Sugar gliders are fascinating animals for a variety of reasons, but one of them is unique to only a few animals on the planet: the pouch. Although all marsupials have one major purpose for their pouch, as pet owners, we must be aware of various things that may involve your sugar glider's pouch in addition to a joey.
Sugar Glider Pouch Purpose
A pouch (called a marsupium) is only found in female sugar gliders and serves to guard, nurture, and transport offspring (called joeys). The aperture of this pouch is roughly where the belly button would be on other animals, and it is positioned on the abdomen (belly) of your female sugar glider. The pouch doesn't open like a t-shirt pocket; instead, it opens by stretching or extending the circular entrance, producing a fairly safe place where a joey won't fall out and can keep warm while growing.
Despite popular belief, the joey is not born in the pouch, but rather crawls into it shortly after birth, much like all other mammals. The naked, pink, blind joey within the pouch may remain warm, grow, mature, and feed from one of the pouch's four teats. The joey will begin to explore outside of the pouch as it grows older, but will continue to feed on the pouch's teats for at least eight weeks. These four teats are remarkable in that they may simultaneously provide milk for four distinct life phases, allowing the mother sugar glider to care for young of various ages.
Sugar Glider Pouch Problems
In addition to using their pouch to care for their young, female sugar gliders can have difficulties with it. Pouch infections and mastitis of the teats inside the pouch are the most typical issues. If your sugar glider has one or both difficulties, you may detect a nasty discharge coming from the pouch (which should ordinarily be dry and odorless).
Pouch infections can be caused by yeast or bacteria, and your exotics veterinarian may need to do a culture to determine the best treatment option. Even if the teats are not impacted by the pouch infection, nursing joeys may avoid it and quit feeding. Nursing joeys with a pouch infection or mastitis sometimes experience weight loss, dehydration, and even sepsis.
Mastitis causes the teats to become red, swollen, stiff, and painful, as well as preventing milk flow. Without "unfolding" the pouch, the teats are hidden. If your sugar gliders are in discomfort, your exotics vet may need to sedate or anesthetize them. Joeys will lose weight and get dehydrated as a result of the diseased teats' failure to provide milk. It may be necessary to collect the teat discharge in order to culture it and identify whether antibiotics or antifungal medications will be effective while remaining safe for your sick sugar glider.
Joeys who are still nursing from a mother with mastitis and/or a pouch infection may need to be hand fed and may need to be put on the same meds as the mother. To clean the region, gentle swabbing with cotton swabs in the pouch with a disinfecting chlorhexidine solution may be required. Pain medication may be required for your sugar glider.
Prolapse is a less prevalent pouch condition. When the pouch prolapses (or inverts), the pink, fleshy lining of the pouch is exposed on the outside. Over grooming, such as when your sugar glider pushes her pouch open too far to clean herself, or in females who have recently weaned a joey, can cause it. The pouch prolapse will usually fix itself, but if it does not, you should call your exotics veterinarian.
How Do You Prevent Pouch Problems in Sugar Gliders?
Preventing pouch infections and mastitis in female sugar gliders requires a clean atmosphere and sugar gliders in the cage. If your sugar glider has had a pouch problem in the past, you may need to clean the cage or nest more often and bathe them or their cage mates that interact with them on a regular basis with a moist wash cloth.