Sago Palm Toxicity: Keep your animals safe in Spain

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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. All parts of the Sago Palm are poisonous, but the seeds (nuts) are the most toxic to pets and are easier for them to eat. The sago palm can cause severe damage to the liver and potentially death when they are ingested by dogs.

 Symptoms seen with ingestion of sago palms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Blood in faeces
  • Diarrhoea
  • Icterus (yellow colouration of skin and gums)
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urine
  • Bruising
  • Bleeding easily (coagulopathy, DIC)
  • Nose bleeds
  • Neurological signs such as depression, circling, paralysis, seizures, coma
  • Death
  • Decreased appetite
  • Ascites (accumulation of fluid in the abdomen)
  • Lethargy
Sago Palm: the entire tree is poisonous. Credit: Shutterstock

Causes
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
Diagnosis is based on a history of ingestion of the plant and on blood and urine test results supportive of liver disease.

Treatment
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.

Prevention
Avoid ingestion by keeping sago palms out of the reach of your dog. Ideally, remove the plants from your garden entirely if they are present.

Sago Palm fruits. Credit: Shutterstock

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