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Evaluation of three popular diets fed to pet sugar gliders

Monday, February 26, 2018

Summary

Three diets fed to 12 pair-housed sugar gliders, Petaurus breviceps, were evaluated through 5-day intake and digestion trials following 10-day transitions. Diets 1 and 2 comprised liquid formula mixes with added vegetables and fruit, and Diet 3 comprised extruded pellets and a liquid formula. Diets eaten contained 16 —19% crude protein, 3%–15% crude fat, 10%–11% neutral detergent fibre, 4%–20% starch and 8%–49% sugar (dry basis). Calculated individual dry matter intakes (DMI) ranged from 3.9 to 5.1 g/day, representing 58.2–78.4 kJ/day. DMI was greater for Diet 2 (7.2% BW) vs. Diet 1 (5.6; p = .006) and Diet 3 (4.2% BW; p = .003). Although these differences were no longer detectable on a MBW basis, animals were shown to have gained BW (+14.2 g; p = .03) on Diet 2. In addition to nutrient composition differing widely among diets, DM digestibility (DMD) was higher in Diet 1 (91.2%) compared to Diet 2 (87.3%; p = .03), but DMD for Diet 3 (88.9%) did not differ from other diets. Gliders demonstrated ability to digest a variety of energy substrates, including simple sugars (96%–99%), fats (81%–96%) and starches (79%–98%), as well as substantial insoluble dietary fibre (58%–75%), with significant difference among diets demonstrated for some nutrients. Animals displayed selective feeding behaviours, rejecting insoluble fibre in produce and preferring the lipid-coated exterior of pellets. The diets used appeared to be balanced with respect to energy, protein and macromineral content, but may predispose to iron excess, other mineral imbalances (especially Ca deficiency) and obesity—clinical health issues described for pet gliders. Future focus on concentrations, types and utilization of dietary fibre in natural and captive diets, vitamin D metabolism and trace mineral interactions in sugar gliders would assist diet optimization for this highly gummivorous species.

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