Today I will be sharing my experience of having two sugar gliders with upper respiratory infections; what symptoms they had, what the vet said, how I got them to take their meds and how they recovered. I had such a hard time finding info on this topic. Hopefully what happened to me and my gliders will help you if you face the same problems.
We were in the middle of moving from Tennessee to Georgia when all of us caught a cold. I’m not sure if that impacted Ink and Dreamer’s health at all – there are mixed opinions on whether humans can transmit colds to sugar gliders but it is worth mentioning. In any case, I didn’t handle them much until I recovered.
A few days before we moved, I noticed that Dreamer was sneezing quite a bit. I was worried, but hoped that it would go away. It didn’t. We moved (I’ll write up another post on that later) and her symptoms continued to get worse. She was sneezing more often, less active (though not much) and I could hear a small popping sound when she breathed. Both she and Ink were very restless while asleep. I decided to take them to a vet. Two days before we went, Ink started to have the same popping sound when breathing.
We took them both in and a vet looked at both of them. He examined them, asked me some questions about their symptoms and listened to their lungs. He said that they had a mild case of upper respiratory infection. He said since Ink’s symptoms were hardly there, it was up to me whether I decided to treat both of them or just Dreamer. I decided to treat both, just to be safe.
The vet gave me an antibiotic to give them twice a day for seven days. He showed me how to give it to them with a needleless syringe (and made it look so easy!).
The first night I tried to get them to take it….Ink eventually did without too much fuss. But Dreamer…man. She hates being manhandled. XD It took me forever to get her to open her mouth enough to get the antibiotic in. I felt like such a terrible person holding her down and forcing her to take it, but I knew that it was necessary for her long term health and wellbeing. (I gave her a treat afterward and she scrambled up to my shoulder to eat it, so hopefully she forgave me).
The second time I had to give them their antibiotic was MUCH easier because it was during the daytime and they are naturally sluggish and less likely to fight when it’s bright out. (Jehosheba and I were commenting on how pitifully terrified and defenseless they look when they’re out in the daytime! They seem so fierce, adorable and strong during the night, though!)
Helping gliders take oral antibiotics
I was so frustrated because I felt so cruel holding them down with my hand while trying to shove a syringe into their mouths and force them to take something that they didn’t like. Necessary, yes, but I felt so mean.
So back to the internet to see if anyone had found a good method of getting sugar gliders to take their meds. I didn’t find much. There were like two YouTube videos but they were blurry and hard to see. The most helpful thing I found was this article from Suz Sugar Gliders. I tried it out that night and it worked amazingly well – SO much better than what I had been doing.
Here is how I get them to take their antibiotics:
I get one out of the cage and drape this very fuzzy, comforting piece of fleece over their backs. They love fleece, so this is calming to them.
I pick them up like that and flip them over so that they are on their backs. I keep their arms and legs held firmly under the fleece so that they can’t squirm out. This was SO much easier than trying to hold them down with my hand – they were so much calmer and more at ease.
With your free hand, take the syringe and put it behind their back teeth. They’ll try to move their heads away, but keep trying.
Once it’s there, squirt it in and wait until they swallow it. Touch their nose a little so that they lick it and thus swallow. (How are animals so amazingly good at holding things in their mouths and then spitting them out when you’re not looking???)
Then give them a treat to let them know that it’s all over and that medicine = treat. XD Dreamer usually grabs her treat and runs as far away from my hands as she can. Ink is content to sit on my lap and let me pet him while he eats. He is much calmer and easier to get the medicine into.
The first couple days of antibiotics I didn’t see much of a difference. They were still sneezing and “popping”. Day three was when I started to notice a change. Dreamer had more energy and seemed more of her normal self. They both started sneezing less and their popping was almost completely gone.
One thing I did notice was that they were both eating a bit less, but I think that was because I was near the end of the TPG diet that I had made (I make three batches at a time so that they can have variety). The only one I had left was one with medium sized chunks of leafy greens – their least favorite and they had to eat that for four or five days straight. When I made new food for them, they went back to eating like normal.
If you’re concerned about your sugar glider having an upper respiratory infection, here is a list of symptoms that the vet told me to look for, as well as the ones that I experienced myself:
- Sneezing (one of the first indicators)
- Popping sound while breathing (another strong clue)
- Extra moisture on nose or leaking from eyes
- Congested breathing, sniffling, etc.
- Lethargy, not playing with toys, not climbing as much
- Not eating or drinking well
- Change in stools
- Droopy ears and dull eyes
(Note: many of those symptoms can also show up when a sugar glider is ill with something else. The main symptoms of upper respiratory infection, I believe, are the first four. Sugar gliders are prey animals and will mask symptoms of illness very well, so it is important to be attentive to subtle changes.)
The vet said that several things can cause upper respiratory infections such as a sudden change in temperature, stress (which includes fighting between the gliders – thankfully that was not the case with mine as they get along pretty well), change in environment, etc.
Upper respiratory infections can be cured, if they’re caught soon enough. You must take your glider to a vet and get help, otherwise it’s likely that your glider will die. 😦
Long live the gliders! 😉 🙂