Why Do Sugar Gliders Suddenly Die? {12 Reasons Why & 6 Signs To Look For}

This is a tough subject because I have to bring up my first sugar glider who passed away. I was so upset and wondered, “Why do sugar gliders suddenly die?”

We found out the reason and I hope you will allow me to share it with you. I will also take the time in this article to explain many other reasons why sugar gliders suddenly die.

Why Do Sugar Gliders Suddenly Die?

Sugar gliders can die easily from:

  • dehydration
  • stress
  • infections
  • trauma
  • accidents
  • parasites (both internal and external)
  • poisoning from pesticides
  • calcium deficiencies

Pasteurella multocida bacteria is an example of a deadly infection where sores filled with pus can inflame the organs and skin of your sugar glider causing immediate death. Giardia is another common protozoan parasite that be deadly.

Do Sugar Gliders Die Easily?

My husband really wanted a sugar glider. I told him no because that they die easily. I didn’t know this for a fact, but this is based on the experiences of some of our friends.

The fact is, sugar gliders can dehydrate easily and die in as little as 12 hours. If you pull on the skin of a sugar glider’s shoulders and it stays up or goes down really slow then there’s a good chance they are dehydrated.

Two solutions are feeding your sugar glider with glucose and water or going to the vet for a fluid injection.

Will a heat lamp help? Find out what this article has to say about it.

12 Reasons Why Sugar Gliders Die

This is not a fun topic for me. I have spoken about our female sugar glider, but she is not the first one that we took care of. We have a sad memory of losing one of our favorite pocket pet companions.

His name was Harry. He lived with us for six months, but we’ve tried hard to keep him alive and unfortunately he died of a bacterial infection.

Our current female sugar glider has been living with us now for over a year and we have learned from our past experiences. Allow me to tell you 12 reasons why sugar gliders suddenly die.

1. Dehydration

Dehydration seems to come up as the most common reason why a sugar glider could die easily. It is not because there is a lack of water.

It could be due to their own internal organs unable to absorb water as well in captivity. It is common for veterinarians to give fluid injections to sugar gliders who are dehydrated.

Always check to see if their water bottles are flowing without anything that is creating a blockage. Add a drop of honey or glucose to the water to encourage more drinking.

2. Trauma or Accidents

Accidents are bound to occur from time to time. They can fall from great heights during playtime that is unsupervised or drowning can occur if they fall into an open water source such as a toilet or swimming pool.

There are many examples of traumatic accidents including strangulation, mutilation or attack from another animal.

3. Parasites

Parasites can attach to your sugar glider and live off of them. It could be mites, fleas or ticks. Without medication or preventative treatment, this could create illnesses, infections and sudden death.

4. Giardia

This is a common protozoan parasite. Your veterinarian can find this in a fecal exam. If you notice that your sugar glider has diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, dehydration or a loss of appetite, they can be symptoms of giardia.

In your attempt to give your sugar glider high quality fruits and vegetables, some of them can contain this parasite without you knowing. It can also happen from unpurified water.

5. Calcium Deficiency

Calcium deficiency can lead to weakened bones or hind leg paralysis. The diet of a sugar glider can easily turn into something that is highly phosphorus.

It is a genetic defect that they are unable to metabolize calcium. This is why many sugar gliders are on calcium supplements.

6. Bacterial Infections

A bacterial infection is what killed our first sugar glider. We can’t say for certain, but we would like to blame ourselves and strive to do better.

It could have been from not washing your hands properly or unsanitary conditions.

We’re pretty sure that it is the cause of a bacteria known as Pasteurella multocida. We were told that his organs were inflamed and full of fluids before he passed away. Sorry Harry.

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7. Urinary Tract Infections

Something as simple as a UTI or urinary tract infection can lead to the death of a sugar glider. If they are having difficulty urinating, it should be diagnosed with a urinalysis.

8. Pesticide Poisoning

If you are taking the chance to bring your sugar glider outside or not washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly, the chances of pesticide poisoning increase.

Pesticides are a part of our lives. They can be on insects or produce. If you are feeding your sugar glider insects, make sure that they are from reputable insect breeders or suppliers.

9. Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections can occur from improper temperatures leading to your tropical weather marsupial to become cold or sick. Pneumonia can result.

Do you hear any wheezing or whistling noises coming out of your sugar glider? Sometimes you may not notice any respiratory distress symptoms at all and this could lead to the sudden death.

Adjust temperatures accordingly and try to keep your sugar glider warm with the use of of heat lamp, heat pouch, heat rocks or a heating pad under the cage.

10. Stress

Stress is one of those silent killers that can take on many shapes and forms. A sugar glider who is stressed may exhibit the following habits or symptoms:

  • hair loss
  • shivering
  • biting of the tail end
  • self-mutilation
  • intestinal problems
  • cage circling
  • excessive crabbing
  • lunging
  • biting
  • fear of new environments
  • fear of other animals
  • lack of appetite
  • sunken eyes

As you can see, the list is long and there are plenty of other stressors that we haven’t even mentioned. We have to keep our sugar gliders calm and comfortable as possible in their enclosure.

11. Nutritional Dystrophy

Sugar gliders can develop nutritional dystrophy may have:

  • grown up on a diet that was inadequate.
  • came from breeders that weren’t reputable.
  • had parents that developed weakened immune systems or intestinal problems.

It might be genetic and reversing the damage by changing the diet might not work.

12. Lack of Information

Sometimes sugar gliders die mysteriously. This is because a lot of veterinarians don’t know enough about these animals.

Even though there is enough information about them in the wild, extrapolating this data and adapting it to sugar gliders in captivity is not information that is abundant yet.

Unlike dogs, humans have not cared for sugar gliders in their homes for centuries. Also, many caregivers and human companions of sugar gliders do not have the budget to ask for tests such as fecal exams, urinalysis, X-rays, bacterial cultures and sensitivity tests.

This leads to many undiagnosed deaths that creates a level of mystery around why sugar gliders die suddenly or easily.

How to Tell if Your Sugar Glider Has Passed Away

I was unsure at first. Harry was fine in the morning. He was our male sugar glider. I returned home from work and found him unresponsive.

There are many signs of death that you need to look for before you are absolutely sure. Here are a few examples common in sugar gliders that have recently passed away:

  1. Cessation of breathing
  2. Dilated pupils
  3. Absence of pulse
  4. Blue or gray tongue
  5. Tightening of muscles
  6. Decreased body temperature

Your sugar glider has sadly passed on if you have noticed any of the following symptoms above. Some people witness agonal breaths as a final gasp of air that sugar gliders may take before they pass away.

Their muscles will relax at first and fluids will leak out of their body cavities including urine and feces.
Rigamortis can result afterwards with a tightening of their muscles.

It can happen as soon as 10 minutes after and last up to 24-48 hours. After about 12 hours, you may notice a foul smell.

Which Foods Kill Sugar Gliders?

There are a list of toxic foods that you should not be giving your sugar gliders including:

  • avocado
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cauliflower
  • leeks
  • lettuce
  • garlic
  • onions
  • peas
  • turnips

You should also consider using bottles or purified water. No matter which fruits or vegetables you are offering, make sure they are washed thoroughly. Finally any insects that you are giving a sugar glider needs to come from a reputable source.

What Do I Do if My Sugar Glider Dies?

This is a sad situation, but you might need to know what to do when you notice that your sugar glider has breathed its last breath. Wrap the body up in a fleece blanket and/or a plastic bag.

If you would like to find out why your sugar glider died, bring the body to a veterinarian for an examination known as a necropsy with histopathology. If not, you can perform a burial on your own.


Thank you for visiting PocketPetCentral.com for the best information to help you enjoy the life of your pocket pet companion in a fun, safe & healthy way.


My name is Anna and I work full time in my local pet shop where we sell many animals that I write about on this site. I love all animals and love writing about them.