The case against cheese

Posted By: Graceful_Gliders

The case against cheese - 02/25/12 02:42 AM

In an earlier thread there was some discussion of cheese and why it is not recommended by veterinarian.
One of these reasons is that cheese can cause a bowel obstruction.
I was asked to explain this, but didn't want to hijack the other thread, which was related to lactose.
So here's the case against cheese, presented humbly for your consideration.

*note* diet is a very personal thing! You must do what is best for your glider, and what you and a glider-knowledgeable veterinarians you trust decide. We all choose many different things (just as we do for diet for ourselves and people-family) I am always happy to hear others' thoughts, and I am always looking to learn more, and to benefit from others' education! So please feel free to completely disagree with me, and educate me on your views.... this goes for anything I have to say.**

Some glider owners suggest that they have fed cheese and it hasn't killed their gliders, and that anecdotal evidence from other glider owners suggests the same.

One poster said that in a study (no link provided to the published study, sorry) bowel obstruction was a major cause of death of necropsied sugar gliders and a small number had owner-reports of a sugar glider consuming cheese in their diet. However none that the poster had seen, had been reported of consuming cheese within 72 hours of death.

My responses to those particular comments (sorry to the posters that they are not actual quotes):

Bowel obstruction and decreased bowel motility is not always a fatal occurrence. There are many causes of bowel obstruction and gastric outflow obstruction. Some are dangerous, some are simply extremely uncomfortable/painful, some slowly destroy an animal's health. Some pass after some pain and don't cause any further damage at all. Only a select few types are fatal within a short window of time.
An intestinal obstruction can be complete or partial. It is not always caused by a foreign body, but can also be caused by what is called an intussusception, neoplasia, and and other conditions that may impede blood flow or reduce (or arrest) gastric motility.
The type of foreign body intestinal obstruction that is most rapidly and commonly fatal is called a "strangulated obstruction". These type of obstructions are particularly dangerous and can cause secondary conditions from abrasion, cutting, and tearing damage to the intestines. This type of obstruction also slows or halts blood flow to a portion of the GI tract, which can cause bowel death (necrosis) fairly rapidly (even as soon as 20 hours), and which contributes greatly to rapid death in the patient. Cheese does not cause this type of intestinal blockage.

These complete strangulated obstructions (without treatment) can cause death in as little as 3-4 days. A complete obstruction of lower GI can result in death in as little as 3-6 days. A complete obstruction of upper GI can result in death in 3 weeks or longer. Incomplete obstructions may not cause death at all. They can cause death after months as well.
As far as cheese not having been consumed within 72 hrs of death caused by bowel obstruction, well the diagnosis of "bowel obstruction" is way too vague. We don't know why those necropsied gliders had a bowel obstruction. There are so many kinds... But mainly only a very small percentage of death by bowel obstruction occurs within that small 72 hour window time-frame!!

2-3 days is not enough time for death to have occurred from a bowel obstruction caused by a food item like cheese. And also this information is being reported by people, so it is subjected to those people's memories and what they personally consider relevant, etc (and when someone is upset and bereaved over their pet's death their memory is subject to more imperfections than usual too)

The problem with cheese is three-fold.
First and greatest risk is that cheese is high in casein protein. All mammals produce milk with different components and with differing ratios of these components. Milk has two major categories of proteins: Whey and casein. These particular categories of protein behave differently and they have different varieties of proteins found within.
Casein is found in the curds of cow's milk. Casein makes up 80% of ALL the protein in cow's milk! The percentage of casein in marsupial milk is MUCH lower. (That is why Wombaroo milk replacer is such an important foster formula, because cows milk home-made formula has such different ratios of proteins, and other factors as well).
Cow's milk is quite different from the milk of the sugar glider.
Cheese in particular has a high amount of casein protein in it, as it is concentrated milk curds.
Lactose intolerance is not necessarily the biggest concern with dairy and sugar gliders. There are a LOT of cow's milk intolerances related to casein from cow's milk for all non-cow species that might consume cow's milk. Unlike a lactose intolerance (lactose is a sugar), a milk-protein intolerance (called by some a "milk allergy") presents in a different way. Most commonly as constipation. This can cause fecal impaction as well as bowel obstruction from the fecal impaction. The body thinks that the casein is an antigen, produces histamine, and an inflammatory response begins. This causes thickening of intestinal secretions, reduced bowel motility, discomfort (and all the other pains related to inflammation) as well as other possible signs of allergy-to include rhinitis (runny nose) skin itchiness, even respiratory concerns. But it is more likely to cause an upset stomach and constipation. (can come with a whole host of symptoms)
Constipation and fecal impaction can result in a whole lot of complications, to include pain, intestinal blockage, rectal prolapse, anal fissures, etc. Pain can cause an animal to form a stool-withholding behavioral pattern, which only increases the problem. Stool withholding causes the retained stool to dry out further.

So that's problem number 1. But the trouble with casein proteins doesn't end there...

There are four varieties of casein proteins. One of them is known as k-casein. This is the protein that causes milk to form a solid to partially solid clot in the stomach when the k-casein protein is broken down. This may not be digested very well by the sugar glider.
Why might it not be digested properly? Marsupials (no marsupials at all) have k-casein in their milk. K-casein makes up 10% of curd protein in cow's milk. This can be particularly problematic for the sugar glider consuming a milk product.

(Humans can also have problems digesting casein protein as human milk only contains 40% caseins as opposed to cow's 80%)

Why is cheese a bit worse for this k-casein issue? Particularly k-casein is pivotal in the cheese making process. Special treatment is made to use k-casein to its full advantage to clot and solidify cow's (or goat's) milk into a nice firm cheese. This is a very complicated process so I will spare you all, as this is already such a long post!! (sorry-trying to be thorough and brief... hard) But basically k-casein is broken at various peptites (depending on which process used) to break it into a soluble hydrophilic glycopeptide called caseinomacropeptide and an insoluble peptide termed para kappa-casein.

Ok-so moving on past casein. Aged cheese contains an amino acid called tyramine. These are found in these foods (among others):
Beer, ale, wine (esp. red wine) 
Aged cheese
Beans and legumes
Soy sauce and MSG
Pickled and salted fish

Tyramines are known as "opioid peptides" because they have an opiate-like effect on the body. They work on the body in a way similar to epinephrine and norepinephrine. These are chemicals in the body that are put out during the "fight or flight" response of an animal, or any fear response, among other uses for these chemicals. When they are at work in your body they reduce intestinal motility because they require blood flow to be redirected towards the brain, the muscles, and the senses. (They say "Hey, We're trying to survive here, not digest!")
There are other suggested problems associated with tyramines, but nothing definitive that I've personally come across. I'm sure they are many who know more about how these affect small marsupials than I do.

And finally there is the risk of a sugar glider contracting listeriosis from eating certain types of cheeses, particularly soft cheeses (like bleu cheese, queso, and feta) as well as unpasteurized cheeses.

So. There you have it. My personal conclusion is that the risk of injuring my glider just isn't worth the risk when there are so many healthy choices out there. There are no significant health benefits to cheese, so I see no particular reason to feed it to the little fur balls.

Posted By: GliderNursery

Re: The case against cheese - 02/25/12 03:07 AM

Wow! Very interesting.
Posted By: Dancing

Re: The case against cheese - 02/25/12 05:30 AM

Ok...I'm going to try to be as kind as I can here.

But I need to ask this. Who are you? What is your back ground with GLIDERS? What education or experience do you have specific to gliders? How many gliders do you own and how many have you owned and for how long? What published studies or evidence do you have specifically related to gliders to back up your assumptions?

Where is your proof that all that you posted up above is how GLIDERS react and not just other animals or humans? I don't see any sources sited...did I miss them?

You are dismissing anecdotal evidence as being worthless but with gliders, MOST of what we know we have learned through anecdotal evidence and compilation of that evidence. Val, you dismissed because you have not seen her "published" study yet fail to realize here in the United States, NO ONE is working on studies EXCEPT for groups like Val's. Is it published? Nope. At least not yet. Until her group got started collecting data, there was nothing TO publish and it is an on going process.

My experience has been with HUNDREDS of gliders over the years. Val...she too has taken care of hundreds of gliders, many who came to her so injured or ill that the VETS had given up on them. There are others (who's name I won't drag in) that have even MORE experience than Val and I combined. Many of us TEACH vets what they didn't learn in school about gliders and the care of them. They learn from OUR experience and OUR anecdotal evidence. Many gliders have been saved because of the vets willing to accept our anecdotal evidence and our experience and combine it with their general medical knowledge to benefit the gliders.

You have come on to GC to share with us and that is FANTASTIC! That is what GC is for. But you have come in like gang busters and passively aggressively start attacking those that do have the experience and knowledge from YEARS of caring for gliders. I hope you can see how this could cause some hard feelings and cause many to instantly be put off by your posts. This is sad because you very well may have some very valuable information to share with us that can help us grow in our knowledge and understanding of these little critters.
Posted By: Graceful_Gliders

Re: The case against cheese - 02/25/12 07:01 AM

I often find that some people are difficult to discuss things with because they tend to attack the person instead of focusing on debating the actual issue. I do not (and nor will I ever) feel inclined to share my resume on demand.

You do not have to believe me, you can shrug me off as not being credible simply because you don't personally know me, and that is your choice.
But please do not misrepresent me, my position, or anything I have said or done simply because we disagree on something! Most especially because you might inadvertantly hurt someone else's feelings by making them think I have payed them some slight when I actually have not. That is very unfair of you.

I have found you to be particularly difficult and I have tried very hard to be respectful, polite and deferential to you (and I will continue to treat everyone that way because I believe that is an important way to be).

It is unfair to misrepresent what I have stated here or in other places. At no point did I say that I dismiss all anecdotal evidence regarding the husbandry of sugar gliders (or any other animal for that matter).
I do disagree strongly with the statement which I hear by many owners: "It hasn't killed my glider, so it must be ok"
I explained clearly why I disagreed with that in this particular situation. I said that cheese won't necessarily kill your glider.
Experience is important and the experience of owners (such as you, and such as myself) is extremely useful and most certainly has worth and value, and never have I stated otherwise. I would most certainly not discount my own experience would I? That isn't a logical argument. However anecdotal evidence and experience have their place. It is also one thing to hear something directly from a person (like yourself. You've had many gliders in your care and you've never seen a death due to bowel obstruction, or bowel obstruction at all, much less due to cheese) and then hearing someone say "I know lots of people who..." That is a distinct difference and one does hold more value in my eyes than the other.
(Also your experience contradicts Val's experience. She states that the 5th most common reason for death in the reported necropsies was related to bowel obstruction.)
I (for example) have grown many thousands of apples. I have never had particular species of larvae attack and eat my apples... and that experience can be valuable (especially when it is evaluated more closely) however it does not mean that apples are not subject to larval attack...
I also know a father who gives his 9 year old daughter very large "Monster" energy drinks daily and says that it doesn't bother her at all. That doesn't mean it doesn't have a negative impact on that child's health.

Second: I never dismissed Val at all, so I'm not even remotely sure where you got that idea from. I never said anything about not trusting her source or her information because I did not read the study myself, (I didn't even ask to see the study) nor did I know whether or not the study or the data collected to the study she is currently conducting was/is published (until you stated so), I simply did not have a link to it and apologized for that because I was trying to be respectful to her and did not wish to misrepresent her in any way. I have no idea at all where you got your idea that I was negative towards her.

I did not say anything regarding her group, her study, or anything, and in fact, I completely took her word for it.

I explained why there may not be enough evidence given from the study to determine whether or not cheese was necessarily a culprit in these deaths. If she has more information that would be great. But from what she said it seems that there was available a given history of the glider by the caretaker and a cause of death (given by a necropsy performed by a qualified professional). 5th was due to bowel obstruction, that is very high!! I most certainly did NOT dismiss what she said in one teensy way. I'm sure the information obtained by her study, and those like it will be very useful for everyone. However I explained why I believe there is insignificant data available to decide whether or not cheese may have had a part in the deaths due to bowel obstruction or impaction. That is not attacking her source of information at all, it is discussing a thought I had, and nothing more.

I was not flippant with anyone and please do not represent me as being that way. It isn't kind.

I'm glad that you teach veterinarian and that you have cared for hundreds of animals. I never questioned your authority on the subject of glider husbandry.

I have come onto GC to share with the community despite being warned by many that it was not a very welcoming group...
I find it very unfortunate that so many people feel that way about glider forums. It seems to be such a shame to me. We all have something beautiful in common (our love for this sweet little animal) so it seems we would all be supportive of one another and interested in the best for the animal. It seems it would be much better if people felt welcome to express their opinions without someone being offended because your opinion doesn't match theirs.

You haven't said anything about what I actually posted in regards to cheese causing bowel obstruction, or other problems in the intestines of a sugar glider... I completely welcome a scholarly discussion based on the science that I presented when I was asked about bowel obstruction as related to cheese consumption.

I will not have discussions based on attempts to discredit or personally undermine people. Emotional arguments may cow one side into being quiet, but they don't educate people on topics, so there really is no point since I am interested in learning from others and sharing my own thoughts as well. There is no other way to grow. I have no interest in being "right".
I completely welcome a discussion based on any of what I presented.
Is there something that you disagree with regarding the theories and facts of what I posted? I welcome dissent and discussion based on the science and not on your snap judgement of my personality based on a few brief and completely respectful posts.

I hope you can see that simply because I have not been an active part of this community until recently doesn't mean that I am not allowed to have an educated and worthy opinion.
Posted By: GliderNursery

Re: The case against cheese - 02/25/12 06:02 PM

Lets keep this an open discussion about the items that were discussed - take that information and debate it, not the OP.

This is a very interesting topic and I appreciate someone that can bring forth information so we, as individuals, can make better decisions on what we will or won't do with our gliders.

Just a gentle reminder. wink
Originally Posted By: Rule 4
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Posted By: sugarlope

Re: The case against cheese - 02/25/12 11:15 PM

Much of what is written and discussed on GliderCENTRAL is personal experience, personal research, and personal opinion. This is absolutely a discussion worth having and I'm glad it was brought up. If we don't have people questioning the 'assumed' safe (and the 'assumed' unsafe) aspects of glider ownership, our knowledge will not continue to grow and evolve. I see some question over proof that cheese is harmful, the same question could be aske about 'proof', studies, etc. (on gliders, of course) that it isn't. rofl

Not meaning to take this completely off topic, but as an example; How many owners would never feed crickets because of Aflatoxin risk. Granted, there have been quite a few people who lost gliders likely due to tainted crickets. But I bet there are a lot more of us that have/do feed crickets that have never had a bad experience. Our experience does not discount the risk that other people feel is there, and it does not stop the conversations about the risks of feeding crickets. I wouldn't expect, nor want it to. But I see a discussion like this in the same light. Just because many people have never had a problem with feeding cheese, does not mean that no gliders ever will and that it's risks cannot (or should not) be discussed.

Every glider owner must read, research and decide what they feel is acceptable and what they feel is not.
Posted By: Graceful_Gliders

Re: The case against cheese - 02/25/12 11:38 PM

I completely agree with you that every one has to decide what is right! That goes for our own health and our families, as well as our furry families!!

I have to say, though, that I am a little taken aback regarding your comment about aflatoxicity... I either purchase my crickets or larvae from people that only use corn or peanut-free bedding, or I raise my own so I don't have to worry about it!!

I am actually surprised... do you really think there are a lot of owners out there who continue to buy feeder insects from companies that utilize corn or peanut bedding? I would be so surprised to hear that since there are lots of corn-free options available at decent prices...

But I have seen the affects of aflatoxicity on poultry that had been fed tainted feed... and I have read about what happens to people who ingest food products from tainted animals, or have eaten peanuts from tainted fields... it isn't pretty...

I like to err on the side of caution whenever possible. For example there is only a 1 in 20,000 risk of getting an egg from the supermarket that has salmonella inside of it. That is a pretty small number.
Of those few eggs that are infected most of them have the bacteria in the white of the egg not the yolk, and are therefore not multiplied to a level that is too likely to make you very sick...
but I still wouldn't eat a raw egg product. It just isn't worth the risk to me.
Posted By: Johannasgliders

Re: The case against cheese - 02/26/12 12:19 AM

A blockage of the intestines either partially or completely stops the glider from pooping. This occurs when gliders eat something foreign that creates a impaction in the bowels.

When a glider eats high fatty foods, was low fiber diet, lacks exercise, may be dehydrated and stressed can become constipated. Constipation is caused by the elimination of hard, dry excretions of the bowels.


I give my gliders mac-n-chees as a treat. They love it and only get it once or twice a year. Just like crickets.
Posted By: GliderNursery

Re: The case against cheese - 02/26/12 02:59 AM

Actually, I think you'd be surprised that some people don't know that buying their feeder treats (crickets/meal worms) from the local pet stores can be dangerous. Pet stores around here can't tell me what the worms are raised on.

This is why I love these conversations so much. I love having people put information out there that no one else has discussed and/or possibly considered. Too often I see people think that because it was said, it's gotta be true, or that if people have been feeding it for years, it must be safe.

I'd love to hear more conversation specifically about the cheese debate. Anyone else have any input?
Posted By: Johannasgliders

Re: The case against cheese - 02/26/12 03:26 AM

When I get crickets I go to the small town bait and tackle shop. They're willing to talk to you.

Get my mealies from Camillies. heart
Posted By: Graceful_Gliders

Re: The case against cheese - 02/26/12 04:53 AM

I saw that website and really liked the "vita-mealies" a lot. It seems like they are doing things a very good way. I think I will order from there next time I order. I'm going to start a larval colony because I have finches and am getting chickens this spring so I might as well.
I'm too squeamish to raise crickets tho! They'd hop out and I'd probably shriek. :thumbd:

On cheese: "Aged cheese" is a big category. Most cheeses fall under this category. I suppose the different types of cheese have differing levels of tyramine proteins in them. Perhaps that could be one way to narrow down the "safest" of the cheeses.
Minus soft cheese that might contain listeria.
And as far as casein protein in cheese... I suppose the lower the fat in the cheese the higher the protein concentration. So I would say that skim cheeses would be out, except for the fact that gliders aren't thought to eat much fat, and consuming too much fat can lead to deposits in the eyes, cataracts, unhealthy organs and so on. I wish I could find somewhere that says how much fat is too much fat!! An actual percentage or gram value would help so much!!

I can't find anything that suggests which cheeses would be the "safer" cheeses

Anyone have any speculation on that?
Posted By: GliderNursery

Re: The case against cheese - 02/26/12 05:39 AM

Originally Posted By: Graceful_Gliders
I wish I could find somewhere that says how much fat is too much fat!! An actual percentage or gram value would help so much!!

Unfortunately, to my knowledge, this information isn't available on anything related to gliders; protein, vitamins, fat, calories, etc. etc...
Posted By: IslandGliders

Re: The case against cheese - 02/26/12 06:44 AM

Originally Posted By: sugarlope
Much of what is written and discussed on GliderCENTRAL is personal experience, personal research, and personal opinion. This is absolutely a discussion worth having and I'm glad it was brought up. If we don't have people questioning the 'assumed' safe (and the 'assumed' unsafe) aspects of glider ownership, our knowledge will not continue to grow and evolve.

Very well said, Gretchen! clap

Me, I just don't feed cheese at all, period. I run a tight ship (LOL) and I stick to my gliders' regular diet and mealies.
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