One of our dogs had a little run in with a Sago Palm last week, but because we saw it happen and knew the immediate danger he was in we took quick action and so far everything seems to be ok. In the after math of our own experience as we were recounting our trip to the Pet ER with our friends and family we quickly realized that many people, and even pet owners, do not know about the deadly Sago Palm. So we thought we should bring it to light and hopefully help save some lives.
The Sago Palm is a pretty plant found in many homes and yards, but it is deadly to pets if ingested (and people too, but most people don't go around gnawing on landscaping). The Sago contains a toxin called cycasin that results in severe liver damage which is what causes such deadly symptoms so quickly. Any ingestion of the sago palm will result in symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal to neurological until the dog ultimately develops liver failure. All parts of the Sago are poisonous but the seeds are the most deadly because they contain the highest amount of cycasin. Just one seed can cause liver failure within 15 minutes, depending on the size of the dog. Death often occurs if emergency treatment is not given.
-All parts of the palm are deadly, including the branches, leaves, seeds and trunk.
-If you see your dog eat any part or suspect consumption, go immediately to your nearest vet or Pet ER.
-Symptoms can begin as soon as 15 minutes after consumption so quick action is key.
Symptoms in order or progression
- Blood in feces
- Bloody diarrhea
- Icterus (yellow coloration of skin and gums)
- Weakness, lethargy
- Lack of appetite
- Increased thirst
- Increased urine
- Ascites (accumulation of fluid in the abdomen)
- Bleeding easily (coagulopathy, DIC), abnormal bleeding, internal bleeding, clots in the bloodstream, nose bleeds
- Neurological signs such as depression, circling, paralysis, seizures, coma
Fortunately for us we knew what a Sago Palm looks like and saw our dog eat it, but if you don't see your dog ingest it it can be tricky to pinpoint that the cause of their symptoms is Sago poisoning.
Diagnosis is typically based on a knowledge of ingestion of the plant and on blood and urine test results which will reveal liver issues.
Due to the high fatality rate of sago palm poisoning, aggressive treatment is extremely necessary for dogs that have ingested any part of this plant. The goal is to get all plant matter and toxins out as fast as possible and prevent them from ever reaching the liver. A veterinarian will typically induce vomiting using hydrogen peroxide or ipecac. They will then administer activated charcoal to help soak up any poison.
If liver damage has already occurred, blood and plasma transfusions, vitamin K injections, gastroprotectants, anti-seizure medications, and fluid therapy may be required. Your veterinarian will also evaluate your dog to determine if anti-nausea medications or pain management drugs should be administered.
After care is very serious as well. Typically your pet will leave with a prescription of Denamarin to help protect and strengthen the liver. Your vet will most likely require careful monitoring of the liver values through blood work over the next few days and possibly weeks following Sago poisoning.
If you have pets and have any Sago Palms in your yard or house immediate removal is recommended. It's just not worth the risk.
*Sources: VCA Animal Hospital, PetMD