Sugar Glider Eye Abscess
Excuse Me, What is a Sugar Glider?
Sugar gliders can make troublesome pets. Marsupials native to Australian and New Guinea, they get their name from their ability to glide, almost fly, granted by their patagium (pah-ta-jee-um). Sugar gliders have a membrane of skin between their fifth finger and their first toe (along the sides of their body on each side.) They are private, sensitive little creatures and very sensitive to moves, new people, and changes in their social relationships. (They can die when placed in a new home, away from people they know.)
Small wounds become a big deal in no time
They also tear and scratch easily and impractically, can eat the skin away from any tear or scratch in an effort to attend to the wound. The first sugar glider Doc Truli met came to the pet emergency room because she cut her back leg on her cage. By the time the family drove to the pet e.r., she had eaten all the skin off of her leg! Doc Truli could not believe her eyes; the little glider’s muscles were just right there – out in the open. The glider went to a specialist for surgery and had to have her leg amputated to save her life. All because of a little cut from a wire sticking out in the side of her cage.
Eye Abscess is a Common Glider Health Problem
A very common injury sugar gliders sustain is a corneal scratch. A scratch on their eye surface quickly turns into a corneal ulcer, or worse, an abscessed eye. The eye may quickly form a trapped infection and cause our glider to become septic. The infection in the eye can make the entire body infected. These gliders are very, very sick. They become dehydrated, they loose weight and their little spine and ribs start to become extra easy to feel.
This little girl in the pictures was Petunia. Petunia came to Doc Truli after her mom tried to clean and treat the eye at home. Once the eye abscessed, it is unlikely to heal unless the infection is completely surgically removed. In Petunia’s case, this would mean general anesthesia and eye removal surgery.
How to Decide Whether to Have Surgery on a Sugar Glider
1) Does your sugar glider have any other choices for treatment? If yes, try it!
2) Could your little glider die without surgery? If yes, probably should risk the surgery.
3) Is your glider very weak and surgery is extra risky? If yes (usually yes because they hide their symptoms so well), then see #1 and #2 and then just accept the risk because you do not have a simple, no risk choice!
Petunia’s mom could not face the decision for surgery. She knew sugar glider eye abscesses almost never get better without
surgery, she also knew Petunia was very systemically ill. She decided to try oral medication and eye drops and felt surgery would be a death sentence for Petunia. Doc Truli felt not performing surgery was a death sentence.
Exotic Pet Surgery Inherently Risky
Exotic pets are always riskier surgical candidates than cats or dogs. Science knows much less about them and most veterinarians have much more experience with cats and dogs. But if your little one needs surgery, try not to be too frightened or overwhelmed by the decision to authorize surgery. You might be surprised at a good result!
P.S. Petunia passed away two weeks later after a week of not wanting to eat. Sorry for the unhappy ending to a VirtuaVet story. Doc Truli hopes this story will save a glider’s life if they get an eye abscess and their parents need help deciding whether to do surgery or not. Please consider surgery!