's Sugar Glider Page, archived on Sugargliders.com - Diet - a good section on feeding including a modified Leadbeater's Mix recipe.
- Bourbon's Diet Page - a discussion of various diet issues, the compositions of several commercial diets, and links.