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Sugar Glider Catches Toenails on Pouch

January 20, 2013

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Glider turns her head to regard Doc Trui with one eye.

Considering the “imminent threat” posed by Doc Truli

“Pouch” the Sugar Glider Keeps Getting Stuck in Her Blankets

Sugar Gliders love pouches.  They sleep and rest in a fuzzy, warm pouch much of the day and night.  The security and comfort of a pouch resting area is essential to sugar glider sanity and emotional health.  When “Pouch” could not get into or out of her pouch without catching a foot in the fabric, urgent action needed to solve the problem.

Close-up of her big brown nocturnal-seeing eyes.

Cutie Pie

Just a face and a bushy tail poke out of the protective fuzzy blanket.

Blanket and tail protection

“Doc, my sugar glider “Pouch” got her foot stuck in her blanket and bit me when I tried to free her.  She’s been stuck like that for an hour and I don’t know what to do,” said Tammy, “Pouch’s” rightfully concerned mom.

“Bring her whole enclosure to the hospital and we’ll see what we can do,” said Doc Truli.

Typical sugar glider turns her back to me in disgust because she does not know me or trust me.

I’m getting “the back”

Pouch arrived in her cage with her leg and toe stuck in the soft, fuzzy pouch fabric. She was in a frenzy of distress. After carefully covering her with a hand towel, Doc Truli isolated the paw from under the towel and freed the toe from the fuzzy hiding pouch.

“Pouch” the sugar glider did not appreciate Doc Truli’s help at all.  You can see how she turned her back on the Doc and wished her doctor away.

Next, Doc Truli determined why “Pouch” kept getting stuck in her blankets and her pouch.

Sugar Glider Nail Care

This glider is missing 3 of her 4 left front toenails.  They got stuck in her blankets and pulled out of her foot!

Missing toenails on a Sugar Glider

“Pouch” was missing several toenails on each foot. One of her toenails lifted off its bed and a black blood clot congealed underneath the nail. It looked like a pin head version of what happens to us if we slam a fingernail with a hammer. Poor little “Pouch” the sugar glider was in pain and distress. Plus, when she retired to her nesting blankets to relax, she would get stuck and hurt again.

If you study the picture to the left, you can see where the toes end in little stubs.

“Doc, I think she needs her toenails trimmed,” said “Pouch’s” mom. Doc Truli trimmed the little glider’s nails, but doubted that could be the whole answer. Plenty of sugar gliders have long nails and do not get caught in the blankets. The answer became apparent when Doc noticed how soft the toenails were. They frayed and bent and would not trim cleanly, even with the newest, sharpest toenail trimmers.

Pouch’s diet was protein deficient and she was growing very poor quality toenails.  Her diet consisted of commercial glider chow, fruits, veggies, and some sugar glider vitamins, which had been forgotten for the previous 6 months.

Sugar Gliders Need Ample Protein

Shy sugar glider suspiciously sniffs and orange slice

“Pouch” sits on her food

Veterinary exotic animal textbooks offer very little sugar glider nutrition information compared with cats or dogs. We know they often have low calcium and low protein in their bodies caused by dietary insufficiencies and lack of exercise and sunlight. Doc Truli can advise you to research and provide the best quality and variety of food you can for your glider(s).

For “Pouch,” we spoke with her caregiver about continuing her vitamins with calcium sugar glider supplement, adding protein to her diet, since it was almost wholly lacking. Her nails will take a few months to strengthen, but she already likes the new variety in her diet!

What Should We Feed Sugar Gliders?

In the wild, we know they eat flowers and insects, tree gums, honeydew and pollens. Basically, the sugar glider wild diet is impossible to replicate in captivity.

Basic Glider Diet from
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. (Gliders are native to Australia.) 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.

*Several sources report this “high protein baby cereal” is unavailable in the United States. at Sugar a proposed substitute to the high protein cereal is shared.

More glider nutrition research links:
Exotic Nutrition

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Erin permalink
    November 22, 2013 10:37 am

    Did the toenails grow back?

    • November 23, 2013 8:16 am

      Yes. They never fully fell out. They were just ragged.

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