How Long Do Sugar Gliders Live?

Lauren Jones, VMD
Written by:
Published: July 22, 2022
How Long Do Sugar Gliders Live?

Sugar gliders can make wonderful pets with their social behavior, inquisitive nature, and docile attitude. Sugar gliders require a significant amount of time, energy, and investment to make and keep them happy, healthy, and well-adjusted pets.

While they do live in a cage, owners must be diligent in their responsibility to commit to at least 1-2 hours a day of interaction with gliders. These exotic pets also need regular veterinary care, consistent cage maintenance, and routine enrichment. As omnivores, sugar glider diets are highly varied and can be difficult to replicate in captivity. However, diet is one of the most important factors in a sugar glider’s longevity.

Sugar Glider Lifespan

The average sugar glider will live 12-15 years with proper husbandry (care) and veterinary care. The oldest reported sugar glider lived to almost 18 years old. They rarely live this long in the wild, mostly due to natural predation. Wild sugar gliders may only live up to 9 years, evading their main predators such as owls, kookaburras, snakes, and feral cats. In captivity, sugar gliders do not have predators, nor do they need to hunt or forage for food.

Sugar gliders are sexually dimorphic, which means males look different from females. Both will mature by around a year, acquiring a size no larger than the palm of your hand. Males are larger, weigh more than females, and have two scent glands that sometimes resemble bald spots.

Sugar gliders are marsupials, similar to kangaroos and koalas. They have pouches, just like their distant cousins, and follow similar stages of maturity:

  • Females may have 1-2 litters yearly, with up to 2 babies each time.

  • Female sugar gliders are pregnant for only two weeks, after which their underdeveloped babies are “born” and migrate to the mother’s pouch.

  • They remain in the pouch for another 2 to 2.5 months and will spend the next few months with their mother before completely weaning and starting to live independently.

Sugar Glider Breeding

Scientists are still studying the genes of sugar gliders to determine different species. Breeders routinely manipulate coat color genetics and do not breed certain colors that may produce variations of babies that do not thrive. For example, a subspecies of sugar gliders, called a caramel, can only be bred to other caramels without resulting in sterility.

It is important to note that the USDA requires larger breeders to obtain a license to breed sugar gliders. Owning a sugar glider is even illegal in a handful of states, such as California and Pennsylvania. Always check your state’s laws before owning or breeding sugar gliders, as they can change frequently and without notice.

What Makes Some Sugar Gliders Live Longer Than Others?

Genes certainly play a role in sugar glider longevity; some lines may naturally out-live others. Sugar gliders, like all mammals, can also succumb to diseases like cancer. However, most issues with captive sugar gliders involve poor diet, dirty living conditions, unsafe habitat, and lack of veterinary care. Luckily, with a little knowledge, a partnership with an exotic vet, and a lot of commitment, we can help our furry friends live as long as possible.

Common sugar glider diseases and conditions include:

  • Malnutrition

  • Metabolic bone disease: usually secondary to poor diet and calcium dysregulation

  • Obesity

  • Parasites: intestinal and skin

  • Hair loss: sometimes secondary to self-mutilation

  • Infection: particularly a newer disease called “Ick”

  • Respiratory conditions

  • Dental issues

  • Cancer

The best way to facilitate a long life for your sugar glider is to provide an appropriate variated diet of protein, vegetables, and fruits, a large species-specific and safe habitat, and yearly veterinary appointments, at a minimum.

How to Improve Your Sugar Glider's Lifespan

Sugar glider owners can improve their pet’s life—and life expectancy—by thoroughly researching the species before bringing one home. Contact an exotic veterinarian familiar with sugar gliders to discuss examinations, diet recommendations, supplements, and habitat.

Always check with your veterinarian first, but most recommend the following for happy and healthy sugar gliders:

  • Gliders are highly social animals and live in family groups in the wild. They do best with at least one other companion.

  • Encourage at least 1-2 hours outside the cage for human interaction per day to help create a bond with your sugar glider.

  • Daily rotation of healthy vegetables and protein sources such as gut-loaded insects in addition to veterinarian-approved homemade diet or sugar glider pellets.

  • Create a large, safe habitat with multiple hide boxes and branches, and toys to climb, chew, or investigate.

  • Check your sugar glider daily for any sources of infection, swellings, or other abnormalities.

  • Spot-clean the cage daily to remove waste products and old food.

  • Deep clean the cage every 2-4 weeks.

  • Provide multiple water dishes and bottles to encourage hydration.

  • Don’t let your glider get chilly! They do best in 75-90 degrees.

  • Never allow your sugar glider to roam your house unsupervised. When they are out of their cage, make sure they don’t have access to electrical cords, toxins, or other unsafe items.

  • Veterinary examinations are recommended every 6-12 month with possible blood or fecal testing.

References

  1. Brust DVM, David M. VIN.com. A Quick Reference Guide to Unique Pet Species - Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps) Pet Care. January 2011.

  2. Strat-Zenoni DVM, Deanne. Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital. Sugar Glider Care.

  3. Pollock DVM, DABVP, Christal. LafeberVet. Basic Information Sheet: Sugar Glider. February 2010.

  4. Wikipedia. Sugar glider. May 2022.

Featured Image: iStock.com/pigphoto


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