I think this would be an interesting article as I have been getting some people asking me about HLP.
Is this a common sickness or disorder in sugar gliders? I would say, it can be a YES, it can be a NO. Why? Confused? Read on….. now if we feed our gliders a balanced diet, with a good amount of calcium enriched food stuff, then the glider would not suffer from HLP. If a glider is given a diet of say just apples and cat food, then the answer is YES, it will most likely get HLP very soon.
What is Hind Leg Paralysis?
As the name of the disorder plainly states, it is where the animal is paralzed at the hind legs. It is also called metabolic bone disease and nutritional osteodystrophy. Normally, the glider would be weak and have little to no usage of it’s back legs. While jumping, crawling and moving around, it would drag it’s back legs lifelessly around. It is painful and heartbreaking to see this. Often, when you see a glider dragging it’s back legs, it can be too late and death would just be around the corner.
The cause of HLP is a lack of Calcium in the sugar glider’s diet. What happens is the blood and organs will ‘steal’ the calcium in the gliders’ bones. The body naturally draws calcium from bones when it is lacking in the diet and so unchecked, the bones will become thinner and weaker rapidly. HLP causes bones to become very thin and brittle to the point where they cannot support the weight of the glider. The joints, muscle and organs would also be affected.
Signs and Symptoms
•Lack of coordination
•Loss of use of hind legs (dragging one or both legs)
•Swollen toes and/or fingers
•Sudden broken bones with no apparent cause
•Sudden, inexplicable weight loss
Action if your Glider has HLP.
You must take your glider to the vet immediately if you suspect it has HLP. Don’t wait. Take it immediately. Time is of the essence, because death can occur if the condition goes on too long. The vet will often give the glider a subcutaneous injection of calcium and perhaps other nutrients as a kick-start to recovery.
Unfortunately, random mixes and fruits and vegetables almost always produce lower than optimal amounts of Calcium. The general rule of thumb, as it is with humans, is to balance the ration between Calcium and Phosphorus at 2:1. This means you want your glider to get twice as much Calcium as Phosphorus.
Stay away from Pellets
It is important to understand that no pellet on the market today in itself constitutes a full diet for sugar gliders. It does not matter if the pellet has words in its branded title such as “complete or full diet.” Pellets are never a complete diet. It is just an “easy way of feed”. I have heard a number of people whose gliders start showing shaking symptoms because they mainly feed pellets. It can be catfood, dogfood and glider pellets. Sugar gliders are still new in the pet industry, so the pellets available are never 100% complete as they need alot of fresh food to stay healthy.
Pellets can be low in calcium, not what the packaging states. And if we compare to hamsters, they are from the rodent family, they eat grain. So pellets made from grain and some protein and plant fiber works for them. Sugar gliders do not eat grain, and pellets have to have some sort of grain to give bulk and shape to the pellets. A little rice or potato starch is ok, pellets for gliders as snacks or treats is ok but as a daily staple, I won’t suggest to that. Do not take the easy way out and feed gliders pellets. That is a lazy way to keep gliders.
So, conclusion, give your pet glider a wholesome balance diet with fresh food that has lots of calcium. Do not just stick with pellets. If symptoms of HLP shows, please please go visit a vet. It is better to notice and treat it early than late…. if too late….. your glider will suffer.
Here is a video of 2 sugar gliders with HLP. They were on a very unhealthy diet. I’m guessing most Malaysian keepers that did not do research on gliders keep them and feed them in a similar way. Watch and see how disturbing and painful it looks when a glider can barely walk and jump naturally.