We are new glider parents and had a tragic loss last night after only 5 months of ownership: We have (had) two gliders; Bonnie and Clyde. Clyde died last night (suddenly, from our perspective) and we are searching for answers and are worried about Bonnie. This post will be long, but it is something I need to write to cope with the loss and to become further educated so we can properly take care of Bonnie (and hopefully her new friend). It also may serve as a cautionary tale (tail
) for other new glider parents.
We are a couple with no kids and 4 cats (3 Ragdolls and 1 geriatric Siamese). We are "pet" people and dote on our fuzzy family day and night. We were at a county fair in August (I know...I know...) and saw a well-known broker (I only say that as I believe that this particular company is not an actual breeder
based on the fine print on their "warranty"). We were taken in by the leaping antics of their "All-Star" gliders (I call them this as they are the ones that are fully socialized, let strangers handle them, jump from fair-goers hands into the booth attendees pockets etc.) We bought the whole thing (literally), and came home with the "standard package" (Two gliders which were supposedly 8-10 weeks [OOP I assume], the 18 x 18 x 24 glider-safe cage, pellets, powdered vitamins, the dry mix for a gravy, a heat rock, water bottle and a bonding
Enter Bonnie and Clyde.
Admittedly, for the first 24 hours we were a bit remorseful and regretted our decision, as it was born out of impulse and that is not generally our style. But, after a day or two we started to enjoy the little guys company (although from outside the cage, as we followed the protocol of letting them acclimate to their new surroundings for a few days before attempting to interact with them in any way). We quickly warmed up to the idea of caring for these little fuzzballs and over the next few weeks came to love them both very much. My wife really took to setting up their cage, and we actually bought another cage and connected the two to double their cage size. Temperaments:
Bonnie is very sweet, almost NEVER nips (when she does, it's a grooming nip) and is very trusting. She sits on my chest while we watch TV, and responds to our voices. She will approach us either in the cage or when she is running around our glider-safe(?) room. She was the little more skittish of the two early on, but has learned to trust us both completely (at least from our limited understanding of these animals). She takes treats out of hands, and is just a wonderful little animal.
also very social, albeit a bit rambunctious and a bit of a "nipper". He would nip a few times a day (night), but never hard enough to break the skin and always (it seemed) for a playful reason (Following a few licks, after the petting had stopped and he wanted more etc.). He too, would sit with us on our chests/shoulders and was quite fearless. He got into a (entirely unplanned) stand-off with our 16-year old Siamese cat and "won" that confrontation. To be clear, we did not and will NOT attempt to get the cats to "bond
" with the gliders. We are very experienced cat owners and know their moods and proclivities to a tee. Of all the lines we got fed from the establishment we bought the two of them from, I never for a second gave the notion of the cats and the gliders "living in harmony" a moment of credence.
Both gliders were, in our limited knowledge, fully bonded
, content and behaving normally.Environment
The cage is now 18 x 18 x 48 (essentially a "double decker"), and has all manner of glider-safe chew toys
, foraging globes, a hammock, a sleeping pouch, a glider-safe wheel (which we swap out the nail insert periodically), the heat rock (We're not sure if they actually need this, but we would find them on it from time to time so we left it in), climbing "vines" etc. From a toy perspective, I'm not sure what else they could want. My wife spent quite a bit of time looking at other cage setups on forums, and modeled ours after those. To the best of our knowledge, everything is glider-safe installed/attached properly.Diet
We have have been feeding them the following daily:
1-1/2 tablespoons of the brand of pellets that came from the broker (I'm not sure if I can mention brand names or not. I will clarify this in future posts if appropriate.)
2-3 tablespoons of the "gravy" (made from spring water and the pre-mixed powder from the same broker)
Fresh fruit/etc which varied by the day, but consisted of: Apple (Skin on), papaya, hard boiled egg (with and without yolk), mango, chick peas, cooked corn, dried coconut, blueberries, pear, and dried apricots. The vitamin powder sold by the broker was applied every other day to the fruit in accordance with the directions.
A limited amount of treats, but when we gave them anything it was a regular Cheerio (One each and no more than one or two a week), or the the dried fruit snack mix/granola snack mix sold by the broker.
We made every attempt to be mindful to not load them up on treats and make sure that they would have their pellets/gravy along with the fresh fruit/sprinkle-on vitamin powder.That's the good news, here's the bad...
Approximately a week ago, (roughly 11/19) we noticed that Clyde was making a noise we had not heard before: I can only describe it as "half of a wheeze". Imagine breathing in normally (with no odd noise), and then a hiss/wheeze on the way out. It didn't sound like the spitting noise they make, and it was rhythmic (short bursts of three to five wheezes/hisses). It would happen and then stop, and when we went to check on him we assumed (wrongly) that it was a breathing issue. I immediately started looking online to try and determine what the noise meant, and found page after page of "hissing" glider posts that said anything from that they make this noise when they're angry to it being just another version of the spitting they do to groom themselves. Because of our inexperience, we didn't put this together with a possible GI issue. About 4 days ago, we heard the noise again (and unfortunately dismissed it as one of the noises that sugar gliders make). It would come and go, and we just didn't put 2 and 2 together (odd, given the wealth of information I have found since linking this to GI/cloaca issues.). Friday night, we heard the noise and began to become very concerned. We no longer assumed that this was a "normal noise" and saw Clyde in some kind of straining position. We assumed that he was having trouble breathing and pledged to call the vet
in the morning. We called a local vet
(not the normal vet
we go to as they do not work on on exotics), and spoke to someone about what we were experiencing. Our primary vet
recommended this vet
, stating that they work on gliders and other exotics, but I asked this again when I called them to be sure.
They said they did in fact work on gliders, and I described what we had observed. The person I spoke to (Likely not a vet
herself based on the conversation) said that they could fit him in for an emergency visit that day (yesterday 11/30/2019), but that what I was describing did not sound emergent. She had suggested that we bring the both of them in for a checkup on Tuesday (first available non-emergent appt.), and we agreed, not knowing that this was a life-threatening situation. She asked if he had any discharge around his muzzle, eyes or other cold/infection symptoms, if he was eating/drinking and otherwise acting normal. I replied that all seems normal short of the odd noise and the position he was in when we heard the noise on Friday night. The vet
recommended we bring them both in on Tuesday, which we set an appointment to do.
We went out to dinner last night (11/30/2019), and when we came home, Clyde was sleeping in the pouch with Bonnie (normal for them at this time of night : Approximately 9:45pm). I checked on him and seemed normal, but he was sleeping so I didn't want to disturb him. I went upstairs and my wife took him out of the pouch to hold him. She noticed something wet on his belly and looked. What we believe to be his cloaca was raw and inflamed, and quite bit of fur on his lower abdomen was chewed and/or wet. There was also some pink discharge. I did not take a picture of this, as I immediately launched into "problem-solving mode" and called the first emergency vet
hospital I could think of (the one mentioned earlier was closed for the weekend).
I called a reputable emergency vet
hospital and asked if they work on gliders. They said yes, and I described in detail what I have described above (albeit far more briefly then written here). They said that we should bring him in right away, and within an hour and 15 minutes, we were there.
It bears mentioning that we looked at his underside that morning (11/30/2019), and there was no evidence of mutilation or issues. My wife holds a tissue up to their bottoms daily when they come out of the pouch for the first time to catch the poop/pee, and we check to make sure everything comes out okay.
On the way in, Clyde was (short of the condition of his bottom) acting normal and wanting to come of of the bonding
scarf we transported him in. He was alert and even nipped my wife once when she had her hand in the scarf pouch!
We arrived at the vet
at approximately 11:15pm, and a tech came out and collected him 5 minutes later. We did not visually inspect him at this time, as we wanted to get him into care as quickly as possible. We explained briefly what was going on, and waited for an hour +. After a while I asked the receptionist what was going on, and she said that they had him on oxygen and would call for us shortly. 10 minutes or so later, the Dr. came to get us and brought us into an exam room, where she said he was doing "okay" and that they had him on oxygen. She then began to tell us that she hadn't "really examined him yet, as she didn't want to stress him out", and that she was not familiar with sugar gliders! I was beside myself at this point. She said that the exotics team was not present and that they would be in tomorrow (12/1/2019) at approximately 8:00am. I was so frazzled and stressed that I didn't have the time or inclination to call her out on the misinformation we had been given on the phone about a Dr. being available to help us now.
Without going into details, the next 15 minutes was a discussion about policies, departments, and procedural items. It was obvious that this Dr. had no experience with gliders and that she could do nothing for him. I asked if a phone consult with the exotics team was possible, as we were now frantically searching the internet for possible treatments and details. The Dr.'s "bedside manner" left A LOT to be desired. At this point, we were told that Clyde could be seen by 9 am by the exotics team, and that leaving him there on oxygen was the best course of action. While we were concerned about the stress he was under being in the strange cold environment, we realized that there was no faster/better known option open to us. We agreed, and I signed a treatment plan (1000.00+) and prepared to leave. A tech asked if we would like to say goodnight (not goodbye) to him. We said yes, and what we saw next is something I will never forget:
He was in a glass tank with oxygen being pumped into it, hiding under the bonding
scarf (not in it). He was lethargic and his eyes were half open. His back legs were flat against the floor like his back was broken and one of his front legs was tucked underneath him in an awkward "yoga-stretch" position. The was a smear of pink discharge underneath him and bits of fur around where his was lying. He barely responded to my touch, and finally started to come around after a minute or so of stimulation.
He was dying, and very quickly.
Again, short of the physical issues on his abdomen, he was "acting normal" 2 hours before. I now know that they will hide their aliments in an effort to protect the colony, but this was such a shock. I pleaded with the doctor (who was typing on a computer nearby while we are standing at the tank crying our eyes out) to do something, and she agreed that he looked very bad. She said that she would give him anti-biotics, pain killers and fluids, and that there was nothing we could do right now. We had no choice but to leave.
At approximately 3:30 this morning (12/1/2019), the Dr. called and said that he was having trouble breathing and that they were attempting CPR.
He died while I was on the phone with her.
I could go into further detail, but suffice to say that we now have the lone glider (whom we love dearly) that we are concerned that may have health issues (although she is showing no signs of distress), and who clearly needs a new friend to remain happy. We are in southern New Hampshire and would greatly appreciate any guidance and good energy you all can offer. What I have written above describes out total experience with sugar gliders, and we are completely open to modifying their diet
and/or our care giving as appropriate.
Greg and Kristen.