The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Sugar gliders are exotic animals that are gaining popularity as domestic pets. Many pet owners are attracted to them because of their furry, pocket-sized bodies.
They also have huge shiny eyes that make them irresistible. You may think that sugar gliders have excellent vision due to their big eyes, but that’s not true.
Those soft big-eyed creatures have excellent vision at night. However, they can’t see well in bright light, and it actually can hurt their eyes.
This article will answer the question, “Does light hurt sugar gliders’ eyes?” It’ll also explain how household lights can affect your sugar gliders’ health.
Like most animals, prolonged exposure to bright light can harm your sugar glider’s eyes.
Sugar gliders are nocturnal animals—animals that sleep during the day and are active during the night. Generally, nocturnal animals have bigger eyes, and their pupils widen more than diurnal creatures, making them able to see well in the dark.
They also have more rod cells: cells found in the retina, responsible for sensing and receiving scattered dim light. These rod cells work as a team in which each rod cell receives a small amount of light and collectively sends it to the optical nerve to produce an image.
Now, what happens when you expose your sugar glider to bright light for a long time? The sudden change in light activates all the rod cells, overloading the optical nerve, eventually leading to blindness.
However, short exposure to light isn’t strong enough to cause permanent damage. They’ll only find it uncomfortable, and it may disturb their behavior.
Light intensity affects sugar gliders’ circadian rhythm (the sleep-wake cycle). Sugar gliders make a delicious meal for many predators.
They avoid predators by waking up from dusk till early morning to get food. While there are fewer night predators like owls, still sugar gliders escape them by gliding through trees.
However, sugar gliders’ circadian rhythm may be disturbed in captivity, like in zoos. Some nocturnal zoo exhibits reverse sugar gliders’ sleep cycle by illuminating their habitats during the night, tricking them into sleeping.
Then, they use artificial dim lights like a blue or red light during the day to awaken them. While this technique sounds brilliant for interacting and bonding with sugar gliders, it may cause adverse health effects to the gliders.
You may want to consider the type of light to use if you’re trying to make your pet glider fall asleep. Many nocturnal animals are sensitive to blue light, which makes sense since sunlight is mainly blue light.
Blue light is also found in houses, like LED light. Exposing your sugar glider to blue light doesn’t fully allow them to rest.
Studies testing the effect of different lights on the sugar gliders’ circadian rhythm found that sugar gliders’ activity decreased each time they slept under blue light. They also showed high cortisol levels, which is a hormone secreted when stressed.
What Causes Sugar Gliders to Go Blind?
Several reasons can cause eyesight loss to a sugar glider. It may be age, trauma, diet, infections, or genetics.
The average lifespan of sugar gliders is 3–9 years in the wild, and they can survive from 10–15 years in captivity. Like most animals, aging affects sugar gliders and can cause a decline in eyesight.
Sugar gliders like to live in colonies, and they can be aggressive to each other, especially during mating season. Because of their big protruding eyes, sugar gliders often sustain corneal injuries and scratches.
Corneal scratches cause ulcers and increase the risk of bacterial infections. While you may not notice any scratch, if your sugar glider squints, has runny eyes, or shows discoloration on their eyes, you should rush to their vet.
If you own more than one sugar glider, you may want to separate them to prevent traumatic injuries. You should also check if their cage contains any sharp edges, as these edges may harm your pets.
You should avoid including high-carb and fat-dense food in your sugar glider’s diet. Although sugar gliders like sweet and fatty food, it does more harm than good.
Sugar gliders can develop diabetes from high-carb diets. High blood sugar can affect the eyes and cause cataracts—a white, cloudy layer covering the eyes.
Cataracts in sugar gliders can be tricky for you to notice because you can mistake them for their normal eye structure in the dark. Sugar gliders have a crystal layer that is only visible during darkness at the back of their eye that appears white, just like cataracts.
You can differentiate between cataracts and the crystal layer by using light. If your sugar glider’s eyes appear white even in the light, that’s probably cataracts.
You should rush to the vet once you notice cataracts because when left untreated, they can lead to blindness.
You should avoid excessively feeding sugar gliders fat-dense food as it’ll cause corneal lipidosis.
Corneal lipidosis appears as a white, sparkly material in the eyes. However, it’s less severe than cataracts and can be treated with the appropriate diet.
Eye diseases are common in sugar gliders. Naturally, sugar gliders have bacteria present in their eyes, and when there’s a wound, these bacteria can cause conjunctivitis (pink eye).
The good news is that conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotics and doesn’t cause blindness.
Gum and teeth infections usually cause a retrobulbar abscess, but sugar gliders can also get it from bite wounds near the face.
If left untreated, retrobulbar abscesses press on the optic nerve, leading to blindness.
Some newborn sugar gliders develop cataracts as a result of infection from their mother during birth.
In addition, adult sugar gliders with cataracts shouldn’t be used for reproduction because they may produce sugar gliders carrying cataract-developing genes.
One common question that people looking to adopt sugar gliders ask is, “Does light hurt sugar gliders’ eyes?”
When it comes to pet sensations, sugar gliders definitely hold a spot. They’re small, soft, and big-eyed, which makes them adorable.
However, sugar gliders are nocturnal animals, making bonding with them harder. They also require care as their eyes are sensitive to bright light.
Bright light in houses can irritate them and disturb their sleep cycle, causing adverse health risks.
Therefore, it’s better not to reverse your sugar glider’s circadian rhythm. Instead, try to bond with your gliders when they’re awake.