Sago Palm Toxicity
by John Strohmeyer, DVM
The Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta) is a sturdy, jagged leaved member of the Cycad family of plants. These plants have become increasingly more desired in recent years in landscaping around homes. They are primarily found in the sunny, warmer climates of the southern United States. However, in recent years, miniature or ornamental versions of Sago Palm have become increasingly popular as indoor plants. Many pet owners are unaware of the dangers these plants can cause to pets. The plants are very palatable. Sago and other cycad palms (Japanese cycad (Cycad revolute), Coontie plant (Zamia pumila), and Cardbord palm (Zamia furfuracea)) contain toxic compounds (cycasin) that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weakness/lethargy, inappetence, abdominal pain, fluid accumulation in the abdomen, tremors, seizures, black tarry stool, jaundice (yellow skin/gum/eye discoloration), nose bleeds, bruising, and even liver failure and death in cats and dogs. The most toxic part of the plant is the seed, or nut, from the female. However, all parts of the plant are toxic whether male or female.
Ingestion results in acute gastrointestinal signs (drooling, inappetence, vomiting, diarrhea) within 15 minutes to several hours after ingestion. Neurological signs (weakness, ataxia, seizures, tremors, coma, paralysis) and severe liver toxicity (even failure) can be seen within 2-3 days after ingestion. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, mortality rates can range from 32%-50% depending on severity of toxicity. If you suspect your dog or cat ate sago palm, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline immediately for life-saving treatment recommendations. The only sure way to prevent Sago Palm poisoning is to keep pets away from the plant altogether. This may mean eliminating Sago Palms from the house and outside environment.