Help, my dog ate sago palm! If your dog ate sago palm, you are rightfully concerned, this plant is poisonous to dogs and cats and the level of toxicity is severe. Also known as coontie palm, cardboard palm, cycas cirinalis, Japanese cycad or zymia, in the United States, sago palm may not be as popular as in tropical and subtropical regions, but these plants are still often used because of their ornamental value. Veterinarians are seeing an increase of sago plant toxicity in dogs and more and more vets are questioning dog owners whether their dogs got in contact with “a miniature palm tree.” If your dog ate sago palm, please see your vet immediately, this plant is known for causing liver failure.
Effects on Body
Sago palm is not a very forgiving palm; indeed, all parts of this plant are toxic, but the most toxic part of all are the seeds, according to Pet Poison Helpline. These seeds are produced by the female plant and are contained in a cone-shaped structure produced in the middle of the plant.
The toxic ingredient in this case is cycasin, which is known for causing severe liver failure, and this toxin is also present in very young plants.
When a dog ingests sago palm its active ingredient cycasin causes a variety of symptoms to show up. Affected dogs most often develop digestive problems such as nausea, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy and loss of appetite.
Usually, these symptoms occur anywhere between 15 minutes to several hours after eating parts of the plant.
As dogs sustain liver damage, which occurs 2 to 3 days later, you may notice jaundice, which is the yellowing of the dog’s mucus membranes and skin, weakness, seizures and black, tarry stool. Affected dogs show elevations in blood values specifically, bilirubin concentrations, serum alanine aminotransferase and alkaline phosphatase, explains Dr. Hany Youssef.
“Most people are unaware that the plant is toxic, and even if they are, they often don’t realize that a plant is a sago palm when they purchase it.”~ Veterinary Information Network, Inc
My Dog Ate Sago Palm!
If your dog ate sago palm, consult with your vet immediately. There is no antidote for this toxin and treatment is for the most part supportive.
If your dog ingested this plant less than 2 hours ago, your vet may give you directions on how to induce vomiting. If you induce vomiting at home, you should see ingested parts of the plant in the vomit, but you still want to see your vet.
Your vet may recommend giving fluids and possibly some activated charcoal to bind up any remaining toxins. On top of that, your vet will want to check your dog’s liver values and may want to re-check them in the following 18 to 24 hours after ingesting the plant. Generally, if there are no elevations in 48 hours, affected dogs should be fine, explains veterinarian Dr. Scarlett.
Dogs who are having stomach issues, and possibly, bleeding, may require a stomach protectant such as pepcid, zantac, or carafate. Dogs who develops signs of having sustained liver damage may require a low-protein bland diet or special prescription diet (like Hills L/D) and a medication known as Denamarin.
Denamarin works well in this case because it stabilizes the cell membrane of the liver cells preventing them from breaking down, explains veterinarian Dr. Gabby. Another helpful supplement that can be helpful according to Dr. Gabby is Hepatosupport which contains a combination of milk thistle and antioxidants.
Not Out of the Woods
A scary part of ingesting sago palm is that sometimes dogs may appear to be recovering, but then they die a month or so later. This is likely caused by the fibrosis during the healing process.
What perhaps happens in this case is that the affected dog goes into liver failure, the liver though recovers as it does with fibrosis, but the functioning mass of the liver decreases and the issue becomes chronic, as often seen in people with alcoholism, explains Dr. Tina Wismer, a toxicology consultant with Veterinary Information Network.
So if your dog ingested parts of the sago palm see your vet immediately and report to your vet any symptoms for up to a month or so thereafter. Keep an eye on your dog therefore during this time. Affected dogs need aggressive treatment, and even with that, survival can be around 68 percent, according to a study. Dogs who ingested seeds are more likely to suffer from more serious complications.
- Cycad palm toxicosis in dogs: 60 cases (1987-1997)
- Pet Poison Helpline, Sago Palm
- Veterinary Information Network, Sago palm poisoning cases increase
- DVM360, Toxicology Brief: Cycad toxicosis in dogs