Alright, its time to do the diet rant. I really don’t like doing this rant in public places because the Diet Wars have left me with mental scars, but it is time to brave the crazies and broach this big, complex, and controversial topic. I will not be doing a deep dive into dietary drama, I’m just going to touch on four representative diet plans, and then go over some general advice.
BML – Bourbon’s modified Leadbeater
Bourbon Hackworth is the community glider whisperer, and leadbeater possums are relatively similar to gliders, so that’s where those words come from.
BML is the baby food diet, it’s ingredients can be acquired at a grocery store and pet-store. BML is very strict and does not allow for substitutions or replacements. Here is the recipe page
TPG – The Pet Glider Diet
The pet glider is a very large breedery in Texas run by Priscilla Price, who also manages the lineage database for America.
TPG diet ingredients are mostly grocery store items except for TPG brand vitamins and monkey biscuits, which are ordered online. TPG is the most versatile diet, allowing you to pick and choose from a large variety, letting you get to know your gliders tastes, but also putting some responsibility onto you to make wise and balanced choices.
Here is the TPG recipe
OHPW – Original High Protein Wombaroo
OHPW is the same thing as Critter Love Original, and works much like Critter Love Plus which is made in the USA. Wombaroo is the brand name of the protein powder supplement, it is designed for marsupials and shipped over from Australia.
OHPW consists of a blender mix of HPW powder, bee pollen, scrambled eggs, and honey, served with fruits and veggies. This blended mix contains the vitamins and protein, making this a fairly easy diet. This diet requires buying the main ingredients online.
Here are recipe pages for OHPW / Critter Love Original
Critter Love Complete
Critter Love is owned by Peggy Hernandez Brewer, developer of the OHPW diet.Critter Love Complete is an instant version of OHPW. It’s a single powdered mix, just add water and blend, serve with fruits and veggies. It’s the easiest diet, but requires purchasing the main ingredient online.
Avoid Exotic Nutrition brand HPW or really any of their diet supplies, their cages and treats are great though. I’ve seen a lot of community reports of problems with the EN brand diets, and have witnessed two incidents myself. I saw a breeding pair that did not breed for a year until switched off from Exotic Nutrition, after which they bred as normal. I also saw a pair of gliders whose food aggression completely stopped after being switched off EN and onto TPG.
The Toxic Food List
Onions, Garlic, Chocolate, Catnip, Rhubarb leaves (stems are ok), RAW Lima Beans (cooked is ok).
For the most part, I have no idea why most of these are on this list and have not experimented with them to find out, but I do have an experience with chocolate.
Fin found a Lindor ball I must have dropped in the playroom, ate a chunk off the side that was smaller than an M&M. His body tried to flush the chocolate out by making a lot of dilute urine, and he peed quite a bit of colorless odorless urine over the next day. This caused him to dehydrate and require subcutaneous fluid injections at the vet, feeding him Pedialyte from a syringe was not quite doing the trick. He had looked to be in distress, his ears and eyes were droopy and all he wanted to do was sleep somewhere warm, but he was fully functional and alert throughout. He recovered in about 48 hours thanks to the subQ fluids.
The Thing About Pellets
Pellets are fine as a snack and even help keep gliders teeth clean, but cannot be relied upon for their nutritional needs. A pellet based diet will likely turn a glider orange from nutritional imbalances. Eating pellets as part of a balanced diet does not result in the same discoloration, so it’s not that something in the pellets is bad for them, its that they do not get adequate nutrition out of the pellets alone.You can keep some pellets in treat cups around their cage, toss them and refill about once a week or whenever they get icky or eaten. But you also need a staple diet that covers their nutritional needs.Glider Guardians backs Happy Glider brand pellets.You can substitute pellets with monkey biscuits for teeth cleaning and a dry snack. I put one monkey biscuit in per cage and replace them in a week or if they get gross.
Calcium to Phosphorus Ratios
Here is a list of fruits and veggies with their Ca:P ratios.
A sugar glider’s overall diet should maintain a balance of 2 mg calcium for each 1 mg of phosphorous. There are two major signs of calcium deficiency to be alert for. One is seizures in the absence of dehydration/acute stress, treated with a calcium injection at the vet. The other is hind leg paralysis, treated with long-term calcium supplementation, liquid calcium is a good idea in the first month of rehabilitation because it absorbs easily. I have seen hind leg paralysis reversed with about 2 months of rehabilitation (results may vary).
Too much calcium is also bad for them, it can encourage calcium oxalate kidney stones, especially with a diet high in oxalates. Spinach has high oxalates, so mix up your leafy greens week to week. Natural calcium sources are preferable to supplements if stones are a concern, and reducing oxalates is more effective than reducing calcium when preventing stones from recurring.
Caution: A high ratio does not indicate a high amount, especially true of leafy greens who have high ratios, but minuscule amounts of either calcium or phosphorus. Therefore a high-ratio leafy green cannot compensate for low-ratio corn, since there is not actually much calcium in the leafy green to balance out the large amount of phosphorus in the corn. Gliders will also eat every speck of corn on a plate, and will probably just toss the kale overboard.
I’ve been and seen many a new owner lose their mind over trying to calculate Ca:P ratios, its really not worth pulling out a spreadsheet and trying to perfect this. You, like us, will end up with a beautiful spreadsheet showing a perfect diet, super heavy on the kale cause that stuff looks ssssoooo good on paper, and an uneaten plate of kale leftover the next morning leaving you to wonder how big of a nutritional hole is being left in your carefully crafted salad mix if they don’t eat it. Seriously, skip this stupid step, its not worth it.
The real take home message on calcium to phosphorus is simple: Stick to a good staple diet, don’t let them eat too much corn, and give them more papaya, calcium fortified OJ, and yogurt.
Chopped raw pumpkin seeds (no shell) mixed with a bit of honey and fed hours before their meal or other treats can help inhibit intestinal parasites due to a chemical called cucurbitacin. I honestly don’t yet know how effective this actually is, but research using extracts on infected mice showed good results. And it can’t hurt to offer this as a daytime snack to help ward off evil nematode spirits.
Glider Crack is my go-to for emergency or rehabilitation weight gain for sick or malnourished gliders. It’s a pureed paste of cooked chicken, scrambled eggs, avocado, and either calcium supplement or Critter Love/HPW powder, with enough water added to make it the consistency of guacamole. Heavy on protein, fat, and calcium and most gliders will eat it up. The idea with this is to load them up with high calories and see if they gain some grams. If they don’t, the problem is likely internal rather than dietary or behavioral.
Foods that Encourage Weight Gain
Avocado tops this list. High in healthy omega 3 fatty acids and a glider favorite, avocado will help pack on the grams if the glider is capable of eating and absorbing the nutrients. Avoid long-term excess of this high fat food, as a diet with too much fat can lead to fatty liver disease in gliders.
Live mealworms are a strong contender for top slot on this because gliders will eat them even when they won’t eat anything else. Mealworms intact digestive tracts can also help recolonize a gliders gut microbiota (this is a good thing). Mealworms are good sources of protein and some fat. Mealworms cause weight gain through a gliders penchant for excess more than from their nutritional profile, so you don’t need to deny your fatties their mealies, just don’t load up a bowl for them.
Corn is both starchy and something gliders will eat to excess. Corn can definitely bring on weight gain, however be sure the glider is also getting adequate calcium, which can be very difficult to ensure with a malnourished underweight glider. If its just all they will eat, fine, but it’s never going to be my first choice.
Ensure nutritional shakes can help add weight as well, and have excellent nutritional profiles. Syringe feed or put in a water bottle if they are well enough (toss leftovers out in a few hours). Some gliders love the stuff, others not so much. Vanilla is probably the best choice, do not get chocolate.
Caution: Ensure should only be fed to well hydrated gliders, avoid giving it to dehydrated gliders.
Mashed potatoes with butter and milk, no or light salt. This probably shouldn’t be a daily diet item, but it is high calorie with starch and fat and calcium, and is well eaten by gliders.
Sweet peas are also high starch and well liked by most gliders.
Foods that Encourage Weight Loss
Shrimp is the highest protein per calorie option I know of that gliders will happily eat, so swapping out higher calorie meats for shrimp a couple nights a week can trim a few off the overall diet.
Pinky mice are high protein, high calcium, low fat options for their protein portion as well.
Substitute higher starch options for these low calorie veggies: bell pepper, cucumber, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms (yea I know they aren’t a veggie, close enough lol). Don’t deprive your fatties of their favorites, maybe just alternate nights between yummy mix and diet mix for a good balance of happy glider and healthy glider.
Yogurt for the probiotics; Weight management has more to do with gut microbes than you may think.
Fewer nuts and more dried crickets/grasshoppers in the treat cups.
Increasing exercise helps with weight loss. Make a point to feather chase each morning and night. Double their out of the cage play times and poke them when they settle in. Consider adding a glider treadmill (spinzoneglobal.com) to their cage. Consider a floor roller (Johanna F Teague).
This is not a comprehensive list of diets. If the diet you use and love is not on this list that doesn’t mean it’s a bad diet.
I am not the be all end all source for diet information, continue researching past this introductory primer. The best sources of information on glider diets have been name dropped in this post next to the diet they created.
Please do not Diet Wars flame this post, it’s meant to be a helpful guide for new owners. Just send me a private message and we can hash out whatever’s troubling you.
New owners should stick to recommended salad mixes and not follow my bad example of straying from the properly balanced recommendations of the diet’s creator.
The picture is a typical night of feeding in my house. I use a bastardized Critter Love Complete diet plan, modified over the years to fit my gliders tastes. The square dishes feed 2, the round feeds 4, the oval feeds 7. A lot gets thrown out the next night. Id say they eat roughly half on an average night, but they are very inconsistent eaters that sometimes do clear a plate this size. If they leave a lot several nights in a row I serve light plates for a couple nights to encourage them to eat more variety.
The ice cubes are Critter Love Complete (with OJ replacing half the water).
Rainbow chard for the leafy green.
Watermelon, avocado, and mandarin oranges for fruits (different mix each night because my spoiled brats wont eat frozen fruits).
The veggie mix is corn, carrots, green beans and peas, more peas, Italian green beans, black eyed peas (they ignored those), butternut squash, butternut squash shaped like a crinkle fry, edamame in the shell, edamame out of the shell, and frozen spinach.