poisonous plants dog sago palm

Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats: Sago Palm

Sago Palms are common across the United States, both as indoor and outdoor ornamental plants. If you have pets, it's important to know that these plants are poisonous if eaten or chewed on. Continue reading to learn more about the symptoms and treatment of Sago Palm toxicity in dogs and cats.

This article was written by a FirstVet vet

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Sago Palms (Cycas Revoluta) are a very common type of palm that exists in nature in many tropical and subtropical climates. They’re also very widely used in landscaping. Because Sago Palms can be very small and very pretty, many people have these plants in their homes or on their porches/lanais. Quite frequently, people will have Sago Palms on their property and not even be aware. They’re sold in nurseries and garden departments of many stores across the entire US.

Although the seeds are the most poisonous, the entire plant is toxic to mammals. However, animals tend to eat the seeds that grow out from the center of the plant, rather than the prickly leaves. The toxin cycasin is what causes liver damage (and in some cases, liver failure). The amount of Sago Palm consumed and the size and pre-existing health status of the pet dictates how severe the toxicity is.

Signs of Sago Palm Toxicity in Dogs and Cats

Ingestion of the toxin cycasin can cause clinical signs in your pet as soon as 15 minutes after ingestion, up to several hours later. Because cycasin is a gastrointestinal irritant and also affects the central nervous system, clinical signs are gastrointestinal and neurologic in nature:

  • Drooling and/or vomiting
  • Blood in the stool (this may be frank red and/or black and tarry, diarrhea, HGE (hemorrhagic gastroenteritis) – where the diarrhea is almost all blood and is excreted in large amounts
  • Bruising of the skin due to blood clotting disorders
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Ascites (free fluid in the abdomen)
  • Jaundice/icterus (yellowing of the skin) due to liver damage
  • Weakness
  • Ataxia (drunken walk)
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Depression
  • Circling
  • Paralysis
  • Coma

Since the liver is the filter and detoxifier of the body, if it’s damaged and injured, it can’t do its job properly. When liver function starts to fail, the central nervous system then becomes affected by the cycasin.

Within 2-3 days after ingestion, you may see:

  • Jaundice/icterus (yellowing of the skin) due to liver damage
  • Weakness
  • Ataxia (drunken walk)
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Depression
  • Circling
  • Paralysis
  • Coma

What do I do if my dog or cat ate parts of a Sago Palm?

Unfortunately, approximately 50% of pets that are poisoned by Sago Palm ingestion die, even with treatment. If you suspect that your pet may have eaten any part of a Sago Palm, you should see a vet or an animal ER facility IMMEDIATELY for treatment, even if you believe your pet only ate a small amount. If your dog or cat has developed gastrointestinal signs from Sago Palm ingestion, liver failure is imminent without treatment. It will be very helpful to your vet if you can inform them of the approximate amount eaten, and the time at which it may have been consumed.

Can my dog be tested for poison ingestion?

There is no specific test for cycasin ingestion, so a full and thorough history of exposure will be invaluable to your vet. If you aren’t sure what plant or what type of palm your pet ate, take photos, or even bring parts of the plant with you to the vet.

Treatment for Sago Palm Poisoning

Treatment can vary depending on the time of exposure. If your dog or cat has just recently eaten the plant and has no clinical signs yet, your vet will likely induce emesis (cause your pet to vomit up stomach contents), hospitalize, place an IV catheter to administer supportive fluids, and administer activated charcoal by mouth to absorb any remaining toxins in the system.

Blood work will be done to determine the status of your pet’s liver values, red blood cell count, etc. Your pet will likely need recheck blood work daily until stable and released from the hospital, which may be as soon as the next day.

If your pet is already showing clinical signs and/or is already in liver failure, treatment may be more involved (blood transfusions, vitamin K to help stop bleeding disorders, anti-nausea medication, longer hospitalization, etc.).

Lastly, keep in mind that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission does NOT require warning labels on house plants, so if you’re an avid gardener and landscaper, keep these plants outdoors and away from pets.

For more information and pictures of Sago Palm, check out these links:

ASPCS: Beware Sago Palms

Pet Poison Helpline

Read more in our series of poisonous plants for your dog and cat:

Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats: Oleander

Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats: Tulips

Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats: Philodendron

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This article was written by a FirstVet vet

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