Sago Palm Toxicity
Dogs are known to chew on and eat plants, and sometimes they unwittingly eat plants that have toxic properties to them. Sago palms are one of these plants. The leaves from the sago palm can cause severe damage to the liver and potentially death when they are ingested by dogs.
The sago palm is also known colloquially as coontie palms, cardboard palms, cycads, or zymias.
Symptoms and Types
Symptoms seen with ingestion of sago palms include:
- Blood in feces
- Bloody diarrhea
- Icterus (yellow coloration of skin and gums)
- Increased thirst
- Increased urine
- Bleeding easily (coagulopathy, DIC)
- Neurological signs such as depression, circling, paralysis, seizures, coma
The symptoms seen are the result of liver damage caused by a toxin called cycasin that is found in the sago palm. Liver disease may lead to bleeding deficits (disseminated intravascular coagulation - DIC), that is, abnormal bleeding and clots in the bloodstream, and neurological abnormalities.
Diagnosis is based on a history of ingestion of the plant and on blood and urine test results supportive of liver disease.
If ingestion has just occurred and symptoms are not present, vomiting may be induced by a doctor using apomorphine, hydrogen peroxide, or ipecac. Consult your veterinarian immediately if you suspect or know that your dog has eaten any part of a sago palm. Activated charcoal may also be used to absorb the poison in the stomach. Gastric lavage (“pumping the stomach”) may also be necessary.
If evidence of liver disease is evident via clinical signs or abnormalities in blood and/or urine tests, then additional treatment will be necessary. Fluid therapy and blood or plasma transfusions will be required. Controlling vomiting with anti-emetic medications is recommended. Antibiotics, gastrointestinal protectants and vitamin K may also be administered by your veterinarian. S-Adenosylmethionine, Ursodeoxycholic acid, or vitamin E may be of benefit as well.
Avoid ingestion by keeping sago palms out of the reach of your dog. Ideally, remove the plants from your yard entirely if they are present.