Can Sugar Gliders swim, bathe or get wet?

Uncover why Sugar Gliders should steer clear of water, and explore the unique ways they maintain cleanliness while avoiding potential health risks linked to swimming or bathing.

Sugar Gliders, also known as Sugar Bears, are a species of very small marsupials that are native to Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. They get their name from their love of eating sweet fruits, as well as their ability to glide through the air using their skin flap. Sugar Gliders are popular pets due to their docile nature, intelligence and ability to bond with their owners. However, before you decide to add a Sugar Glider to your family, there are a few things you should know about their care.

This blog post will explore the topic of whether or not Sugar Gliders can swim, bathe or get wet, as well as the potential risks associated with doing so.

Can Sugar Gliders Swim?

In a nutshell, the answer is NO – Sugar Gliders are not naturally equipped for swimming, and it all comes down to these 4 reasons:

  • Their feet, hands and tail do not contain webbing as other aquatic mammals do, which means they are limited in their ability to move through water. As such, forcing a Sugar Glider to enter the water can be extremely dangerous and is strongly discouraged.
  • They lack storage fat necessary for staying afloat since their primary means of locomotion is leaping from branch to branch rather than walking on two legs or paddling through water with four limbs.
  • Sugar Gliders have a dense fur coat that exponentially increases its weight when immersed in water which can make it difficult for them to stay afloat. 
  • These animals are not equipped with lungs that can handle underwater activities so if they were ever in water deep enough to submerge their entire body they would likely drown due to the inability of their lungs to adequately compress the air they need while submerged.

For these reasons, it is essential that you keep your Sugar Glider away from any body of water regardless of their size. Swimming pools pose an especially great risk to Sugar Gliders. If you have a swimming pool at home, it is crucial to make sure that there are no holes in your fencing or gaps between any of the boards.

Why Can't Sugar Gliders Get Wet?

Like other marsupial species, they take on many characteristics that help them survive in their natural environments; one of those being an aversion to water. When these small marsupials get wet, they absorb water like a sponge, becoming excessively heavy and cold. This puts considerable stress on the animal which often results in illness or even death.

Natural Oils and Pheromones

One of the most significant problems with water is that it interferes with the Sugar Glider scent glands and their ability to spread the scent-producing compounds across its body. These compounds, known as pheromones, play an important role in social interaction and mating behavior.

When these pheromones are washed off or diluted by water, this severely impairs a Sugar Glider's chances of socializing and finding potential mates. Thus, even just a minor incident resulting in a wet Sugar Glider usually requires careful cleaning and special treatment to restore their capability for social communication.

Body Temperature Drops

Furthermore, because of their highly adapted fur structure that helps them maintain their cozy body temperature and protect them from extreme temperatures in the wild, getting your Sugar Glider wet can significantly reduce their insulation capacity and put them at risk for life-threatening hypothermia in certain conditions. It is thus very important to make sure that your Sugar Glider stays dry and warm at all times.

Can You Bathe Your Sugar Glider?

Sugar Gliders are native to the Australian tropics, where humidity is high and rain does not often fall, which means that they are typically not used to taking regular baths.

In their natural habitat, Sugar Gliders tend to groom themselves much like a cat would, using their specialized tongue and claws to clean their fur and keep their long tails tidy in place of a bath.

In general, if their living environment is kept clean, they should not need additional bathing or swimming. In fact, due to their delicate bodies, a bath could potentially be fatal for them. Therefore, bathing Sugar Gliders is not recommended.

The Risks of Bathing a Sugar Glider

Sugar Gliders are highly sensitive to changes in temperature and can easily go into shock when given a bath. This can cause them extreme distress, shock or hypothermia, which could ultimately result in pneumonia, respiratory infection or even a weakened immune system.

All of these symptoms are deadly and shouldn't be taken lightly as many Sugar Gliders die from a preventable shock or hypothermia-related death each year.

Some studies will go as far as to suggest that a sudden drop in body temperature may also result in the disruption of sexual organs amongst male Sugar Gliders and an overall damage to their DNA. Given the above, it is clear that the risks of bathing a Sugar Glider outweigh the potential benefits.

The best way to ensure the health and safety of your pet is to provide them with a clean habitat, adequate shelter, and a balanced diet. This will help keep their fur in tip-top shape, while avoiding any health risks associated with water.

How to Keep Your Sugar Glider Clean?

Sugar Gliders are unique marsupials that can be a great companion pet. They are also quite independent animals who groom themselves much like cats do. Nevertheless, they will still require some help from their human owners to keep them clean and healthy. Here's everything you need to know:

1. Self-Grooming

Sugar Gliders are remarkable creatures that possess many unique abilities, one of which is the incredible way they groom themselves. They have special grooming habits that will help them stay clean and healthy and keep their fur soft and silky.

As marsupials, their natural instinct will be to groom themselves by licking and scratching, using both their tongue and claws to scrape away any dirt or debris and ensure that their fur is properly distributed. They then move on to their face where they'll further groom with a sweeping back-and-forth motion, ensuring that every inch of their face is unsoiled and cleansed. In general, it is not uncommon to see a Sugar Glider spend up to an hour of their day tending to their coat.

Additionally, this specialized self care is said to be therapeutic for the Sugar Glider as it releases endorphins which creates a calming effect for the animal. All in all, this innate grooming process exhibited by Sugar Gliders serves them well; it not only keeps them clean but can bring them peace of mind and ease anxiety.

2. Alternative Grooming

Although Sugar Gliders are capable of grooming themselves, it is still important for their owners to keep an eye on the overall maintenance and hygiene of their little creature. Keeping a Sugar Glider clean can be a tricky task as traditional bathing methods are not suitable for these curious, nocturnal creatures. Fortunately, there are several alternative methods that can be used to keep your Sugar Glider clean and healthy.

These methods include spot cleaning with a slightly damp warm towel or a cotton ball moistened with ambient temperature water, as well as, brushing their fur with a soft-bristled brush or a toothbrush. It is also recommended to use grooming wipes (unscented and alcohol-free) in between full cleans as needed, but make sure to avoid soaps, detergents, normal baby wipes and shampoos (baby shampoo included) since these can and will strip their natural oil protection.

Using a blow dryer is also not recommended, since they can be too powerful and create unnecessary stress. It's also important to always ensure their fur and skin stays dry, so make sure to use a soft cloth or towel to remove any moisture in order to avoid any drops in their body temperature.

Additionally, you can also trim their nails with a pair of pet-safe nail clippers over a shallow dish filled with warm water. Trimming them every 2-3 weeks is generally recommended in order to help prevent any potential health problems. Doing so with pet safe scissors or guillotine-style nail clippers designed specifically for small animals is important in order to avoid potential injuries. For these types of activities, it is best to have your Sugar Glider used to being handled by you in order to make the experience easier for both yourself and your pet.

Finally, providing an appropriate diet will also help keep your Sugar Glider clean by reducing the amount of cage build up that accumulates due to food debris. A balanced diet that is high in protein and calcium, such as insects, fruits, vegetables and formulated diets will ensure they stay healthy.

Although it may be difficult to keep up with their grooming needs, using alternative methods and providing an appropriate diet will help reduce the amount of cleaning needed. Keep in mind that this should only serve as a supplement to their natural inclination to groom, never as a replacement.

3. Cage Maintenance

As a responsible owner, it's important to make sure that your Sugar Glider's habitat is kept clean and comfortable for your pet. Alongside the basic grooming care comes the importance of changing regularly the bedding and nesting material for your Sugar Glider.

It's a good idea to completely empty the cage at least once a month in order to make sure that the cage remains free of parasites, bacteria and germs. This includes taking out all bedding material and washing it with warm, soapy water. Once the bedding has been washed, you can disinfect all surfaces inside the cage, including any perches or branches that are in it. After this has been completed, you should replace the bedding and spray down the interior of the cage with an animal-safe cleaner. Finally, you'll want to provide fresh food and water on a regular basis for your Sugar Glider, as well as offer them daily rewards such as cut vegetables, fruits, or other healthy treats.

As far as day-to-day maintenance goes, spot clean whenever you notice any messes—especially if there’s soiling on food or water dishes—and give your Sugar Glider plenty of toys to keep them busy! By following these simple steps you can be sure that your pet's environment will remain clean and safe, leaving your Sugar Glider looking healthy and in good condition.

The Takeaway: Key Points to Remember

As mentioned earlier, although it may seem tempting, it is very important to avoid bathing your Sugar Glider! The shock and hypothermia caused by being submerged in water can lead to serious health issues such as pneumonia, respiratory infection, a weakened immune system or even a sudden death. If you find your Sugar Glider covered in dirt or sticky substances, the best option is to gently use a warm damp cloth and wipe them clean. If you do so, make sure to act quickly and keep your Sugar Glider close to yourself in order to keep them warm and ovoid drops in their natural body temperature.

Thank you for reading! We hope this blog post has provided some helpful information for keeping your Sugar Glider safe and healthy.

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Maxim Suleman

My lifelong love for animals has led me to share my expertise in exotic pets. From parrots and crabs to turtles, hedgehogs, and cats, I've cherished each unique companion.

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