The Sago Palm is from a family of palm-like plants that are commonly used for decoration. Known for their round, woody trunks and large leaves, these plants are popular for ornamentation outside homes, businesses, and gardens in warm climates. In cooler climates, these plants are sometimes kept indoors. While they may be beautiful and ideal for decorating a yard, these plants are deadly for pets and can present a real danger for our four-legged friends.
Here is what pet parents need to know.
Why Are Sago Palms Toxic?
Sago Palms are poisonous because they contain a toxic agent known as cycasin, which is a neurotoxic glycoside as well as being a carcinogen. This toxin is present in all parts of the Sago Palm, including the seeds, roots, trunk, and leaves, although concentrations are higher in the seeds than anywhere else. These plants are not only toxic for dogs and cats, but also horses, sheep, cattle, and even human children.
Signs of Sago Palm Toxicity
If a pet has ingested Sago Palm, signs occur quickly and are often life threatening. Affected animals may suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, lethargy or depression. If the condition is left untreated, liver failure results and your pet may suffer seizures or stumbling before death occurs.
Common signs to watch for:
- Abdominal pain (possible distended abdomen)
- Jaundice (yellowish mucous membranes)
- Black tarry feces
Treatment for Sago Palm Toxicity
Part of the reason that the Sago Palm toxicity is so dangerous is that there is no antidote for cycasin. That said, the only treatment available to affected pets is decontamination, which may include inducing vomiting and administering IV fluids. In some cases, vets will administer gastroprotectants, anti-seizure medications, or other treatments designed to support the nervous, liver, or gastrointestinal system. These treatments may be short or long-term depending on your pet’s condition and the amount of Sago Palm ingested. When a pet parent suspects that their pet has ingested Sago Palm, they should be taken to the vet immediately.
Preventing Sago Palm Toxicity
To limit the chance that your pet will be poisoned by the Sago Palm, it is important to ensure that the toxic plant is not on your property, and when you are out and about with your pet (specifically dogs), that he does not pick up a Sago Palm seed in his mouth. These large seeds are often appealing for dogs, and vets in tropical places often see cases of Sago Palm toxicity after a dog played fetch with a Sago Palm seed rather than a stick.
Sago Palm is very toxic; therefore, it’s important to avoid any contact with the plant. It should not be used in landscaping or as an indoor plant. If you have grazing pets, it is wise to ensure that there is no Sago Palm in your pastures or fields. While Sago Palm is dangerous and potentially deadly to pets, these preventative steps can help cut down on the risk of Sago Palm poisoning.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.