The Danger in Your Backyard: Pets and Sago Palms

Female Sago palm in flowerpotRecently at Pet Medical Center – Chatoak, we have had a few pet patients made sick by the toxic sago palm. We wanted to take this opportunity to be sure that all of our readers recognize the dangers of this common plant and know what to look out for when it comes to pets and sago palms.

Say Hello to Sago

Sago palms are a common part of the landscape here in California, but not everyone knows what they look like. Sago palms grow naturally and can be found in wild landscapes. They are also a commonly utilized ornamental plant, and may even be in your own backyard.

The sago palm is not actually a palm tree, but is in the family known as Cycads. They have a shaggy bark and glossy green fronds that grown in a circular pattern. They also grow a large, round, orangish seed that falls to the ground. Sagos can grow to be quite tall, up to six feet in height.

Pets and Sago Palms

Pets and sago palms are not a good mix. These plants hail from prehistoric times and have been so successful due to their ability to kill off their would-be enemies. Sagos are quite toxic to all who dare ingest them.

Plants in the Cycad family produce several toxins. Cycasin is the toxin that is of most concern in veterinary medicine. It is found in all parts of the plant, but is in highest concentration in the seed pods, which is the part most often found and ingested by our pet patients.

Cycasin is a slow acting toxin. Once ingested, signs of toxicity may not occur for 24-72 hours. Symptoms of sago palm toxicity include:

  • Vomiting
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Liver failure
  • Jaundice
  • Blood clotting problems
  • Seizures

Symptoms of poisoning can continue for up to nine days. Pets suffering from sago palm poisoning require aggressive treatment in order to try and help them make it through these terrible symptoms. However, even with intense care the prognosis is not good.

When it comes to sago palms and pets, preventing exposure is the best course of action. Be sure to take a look around and prevent access to this dangerous plant. If you identify them in your yard, it is prudent to remove them. When on walks with your pet, be alert to where they might be growing along your route and consider changing your path.

If you suspect that your pet may have ingested any part of a sago palm, do not waiver in seeking help. As with most toxins, the more quickly we can take action, the more likely we will be able to save your pet. Do not delay and give us a call right away, even if you aren’t certain. We want to be sure that your pet has the best possible chances in the case of sago palm toxicity, and immediate treatment is the best way to ensure that.